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Events 2018-2019

2018–2019 Lecture Series

Volume XXXXI, Number 2 – Winter 2018

Program Year 2018-19 features an exceptional series of high quality and informative lectures. Our programming is one of the hidden secrets of the metropolitan area. Please join us in exploring Ancient and Modern Mesoamerica with some of its most accomplished scholars and cultural experts.May – Matthew H. Robb, Chief Curator of the Fowler Museum at UCLA

Lecture: Friday, May 3, 2019, 7:00 pm 

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100E)

City of Water, City of Fire: Space, Object and Identity in the City of the Gods

The city of Teotihuacan was one of the most important urban centers of the ancient Americas. Drawing on a diverse population from all over Mesoamerica, Teotihuacan is at once quintessentially of its place and time while it also transcends those boundaries. Even as modern city-dwellers would instantly recognize its grid and multi-family dwellings as characteristics of our own urban forms, its monumental pyramids and hidden tunnels speak to an altogether different order, one drawn from the power of the natural world. This lecture will give an overview of the recent exhibition Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire, which emphasizes recent discoveries at the site as it seeks to understand Teotihuacan as an exemplary, even archetypal, city of ancient Mexico – and a place where art served to bind the diverse population together. 

Saturday workshop – May 4, 2019, 9:00 – Noon 

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6S)

The Saturday morning workshop will focus on one of the most enigmatic parts of Teotihuacan’s sculptural production: stone faces commonly called masks. While these objects serve as emblems of Teotihuacan, surprisingly little has been done to systematically analyze their contexts or even determine how many there are in public and private collections. Dr. Robb will share some insights into the stone faces of Teotihuacan based on his years of research compiling examples from archaeological contexts at Teotihuacan and elsewhere in Mexico as well as those lacking contexts in museums around the world and examples that appear at auction and for sale on the international art market. The workshop will explore the basic methodological challenges of understanding an object class from multiple disciplinary perspectives.April – Professor Norman Hammond, ScD, FSA, FBA, Senior Fellow, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge University

Lecture: Friday, April 5, 2019, 7:00 pm 

(Hamline: Drew Science 118)

Exploring La Milpa: a Classic Maya city in Belize

La Milpa, the third-largest Maya city in Belize, was discovered in 1939, but in a location so remote that exploration began only in the 1990s. It lies on a high ridge, with plazas, palaces, temple-pyramids and ball-courts tightly packed. The surrounding landscape supported widespread settlement, much of it dating to the Late/Terminal Classic between AD 700 and 850, overlain by a ‘cosmic design’ placing La Milpa within the multi-directional Maya universe. A series of carved stelae include fragmentary and repositioned monuments perhaps reflecting activities around the time of the Spanish Conquest in the mid-sixteenth century. Abandonment of the Classic centre took place in the midst of a major royal construction program, for reasons still enigmatic.

Saturday workshop – April 6, 2019, 9:00 – Noon

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6S)

Economy, culture and society of the Middle Preclassic Maya village at Cuello, Belize

Numerous seasons of intensive excavation over more than a quarter-century of the finely-stratified remains at Cuello showed occupation from ca.1200 BC – AD 400 in a single locus. Well-preserved plant and animal remains allow subsistence economy to be reconstructed, while artifacts including tools, ceramics, and figurines document early art and trade.

March – Bryan R. Just, Ph.D., Curator and Lecturer in the Art of the Ancient Americas, Princeton University

Lecture: Friday, March 1, 2019, 6:00 – 8:30 pm 

St. Thomas University: O’Shaughnessy Educational Center (OEC) Auditorium

Exhibiting Art of the Ancient Americas: A Candid Look

This talk will reveal some of the challenges and prospects of developing exhibitions of indigenous art of the Americas in the 21 st century. Dr. Just will consider three exhibitions he has worked on over the past decade:  Gifts from the Ancestors: Ancient Ivories of Bering Strait (2009);  Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom (2012), and Worlds Within: Mimbres Pottery of the Ancient Southwest (forthcoming, 2019). Each project was complicated by issues of patrimony, ‘looting,’ and the ethics of display, but in rather different ways particular to the original context of the subject material and the circumstances of its reemergence from the ground.

