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Jerome A. Offner, Ph.D

Associate Curator, Northern Mesoamerica
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Jerome A. (Jerry) Offner began working as a volunteer with the museum in 1984 and curated two exhibits on aspects of the Americas in the 1980s. Jerry is an expert on the Aztecs of Mexico, their history, culture and overall graphic communication system, including their writing system. His new co-edited book Indigenous Graphic Communication Systems: A Theoretical Approach is now available for purchase on the University Press of Colorado website.

A generous contribution by the museum to enhance the book allowed the inclusion of nearly two hundred photographs and drawings.

In 1983, Jerry “wrote the book” on the Aztec legal system and has continued to conduct research and publish articles through the present day on topics including religion, economics and history. He specializes in the beautiful and colorful “codices” or indigenous graphic documents from before and after the Conquest in 1519 AD. Currently, he is leading a team in Europe and the United States to investigate the greatest of the Aztec pictorial histories—the Codex Xolotl from the city of Texcoco, which reports on many events of the remarkable life of Nezahualcoyotl who ruled that city 1431-1472 AD. This history, kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, illustrates in considerable detail more than 260 years of history before 1431 AD on eleven beautifully painted sides and three fragments made of native paper. It records the migrations, invasions, wars, marriages, births, and lives in the histories of the many different peoples who came to be known as the Aztecs in what is now the central part of Mexico.

Jerry is also an expert in contemporary masks and textiles of Mexico, with additional interests in Africa and the ancient Mediterranean. He reads, writes or speaks English, Spanish, French, Latin, ancient Greek and classical Nahuatl, the language of the Nahua (Aztecs) of Mexico.

“Museums are for the adults in children and the children in adults,” says Jerry. “Most of us remember our first visit to a museum and how the entire day seemed to go by in a flash. We also remember our children’s first visits to museums. Museums are essential in providing hands on experience and interaction with actual objects in our increasingly virtual, digital world. They anchor us to what is real and at the same time provide inspiration for childhood intellectual development as well as lifelong learning.”

Jerry received his B.A. in 1972 from the University of Chicago and his MPhil and PhD from Yale University in 1975 and 1979. He was been awarded grants by the National Science Foundation, the Doherty Foundation, as well as the Fulbright program. His book was awarded the Howard F. Cline Prize in 1985. He is active in presenting papers at professional meetings, both in English and Spanish

Recent Presentations

“Nahuatl Commercial Terminology” (American Society for Ethnohistory, Indianapolis, IN, October 2014).

“Apuntes sobre la plancha X del Códice Xolotl: Cincuenta años más tarde” (V Simposio Internacional sobre Códices del Centro de México. Universidad Complutense de Madrid, October 2014).

“Starting from Zero: Overcoming Text-Centrism and Other Western Prejudices” (Indigenous Graphic Communication Systems: A Theoretical Approach, University of Warsaw, March 2015).

“The Marriage Prognostication Pages in the Codex Borgia (58-60) and the Juan de Córdova Divination Procedure” (Indigenous Graphic Communication Systems: A Theoretical Approach, University of Warsaw, March 2015).

“Exploring Nahuatl Commercial Terminology:  Starting from Zero” (Northeastern Nahuatl Scholars Meeting, New Haven, May 2015).

“Lo que NO hay en el Codex Xolotl: Indicaciones de su fecha temprana y su autencidad indígena” (55th International Congress of Americanists, San Salvador, July 2015).

“Aztec Land Tenure:  A Third of a Century Later” (American Society for Ethnohistory, Las Vegas, NV, November 2015).

“El derecho de los Aztecas o el futuro del derecho de los Aztecas” (Invited lectura, Tercer Coloquio de Historia Regional El Centro de Estudios Históricos y Sociales de Texcoco “Lorenzo Boturini Benaduci” A.C. y la Dirección de Cultura del H. Ayuntamiento de Texcoco. September 2016).

“Current and Emerging Issues in Codex Xolotl Research” (Third International Conference for the Codex Xolotl, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, March 2017).

“Report on the Codex Xolotl Project” (Northeastern Nahuatl Scholars Meeting, New Haven, CT, May 2017).

“Complex glyphic expression in the Corpus Xolotl” (First European Nahuatl Conference in Memory of James Lockhart, University of Warsaw, November 2017).

“¡Cuaxicala todavía tiene su Tlalamatl!” (presented to the community of Cuaxicala, Huauchinango, Puebla, Mexico, May 2018).

“Be Careful What You Call Things, or ¡Cuaxicala todavía tiene su Tlalamatl!” (Northeastern Nahuatl Scholars Meeting, New Haven CT, May 2018).

“Acolhuacan y sus vecinos: ahora y durante los últimos mil años, un taller” (American Society for Ethnohistory, Las Vegas, NV, October 2018).

“Getting Involved with Reality: The Tlalamatl Cuaxicalan and its Past, Current and Potential Impacts on an Indigenous Community (Cuaxicala) and on an Academic Community (Us)” (North-eastern Nahuatl Scholars Meeting, SUNY-Albany, NY, May 2019).

“Land Rights in Social Memory across Five Centuries in Cuaxicala, a Small Sierra de Puebla, Mexico Indigenous Town” (American Society for Ethnohistory, State College, PA, September 2019).

Publications

Offner, Jerome A.

