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Megan E. O'NeilAssistant ProfessorFaculty Curator, Art of the Americas, Michael C. Carlos Museum


  • Ph.D., History of Art, Yale University, 2005
  • M.A., Art History, University of Texas at Austin, 1999
  • B.A., Archaeological Studies, Yale University, 1994


Megan E. O'Neil, Assistant Professor of Art History at Emory University and Faculty Curator of the Art of the Americas, is a specialist in the ancient Maya and other cultures of the ancient Americas. Prior to joining the Emory faculty, she taught at several universities and was Associate Curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). One aspect of her research focuses on ancient Maya creation of and engagement with stone sculptures, explored in her first book, Engaging Ancient Maya Sculpture at Piedras Negras, Guatemala (Oklahoma, 2012). She also has published multiple articles in journals and edited volumes about Maya sculpture, painting, and ceramics that address topics such as iconoclasm, touch and tactility, and materiality, as well as histories of collecting, exhibition, and the reception of Mesoamerican art and culture into the modern day, and in 2014 she published a revised edition of Maya Art and Architecture (Thames and Hudson), co-authored with Mary Miller. Another book, The Maya, was recently released by Reaktion Books.  

Research Interests

  • Mesoamerican art and archaeology, with emphasis in ancient Maya stone sculpture and ceramics
  • Iconoclasm
  • Materiality and human engagement with things
  • Histories of collecting and exhibition of the art of the ancient Americas

Selected Publications



The Maya [Lost Civilizations series] (New York: Reaktion Books, 2022) 

Forces of Nature

Forces of Nature: Ancient Maya Arts from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (自然的力量——洛杉矶郡艺术博物馆藏古代玛雅艺术品) (Beijing: Cultural Relics Press, 2018)

Mayan Art and ArchitectureMaya Art and Architecture, 2nd revised edition. co-author with Mary Ellen Miller. London: Thames and Hudson, 2014.
Engaging Ancient Maya SculptureEngaging Ancient Maya Scupture at Piedras Negras, Guatemala (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012)

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

“Un trono dividido: El origen y los movimientos de la Banca Jeroglífica 1 de Ixtutz, Guatemala,” (co-authored with Nicholas Carter, Mara Antonieta Reyes, David Stuart, Stephen Houston, and Katharine Lukach), Latin American Antiquity 33, no. 2 (2021): 1-17 

“Animating Materials: The Sculpted Forms of the Ancient Maya World,” in The Maya World, eds. Traci Ardren and Scott Hutson (London and New York: Routledge, 2020), 559-77

“The Moving Image: Painted Murals and Vessels at Teotihuacan and the Maya Area,” co-authored with Diana Magaloni Kerpel and María Teresa Uriarte, in Teotihuacan: The World Beyond the City, eds. Kenneth G. Hirth, David M. Carballo, and Barbara Arroyo (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2020), 189-220

“The Painter’s Line on Paper and Clay: Maya Codices and Codex-Style Vessels, from the Seventh to Sixteenth Centuries,” in Toward a Global Middle Ages: Encountering the World through Illuminated Manuscripts, ed. Bryan C. Keene (Los Angeles: Getty Museum, 2019), 125-136

“El tacto y la interacción en el arte maya antiguo,” Revista Española de Antropología Americana 49 (2019): 173-191

“Violencia, transformación y renovación: La naturaleza variopinta de la iconoclasia maya,” I-Stor: Revista de Historia Internacional 74 (La iconoclasia: Un motor histórico) (2018):145-177 

"An Artistic Discovery of America: Exhibiting and Collecting Mexican Pre-Hispanic Art in Los Angeles from 1940 to the 1960s," co-authored with Mary Ellen Miller, in Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915-1985, ed. Wendy Kaplan (Los Angeles: LACMA and Presetel, 2017), 162-167

"Stucco-Painted Vessels from Teotihuacan: Integration of Ceramic and Mural Traditions," in Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire, ed. Matthew H. Robb (San Francisco: de Young Museum and University of California Press, 2017), 162-167

"Nuevas Perspectivas Sobre los Huesos Tallados del Entierro 166 de Tika," XXIX Simposio de Investigaciones Arquelógicas en Guatemala 2015, eds. Bárbara Arroyo, Luis Méndez Salinas, and Gloria Ajú Álvarez, T. II (Guatemala City, Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, Instituto de ANtropología e Historia, Asociación Tikal, 2016), 741-7512

"Object Reuse, Object as Refuse: Varying Life Histories of Ancient Maya Sculptures," in Estéticas del des(h)echo, ed. Nuria Balcells (México, D.F.: Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM, 2014), 343-357

“Marked Faces, Displaced Bodies: Monument Breakage and Reuse among the Classic-Period Maya,” in Striking Images, Iconoclasms Past and Present. eds. Stacy Boldrick, Leslie Brubaker, and Richard Clay (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013), 47-64

“Object, Memory, and Materiality at Yaxchilan: The Reset Lintels of Structures 12 and 22,” Ancient Mesoamerica 22, no. 2 (2011):245-269 

“The Material Evidence of Ancient Maya Sculpture,” Journal of Visual Culture 9, no. 3 (December 2010):316-328

“Ancient Maya Sculptures of Tikal, Seen and Unseen,” Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics 55/56 (2009):119-134 

Current Projects

Currently, Dr. O’Neil is completing a book manuscript, The Lives of Ancient Maya Sculptures, which explores ancient Maya practices of sculptural creation, resetting, destruction, burning, and burial. She has several publications in press, including one book, Revealing Creation: The Art and Science of Ancient Maya Ceramics, for which she is contributor and co-editor, that is the result of collaborative research involving LACMA curators and conservators. She also is the co-editor of two forthcoming volumes, in which she also has essays. These are Materiality, Sense, and Meaning in Pre-Columbian Art, co-edited with Ma. Luisa Vázquez de Ágredos Pascual and Ana García Barrios ( Archaeopress), and Collecting Mesoamerican Art before 1940, co-edited with Andrew D. Turner (Getty Publications). In addition, she is co-curating, with David Saunders, a new exhibition called Picture-Worlds: Maya, Moche and Athenian Vase-Painting, which will be at the Getty Villa and the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in 2024. Dr. O’Neil is on sabbatical for the academic year 2022-2023 as a Getty Residential Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, CA, where she is writing a book about the 20th-century market for pre-Hispanic art.