Saturday workshop – March 2, 2019, 9:00 – Noon 

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6S)

Ik’ Kingdom Dynastic History and Historic Texts

The Saturday morning workshop will focus on one of the most enigmatic parts of Teotihuacan’s sculptural production: stone faces commonly called masks. While these objects serve as emblems of Teotihuacan, surprisingly little has been done to systematically analyze their contexts or even determine how many there are in public and private collections. Dr. Robb will share some insights into the stone faces of Teotihuacan based on his years of research compiling examples from archaeological contexts at Teotihuacan and elsewhere in Mexico as well as those lacking contexts in museums around the world and examples that appear at auction and for sale on the international art market. The workshop will explore the basic methodological challenges of understanding an object class from multiple disciplinary perspectives. 

January – Steve Kosiba, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota

 Lecture: Friday, January 25, 2019, 7:00 pm 
(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100E)

In this talk, I discuss my recent archaeological and archival work on the means and materials by which the Incas constituted their history, with emphasis on the politics of the past in the center of their empire (Cusco, Peru).  My principal argument is that Inca notions of temporal sequences and events did not align with the linearity and universalism that have characterized dominant historical paradigms in the West, from early Christian historiography to the modern disciplines of archaeology or history.  Rather, for the Incas, actors of the past were actively present in the present—that is to say, they were literal persons who continued to act in and affect the outcome of their contemporary political struggles and social conflicts.  Such past actors commanded labor,  demanded respect, and responded to requests in capricious manners.  At times they were allies who aided Inca imperial endeavors, and at other times they were foes whose actions warranted punishment or death.  How might such a rendering of history and morality affect political life, particularly notions of tradition, authority, and social distinction?  I propose an answer to this question through a systematic analysis of Cusco’s ceques—pathways and sight-lines that, taken together, not only oriented Cusco’s people toward time and space, but also elevated the authority of particular people and wak’as, creating a social hierarchy rooted in deep time.

December – Rafael Cobos, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán (John Harris Memorial Lecture)

Lecture: Friday, December 7, 2018, 7:00 pm 
(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100E)

Maritime ports and their role in Chichén Itzá’s economy during the Terminal Classic period

During the tenth and eleventh centuries, Chichén Itzá utilized for economic reasons several maritime ports along the Caribbean as well as the Gulf of México coasts. The main function of these ports was to facilitate the movement of goods or merchandise imported by Chichén Itzá from different regions located within and beyond the Maya area. The goal of this conference is to explain the role played by these transshipment seaports in Chichén Itzá´s exchange system during the Terminal Classic period.

Saturday workshop – December 8, 2018, 9:00 – Noon (Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6S)

Ancient climate and the collapse of civilization at Chichén Itzá, Yucatán

Archaeological data and evidence of climatic change are used to suggest that the collapse of Chichén Itzá in the northern Maya lowlands was the result of long and recurrent drought episodes in the eleventh century. Although environmental evidence indicates that drought episodes might have begun in the ninth century,they gradually increased in frequency through the eleventh century and generated devastating effects on the late Terminal Classic period civilization. Evidence of recurrent drought episodes in the northern lowlands is reported from the Holtún Cenote at Chichén Itzá. This cenote (sinkhole) shows two moments of the climatic change that affected northern Yucatán. First, it corroborates the existence of extreme dry environmental conditions during the Terminal Classic period dated between the ninth and eleventh centuries. Second, after C.E. 1100, the water level rose inside the Holtún Cenote when environmental conditions turned wetter at the beginning of the Postclassic period.

November-Thomas Garrison

Lecture: Friday, November 9, 2018, 7:00 pm

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100E)

A Contested Landscape: Lidar and the Pervasiveness of Maya Warfare”

Recent large-scale lidar acquisitions in the Maya lowlands have revealed unprecedented views of the great cultural impact left upon this ancient landscape. Perhaps most surprising was the pervasiveness of grandiose features relating to warfare and defense. Common narratives of Maya conflict isolate war as a contributing factor to cultural decline, supported by hasty defense systems detected archaeologically, and also patterns in texts that show increasing enmity prior to societal collapse in the southern lowlands. Lidar shows that while these interpretations may be accurate, war was omnipresent throughout the time of the Preclassic and Classic Maya and may have at times actually been a catalyst for growth and stability. The lecture will give a background on remote sensing in Maya archaeology, including my earlier work around San Bartolo and Xultun.

Saturday workshop – November 10, 2018, 9:00 – Noon 

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6S) 

“The Lidar Revolution and Achieving Remote Sensing’s Potential in Maya Archaeology: A Lidar Workshop”

Recent sensational news stories about the stunning revelations of the ancient Maya provided by lidar technology have resonated with a global audience interested in past civilizations. In the Maya area, the fervor surrounding lidar has not been seen since the excitement centered on the decipherment of the Maya script that reached its peak in the 1980s. This workshop will show how lidar technology is a natural progression of a long history of remote sensing applications in the Maya lowlands and will provide participants with an opportunity to engage directly with the lidar data.”

