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Chrsitopher BenfeyIn this book, written in connection with another exhibition, two top scholars in the field, the art historian Mary Miller and the epigraphist (decipherer of ancient texts) Simon Martin, home in on the seventh and eighth centuries A.D., when Mayan civilization reached ''the peak of opulence and refinement,'' and for a brief period women were accorded a leading role in affairs of state and culture. An elaborately carved limestone stele depicts a Mayan queen running a rope studded with thorns through her tongue, a bloody prelude -- probably accompanied by hallucinogens -- to her vision of a monstrous beast, part snake and part centipede. On the lighter side, the Maya prized cleverness -- trompe l'oeil ceramics mimic baskets and gourds. And they prized black humor -- in a ceramic figurine a dog at a diner's side contemplates the severed head of another dog floating in the stewpot.
— The New York Times