Events 2019-2020

2019–2020 Lecture Series

Dr. Ruud van Akkeren, Research Associate, Universidad del Valle, Guatemala

Buy Ruud’s book: “Maya Studies with the Maya”
Ruud’s website:
Lecture: Friday, February 21, 2020, 7:00 pm

Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, 100e

The disjuncture between Highland and Lowland Maya never existed

There is this unsubstantiated idea among scholars of the Classic Maya that the Highland Maya of Guatemala are a different class of Maya. The culture and documents produced by these peoples – like the famous Popol Wuj – must therefore be discarded as useful for the research of Classic Maya culture. Having lived for 25 years in the Maya area, having worked with Maya people, and having specialized in the indigenous Maya documents, I have always opposed this misconception. In my book Xibalba y el nacimiento del nuevo sol (2012), focusing on the origin and significance of the Xibalba myth, I demonstrate that the authors of the Popol Wuj, written by the Kaweq lineage, were actually of Classic Maya Lowland origin; they sprung forth from the well-known Kanek’ lineage. A forthcoming study (3 Volumes) about the Preclassic Highland center Kaminal Juyu, plus a new translation and interpretation of the Kaqchikel text Memorial de Sololá – together with Dr. Sergio Romero – again bolsters the historical truth that they were all the same Maya. 
The quintessence of these investigations is a methodology that I have called a ‘lineage history’. Maya, or for that matter Mesoamerican history, can best be understood at the level of the principal lineage, clustering with allied lineages in a sociopolitical design, in the literature called calpulli or chinamit. Both, a synchronic and diachronic approach to the historical trajectory of these lineages produce a whole new panorama of Maya history. The advantage of the lineage history is that it allows us seeing Mesoamerican history at work. It shows lineages moving freely about the Highlands, Lowlands and Pacific Coast and beyond. The lineage is not necessarily stopped by ethnic or language barriers. The same lineage in one place may be K’iche’-speaking, in another Poq’om or Ch’orti’, Ch’ol or even Nahuatl. The Mesoamerican trade-network, organized in guilds which on their turn were made up of mercantile lineages, played a pivotal part in these integrating dynamics.  
Thus, as put forward in the forthcoming books, the Toad lineage, probably of Xinca origin, incorporated into the Kaminal Juyu polity where people spoke Poq’om Maya, subsequently became part of Classic Copan where they started speaking Ch’orti’ and a little later was present at Naranjo and Balamku, speaking Ch’ol. Concurrently, the Coyote lineage, as it appears of Teotihuacan origin, allied with Maya merchant lineages from Kaminal Juyu and the Pacific Coast, becoming Maya-speakers in the process. The Coyote lineage would during the Early Postclassic participate in the launching of the K’iche’ confederation, to end as the founders of the Kaqchikel polity at Iximche’, in colonial times producing the Kaqchikel text Memorial de Sololá. As I said, a lineage history, synchronic as well as diachronic, shows Maya history de facto at work.

Workshop: Saturday, February 22, 2020, 9:00 am

Lineage History in Practice

In the Saturday morning workshop we will elaborate on the lineage history, using evidences from indigenous texts, new iconographical interpretations of images, and sociopolitical expressions of settlement patterns. Contrary to outdated theories about the origin of Postclassic Highland Maya confederations like K’iche’, Kaqchikel or Mam, it will be argued that an approach on the lineage level results in a entirely different reconstruction of the origin of these lineages, reserving an important role for the Classic polities on the Pacific Coast. These Classic city-states, featuring a mix of Maya, Teotihuacan and later Nahua-speaking peoples, proved to be an important reservoir of Postclassic ruling lineages. Among them the aforementioned Coyote or Xajil lineage that redacted Guatemala’s most important indigenous text on history, the Memorial de Sololá.
If we’ll have some time left, we may discuss the various Poq’om families who were the founders of Kaminal Juyu, among which the Puma or Guacamaya lineages,. As known, Kaminal Juyu never was the original name of that city which flourished from the obsidian and jade industry and their cacao and cotton plantations on the Pacific Coast. A detailed reconstruction of the sources have shown it was called Maguey Mountain or Maguey Grinding Stone.

December: Linnea Wren, Travis Nygard, and Kaylee Spencer

Linnea Wren is Professor Emerita of Art History at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN.
Travis Nygard is Associate Professor of Art History at Ripon College in Ripon, WI.
Kaylee Spencer is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Lecture: Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, 7:00 pm

Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 100e

Evening Lecture presented by Linnea Wren, Travis Nygard, and Kaylee Spencer

To Face or to Flee from the Foe: Women in Warfare at Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is famous for its expansive imagery celebrating elite male warriors, priests and rulers. Spread prominently across the site’s architectural surfaces, the imagery extols warfare as a strategy of state power and an individual display of masculine prowess. But women’s lives are also engulfed by war.Our research focuses on the battle murals of the Upper Temple of the Warriors. In these murals, Women are depicted as both targets and respondents to Itza military violence.   The inclusion of women in the battle murals raise question about Maya warfare in general. Were warfare and conquest exclusively men’s work? What impact did warfare and conquest have on women? What role did women have within a male ideology of warfare and conquest? What response did women take towards the defense of their communities and in resistance to the aggression of Itza invaders? Was violence towards women was an accepted consequence, and perhaps even a strategy, of Maya warfare?These scenes also raise questions for contemporary audiences. What is the relation between sexual violence and war? When do images not only record, but also normalize violence? How do we confront violence in the distant past and in the present? We suggest that the murals of the Upper Temple of the Jaguars not only enlarge our understanding of war and violence in the ancient Maya past, but also can serve as a catalyst for ongoing dialogue.Linnea, Travis and Kaylee have published their research, “To Face or to Flee from the Foe: Women in Warfare at Chichen Itza,”  in the volume  Landscapes of the Itza: Archaeology and Art History at Chichen Itza and Neighboring Sites in Yucatan, Mexico, published in 2018 by the University Press of Florida. Landscapes of the Itza, edited by Linnea, Travis and Kaylee together with Cynthia Kristan-Graham, presents the most recent archaeological, epigraphic, and art historical research on Chichen Itza and neighboring sites.
Workshop: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, 9:00 amHamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 6sWomen of All Repute: Reconstructing the lives, roles, and contributions of Maya WomenThe Saturday morning workshop will focus on women as important actors on all levels of Maya society. Women’s contributions to their households encompassed the political, economic, familial and personal spheres. We will look at women’s lives in both elite and commoner social strata. In doing so, we will draw from the interdisciplinary perspectives of archaeology, epigraphy, iconography and ethnographic perspectives. We will also look at the questions that remain in recovering a full understanding of the ancient Maya household and all of its members.

November: Julia Miller, Ph.D.

Lecture: Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, 7:00 pm

Hamline University, Drew Science, Room 118

From Ichcanzihó to Merida: Conquest, Collusion, and Conversion

Francisco de Montejo’s founding of Merida in the great plaza of Ichcanzihó on January 6, 1542 set in motion centuries of interplay between the Spanish crown, the Catholic church, and the Maya. The earliest plan of the new city defined the spatial racial segregation of the population that would continue to shape the “White City” over the next centuries. However, neither the crown nor the church could hope to develop their new territory without the cooperation of the Maya and other indigenous peoples. In this lecture, I will explore the history of Merida, as reflected in the city plan and the surviving colonial buildings, as the product of the conflicts and coordination between the crown, the church, and the Maya.

Workshop: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, 9:00 am

Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 6s

True When She Tries to Write it Down

Tour guides have a tremendous power to share information to a wide audience of national and international visitors to their region. But, what happens when the tour guide gets creative or gets it wrong? Using stories, discussion, and performance, we will look at tour guides as purveyors of oral history and try to understand how the original written histories are transformed in their voices and, when written down by those who take their tours, become the new truth.

October: Dr. Takeshi Inomata, University of Arizona 

Lecture: Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, 7:00 pm

Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 100e

Large ceremonial constructions at the dawn of Maya civilization

Recent investigations in Tabasco have identified the large ceremonial center of Aguada Fénix, dating to 1000-800 BC. Its platform measures 1.4 km in length. This center and other related ceremonial groups in the region were constructed during the transition from mobile lifeways relying heavily on hunting, gathering, and fishing to a sedentary lifestyle with a strong commitment to maize agriculture. These finds indicate the importance of ritual and collective work at the beginning of Maya civilization.
Workshop: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, 9:00 amHamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 6sLiDAR in Maya archaeologyMany parts of the Maya area are covered by heavy vegetation, making archaeological surveys challenging. LiDAR, a mapping technique using airborne laser scanning, is transforming this situation, leading to the discoveries of new sites and features. I will explain the principles of LiDAR, and its major contributions to Maya archaeology.

September: Dr. Andrew Scherer, Brown University

Lecture: Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, 7:00 pm

Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 100e

New Discoveries from the Classic Period Kingdom of Sak Tz’i’

The Maya kingdom of Sak Tz’i’ has long been known from hieroglyphic inscriptions throughout the Maya west and yet its precise location has eluded archaeologists. Recent work by the Proyecto Arqueolόgico Busilja-Chocolja (PABC), co-directed by Andrew Scherer and Charles Golden, has located the likely capital of this important Maya polity and has begun to situate this kingdom within the broader socio-political landscape of the Usumacinta River region. Scherer will present the preliminary results of fieldwork from the 2018 and 2019 seasons, highlighting especially new evidence for warfare and agriculture in the western Maya lowlands.

Workshop: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, 9:00 am

Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 6s

Recent Approaches to War and Violence among the Classic Maya

In this Saturday morning workshop, Scherer will lead a lecture-discussion on recent perspectives on war and violence among the Classic Maya. The workshop will cover a range of approaches including pedestrian survey, excavation, bioarcheology, epigraphy, and iconography. Discussion will include the fortifications of the kingdoms of Piedras Negras, Yaxchilan, and Sak Tz’i’ as well as bioarchaeological research on ritual violence at El Zotz.