October-David Stuart: Professor of Mesoamerican Art and Writing at the University of Texas at Austin

Lecture: Friday, October 19, 2018, 7:30 pm (Anderson Hall 111/112)Social Hour: 6pm

Friday Evening Details

The Maya Society of Minnesota is celebrating 40 years of study related to the Ancient and Modern Maya, as well as other Mesoamerican cultures. The anniversary activities will honor the incredible intellectual legacy of our lecturers, our loyal and engaged membership and students, our collaborative partners and the cultural communities of Minnesota, as well as the work of the past and current leadership. We are sincerely honored to have David Stuart give the 40th Anniversary lecture. We hope that you will be able to join us.

6:00 pm Social Hour ($25.00 donation suggested to help defray expenses)

6:15 pm Meet and Greet our speaker Dr. David Stuart

6:45 pm 40th Anniversary Program

7:30 pm Lecture: The Historical Record of Teotihuacan-Tikal Relations, Dr. David Stuart, The David and Linda Schele Professor of Art and Writing, University of Texas at Austin

The Speaking Steps: Reconstructing Maya History on the Great Hieroglyphic Stairway of Copan

In 1884 the explorer Alfred Maudslay found several beautifully carved stones on the slope of a large Maya pyramid at Copan, Honduras. Excavated by Harvard’s Peabody Museum in the 1890s, the blocks proved to be part of a massive staircase, every riser adorned with a line of ornate hieroglyphs, and out of order for the most part – or so it seemed. For nearly a century the Great Hieroglyphic Stairway of Copan seemed a tantalizing but hopeless puzzle, but collaborative efforts in the 1980s started the process of its preservation and careful reconstruction. David Stuart has led the effort to decipher its long inscription, and will present the latest results on the reading of its complex stories of ancient Maya dynastic politics, ancestor worship, and warfare in the eight century.  

Saturday Lecture – October 20, 2018, 11:00 am 

(MIA Pillsbury Auditorium)

The Historical Record of Teotihuacan-Maya Relations

The year 378 C.E. saw a major political disruption in the central Maya lowlands, widely referred to as the “entrada.” This key event generally correlates with a significant appearance of Teotihuacan-related material culture in the region, as first defined by excavation projects at Tikal and surrounding sites in the 1960s. Since then, decipherment of hieroglyphic texts from Tikal and nearby centers showed that the entrada was described as the “arrival” of a mysterious character known as Sihyaj K’ahk’, who for many years wielded significant power over the region. In this talk I examine the latest historical evidence regarding this transformative event, including new readings that confirm the interpretation of the arrival as a military conquest alongside the establishment a new political order and alliance network with strong Teotihuacan connections. Although the nature of this long-distance interaction between Teotihuacan and the Maya lowlands remains poorly understood, multiple references to the “arrival” in later histories testify to its importance in the cultural memory of the Late Classic Maya.

September- Caitlin Earley: Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Nevada, Reno

Lecture: Friday, September 21, 2018, 7:00 pm

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100e)

Reconstructing the history of Chinkultic 

Despite decades of excavation and a large corpus of monumental sculpture, the site of Chinkultic remains absent from many works on Maya history. This presentation, based on almost ten years of research on Chinkultic and the archaeology of the Comitán Valley, focuses on three groups of monuments from the site. Depicting royal accessions, rituals, and courtly interactions, these monuments reveal new information about the history of Chinkultic and the ways in which its elite artistic patrons wished to be perceived. They also bear important implications for understanding the sociopolitical dynamics of the Comitán Valley and, more broadly, art and politics on the western Maya frontier.

Saturday workshop – September 22, 2018, 9:00 – Noon 

(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6S) 

The Captive Maya Body at Chinkultic and Beyond 

This workshop begins with an iconographic problem in the monuments of Chinkultic: the representation of subordinate bodies and their identification as captives. We will consider what the monuments of Chinkultic reveal about the captive Maya body, and, working outward from the site, we will explore broader issues in the representation and display of captive bodies in Classic Maya art.  Workshop participants will reexamine the traditional understanding of captives and take steps toward the construction of more contextualized and nuanced approaches to the study of Maya captives and their role in Classic Maya art.