1979 “A Reassessment of the Structuring and Extent of the Empire of Techotlalatzin, Fourteenth Century Ruler of Texcoco.”  Ethnohistory 26(3): 231-241.

1980a “Archival Reports of Low Crop Yields in the Texcocan Heartland and their Implications for Studies of Aztec Period Population.”  American Antiquity 45(4): 848-856.

1980b “Aztec Political Numerology and Human Sacrifice: The Ideological Ramifications of the Number Six.” Journal of Latin American Lore 6(2): 205-215.

1980c “On the Inapplicability of ‘Oriental Despotism’ and the ‘Asiatic Mode of Production’ to the Aztecs of Texcoco.”  American Antiquity 46(1): 43-61.

1980d “On Carrasco’s Use of Theoretical ‘First Principles.’” American Antiquity 46(1): 69-74.

1982 Aztec legal process: The case of Texcoco. In Proceedings of the Conference on Late Post-classic Central Mexican Iconography, ed. Elizabeth Hill Boone, 141-157.  Washington, DC: Center for Mesoamerican Studies, Dumbarton Oaks.

1983 Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

1984a “Household Organization in the Texcocan Heartland.” In Explorations in Ethnohistory, eds. H.R. Harvey and Hanns J. Prem, 127-146. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

1984b “The Distribution of Jurisdiction and Political Power in Aztec Texcoco: Subgroups in Conflict.”  In Five Centuries of Law and Politics in Central Mexico, eds. Ronald Spores and Ross Hassig, 5-14.  Nashville: Vanderbilt University Publications in Anthropology, no. 30.

1993 “Dueling Rulers and Strange Attractors: Some Patterns of Disorder and Killing in Aztec Society.”  Political and Legal Anthropology Review 16(2): 65-73.

2010 “Un segundo vistazo al Códice de Xicotepec.  Itinerarios 11: 55-83.

2011 “A Curious Commonality among Some Eastern Basin of Mexico and Eastern Mexican Pictorial Manuscripts.”  Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl 41: 259-279.

2012 “Exploring Three Sixteenth-Century ‘Totonac’ Pictorial Manuscripts.” In Mesoamerican Memory: Enduring Systems of Remembrance, eds. Amos Megged and Stephanie Wood, 147-71.  Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

2014 “Improving Western Historiography of Texcoco.” In Texcoco: Prehispanic and Colonial Perspectives, eds. Jongsoo Lee and Galen Brokaw, 25-61.  Boulder: University Press of Colorado.

2015 “Why the Mapa de Metlatoyuca is Not the Map of Metlatoyuca:  It is the Mapa de Taxco (Tlachco), Municipio Tetela de Ocampo, Puebla, Mexico.” Contributions in New World Archaeology 7: 147-163.

2016a “Ixtlilxochitl’s Ethnographic Encounter. Understanding the Codex Xolotl and Its Dependent Alphabetic Texts.” In Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl and His Legacy, eds. Galen Brokaw and Jongsoo Lee, 77-121.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

2016b “The Future of Aztec Law.” The Medieval Globe 2(2): 1-32.

2018 “Apuntes sobre la plancha X del códice Xolotl: Cincuenta años más tarde.” In El arte de escribir: El Centro de México: del Posclásico al siglo XVII, trans. Agnieszka Brylak, eds. Juan José Batalla Rosado and Miguel Ángel Ruz Barrio, 151– 172. Zinacantepec, Mexico: El Colegio Mexiquense.

2019a Indigenous Graphic Communication Systems: A Theoretical Approach, eds. Katarzyna Mikulska and Jerome A. Offner. Louisville, Colorado: University Press of Colorado.

2019b “What Lies Beneath: Generating Mesoamerican Media Surfaces.” In Indigenous Graphic Communication Systems: A Theoretical Approach, eds. Katarzyna Mikulska and Jerome A. Offner, 180-203. Louisville, Colorado: University Press of Colorado.

2019b “Afterword.” In Indigenous Graphic Communication Systems: A Theoretical Approach, eds. Katarzyna Mikulska and Jerome A. Offner, 376-380. Louisville, Colorado: University Press of Colorado.

Book Reviews

1981 Review of The Toltec Heritage from the Fall of Tula to the Rise of Tenochtitlán by Nigel Davies, American Anthropologist 83(3): 664-665

1997 Review of Law and the Transformation of Aztec Culture, 1500-1700 by Susan Kellogg, Journal of Latin American Studies 29(2): 497-498.

2004 Review of Códice Mapa Quinatzin.  Justicia y derechos humanos en el México antiguo. Commentary by Luz María Mohar Betancourt. Ethnohistory 52(3): 659-662.

2007 Review of Luz María Mohar Betancourt.  Códice Mapa Quinatzin: justicia y derechos humanos en el México antiguo. Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl 38: 511-514.

2010 Review of the Tíra de Tepechpan:  Negotiating Place Under Aztec and Spanish Rule by Lori Diel; and La Chronique X: Reconstitution et analyse d’une source perdue fondamentale sur la civilisation Aztèque, d’après l’Historia de las Indias de Nueva España de D. Durán (1581) et la Crónica Mexicana de F. A. Tezozomoc (ca. 1598) by Sylvie Peperstraete. Americas 66 (4):565-567.

2019 Review of Pueblos within Pueblos: Tlaxilacalli Communities in Acolhuacan, Mexico, ca. 1272–1692 by Benjamin D. Johnson. Hispanic American Historical Review 99(4): 725-726.

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