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The white-tailed deer had a prominent status in Maya civilization: it was the most important wild-animal food source at many inland Maya sites and also functioned as a major ceremonial symbol. Offering an in-depth semantic analysis of this imagery, The Beast Between considers iconography, hieroglyphic texts, mythological discourses, and ritual narratives to translate the significance and meaning of the vibrant metaphors expressed in a variety of artifacts depicting deer and hunting.
Charting the importance of deer as a key component of the Maya diet, especially for elites, and analyzing the coupling of deer and maize in the Maya worldview, The Beast Between reveals a close and long-term interdependence between the Maya and these animals. Not only are deer depicted naturalistically in hunting and ritual scenes, but also they are assigned human attributes. This rich imagery reflects the many ways in which deer hunting was linked to status, sexuality, and war as part of a deeper process to ensure the regeneration of both agriculture and ancestry. Drawing on methodologies of art history, archaeology, and ethnology, this illuminating work is poised to become a key resource for multiple fields.