volume stems from a roundtable held on March
1991 at Dumbarton Oaks titled "Art and Writing: Record-
·ng Knowledge in Pre-Columbian America." The roundtable
brought together a group of twenty-six scholars who had been think-
ing about and working on graphic systems of recordkeeping in the New
World, and it culminated a year's thought and discussion at Dumbarton
Oaks about the ways Pre-Columbian societies recorded and preserved
information. The meeting was intended not as a formal symposium but
as an informal discussion; we wanted simply to spend a few days con-
sidering and talking about graphic systems of recordkeeping.
To give structure to the meeting, twelve of the participants agreed to
give relatively short presentations that were theoretical in nature and in-
tended to open up areas for general consideration. We fully intended,
however, for the meat of the roundtable to be in the discussions that
followed each paper. The first day, our attention was devoted to the
iconic and pictorial systems of Mesoamerica: Elizabeth Boone, John
Pohl, and Peter van der Loo talked about the presentatitm of time, se-
quence, and narrative in these systems; Mary Elizabeth Smith, Barbara
Mundy, and John Monahan spoke about the graphic presentation of
space and territory. Then Tom Cummins opened the question of con-
ventional systems such as the Andean quipu, where meaning is encoded
without pictorial images; perhaps because he was alone in speaking
about the Andean system or perhaps because we knew less about it,
his comments sparked the greatest discussion. In the second day we
turned to the hieroglyphic systems and texts of Mesoamerica. George
Stuart, David Stuart, and Javier Urcid all explained the early inscriptions
from La Mojarra and Monte Alban, after which Stephen Houston looked
broadly at the Maya system. Walter Mignolo then carried the conver-
sations into the colonial period and raised the fundamental question of
writing and "the book." The participants who fleshed out the discussion
were Anthony Aveni, Bruce Byland, Flora Clancy, Susan Evans, Heidi
Fogel, Jill Furst, Mark King, Tim Knab, James Langley, Dana Leibsohn,
Carlos Rincon, Jeanette Sherbondy, Barbara Tedlock, Dennis Tedlock,
Gary Urton, and David Webster. It was an intense two days of thinking
and talking about issues none of us had sufficiently considered before.
We all came away invigorated and stretched by it.
Although this volume grew from the roundtable, it does not reiterate
the presentations given there. Some of the talks addressed a specialized
Mesoamerican audience and are being published in other forms else-
where; some of the speakers and participants were too pressed with other
commitments to prepare a contribution. Too, the focus of this volume is
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