A Gift of Heaven: Comparing Jade Use in Ancient Mesoamerica and China
Evening Presentation by Dr. Christina Elson, Anthropologist and Co-Curator, “Heavenly Jade of the Maya”
Drinks reception at 6:15pm
Presentation at 7:00pm
Close at 8:00pm
The ancient Chinese and the Pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica held jade in the highest regard. In the Formative Period of Mesoamerica (after about 1400 BCE) and the Bronze Age of China (after about 1500 BCE), jade working became highly elaborated. Understanding how Pre-Columbian cultures such as the Olmec, Zapotec and Maya, and Chinese cultures such as the Shang, Zhou and Han utilized jade provides insight into the cosmology and social organization of these cultures. The parallels in how these distant cultures saw jade are fascinating to explore. In addition to exploring the archaeological contexts that produce jade artifacts, Dr. Christina Elson in particular will discuss the new research in the Maya lowlands that has uncovered artifacts dating as early as 800 BCE, and shed light on jade’s role in cosmology.
Christina Elson co-founded Science Visualization in 2010, a media company that brings science to the public. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and specializes in the Pre-Columbian era and has conducted field research in Mesoamerica and Peru. Dr. Elson began her career as a researcher and curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. She then worked for the National Geographic Society interfacing with scientists and developing their work into stories for the magazine, news and other media. Dr. Elson has published scientific and popular articles about the Aztec, Zapotec, Teotihuacan and Maya civilizations of Mesoamerica. She is the co-curator of the exhibition Heavenly Jade of the Maya that premiered in December 2012 at the cultural center of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC.