18th European Maya Conference: Brussels, Belgium

Post-Apocalypto:
Crisis and Resilience in the Maya World

28 October - 2 November 2013

The 18th European Maya Conference is co-organized by Wayeb, the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Dpt. of Art History and Archaeology, Section Pre-Columbian Civilisation), the CENA (Centre d’Etudes Nord-Américaines-Canada-Etats-Unis-Mexique of the ULB) and the Belgian Society of Americanists (SAB).

It will be held from October 28 to November 2, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium. A three-and-a-half-day Workshop (October 28-31) will precede a two-day Symposium (November 1-2). There is also the opportunity to attend a guided tour of the Americas collection of the Royal Museums of Art and History (see below).


Programme for Workshop and Symposium

Symposium Abstracts


Symposium (1-2 November)

Since the start of the study of Maya culture, the concepts of crisis and collapse have been widely used to interpret a series of phenomena that are often framed simplistically. The “abrupt” abandonment of the great Maya centres at the end of the Classic period is a good example of this tendency. In the past two decades, however, a growing number of researchers have proposed more nuanced interpretations. There is little doubt that the collapse had causes that reflected respective regions and communities; that the course of collapse varied; and that resilience played a critical role in the socio-political and economic transformations that occurred. We must also consider the role of resilience in other crises, such as the passage between the Pre-classic and Classic periods, the years of Conquest, the Caste War, and the Civil War in Guatemala.

We propose in Brussels to debate the topics of crisis and resilience across the entire span of Maya history, from Prehispanic times to the recent past. We are interested in discussing the forms of cultural change brought about by crisis as well as in delineating which cultural elements persisted and which mechanisms allowed for continuity in times of crisis across the various periods. Discussion and debate should not be limited to phenomena of major extent such as abandonment or hiatus but should include detailed perspectives on access to resources, the transmission of dynastic power, the consequences of wars and attacks, and the impact of contact with other cultures in Classic times, the Colonial period or afterwards.

We shall accept contributions from the fields of epigraphy, archaeology, ethnography, ethno-history, and linguistics.

Post-Apocalypto: crisis y resiliencias en el mundo maya

Desde los inicios del estudio de la cultura maya, el concepto de crisis y colapso ha sido ampliamente usado para interpretar una serie de fenómenos y datos poco explícitos. El abandono “abrupto” de los grandes sitios mayas a fines del periodo Clásico es un buen ejemplo desta tendencia. Sin embargo, en el curso de las dos últimas décadas, un número creciente de investigaciones llevan a matizar estas interpretaciones. Se constata que el colapso sin duda tuvo causas múltiples y diversas según las regiones y los sitios, que su velocidad también es relativa, y que el concepto de resiliencia parece haber jugado un papel más importante de lo que se pensaba hasta la fecha. Y que decir sobre la resiliencia en las crisis que eran el pasaje de la época pre-clásica al Clásico, la Conquista, la Guerra de Caste, la guerra civil en Guatemala, etc.?

Proponemos debatir destos temas a través del conjunto de la historia maya, de los tiempos pre-hispánicos al pasado mas reciente. Nos interesamos discutir las formas de cambios culturales causados por las crisis, ver cuales elementos culturales resisten los cambios, o cuales mecanismos permiten la continuidad en la cultura maya a travès de las épocas. Los conceptos de crisis y resiliencias deben entenderse no solo para fenómenos de mayor amplitud como los citados, sino también para perspectivas mas puntuales como el acceso y la rarefacción de recursos, la transmisión del poder dinástico, las consecuencias de guerras y ataques, el impacto del contacto con otras culturas, sea en el periodo Clásico como en la época colonial y después. Aceptaremos contribuciones de la epigrafía, arqueología, etnografía, etno-historia, lingüística, etc.

List of speakers (in alphabetical order):

  • M.-Charlotte Arnauld (CNRS, Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
  • Erik Boot (Independent researcher)
  • Geoffrey Braswell (University of California, San Diego)
  • Allen J. Christenson (Brigham Young University)
  • Demetrio Cojtí Cuxil (Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes de Guatemala)
  • Peter Eeckhout & Sylvie Peperstraete (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
  • Sven Gronemeyer (La Trobe University) & Markus Eberl (Vanderbilt University)
  • Nikolai Grube (University of Bonn)
  • Kathryn Marie Hudson (University at Buffalo), John S. Henderson (Cornell University) & Mallory E. Matsumoto (future University of Bonn)
  • Takeshi Inomata (University of Arizona)
  • Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire (Tulane University)
  • Catherine Letcher Lazo (University of Bonn)
  • David W. Mixter (Washington University in St. Louis)
  • Jesper Nielsen (University of Copenhagen)
  • Suzanne Nolan (University of Essex)
  • Johan Normark (University of Gothenburg)
  • L. Gabriela Rivera Acosta (UNAM)
  • Yuko Shiratori (City University of New York)
  • Benjamin N. Vis (University of Leeds) and Scott R. Hutson (University of Kentucky)
  • Jarosław Źrałka (Jagiellonian University) & Bernard Hermes (Nakum Archaeological Project)

Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop (29-31 October)

Opening Lecture (Monday, 28 October)

Harri Kettunen (University of Helsinki) & Christophe Helmke (University of Copenhagen)

Traditionally, the opening lecture is the first event of the EMC. It serves as an introduction to Maya hieroglyphic writing and provides participants with a general overview of the history of the decipherment. Note that this year the opening lecture will take place Monday afternoon and workshops will begin on Tuesday. Ensure that you arrive for registration Monday afternoon.

Beginners Workshop

French Introductory Level Workshop on Maya Hieroglyphs
Tutors: Ramzy Barrois (Ecole du Louvre), Céline Tamignaux (University of Brussels) & Olivia Bourrat (Musée du Quai Branly)

The information drawn from Maya hieroglyphic texts has fundamentally changed our understanding of the ancient Maya culture. To be able to read what the Maya themselves wrote about their history and rituals provides a fascinating and unparalleled window into a past culture, whose descendants continue to thrive in the communities of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The objective of this workshop is to provide an intensive introduction to the study of Maya hieroglyphs. Participants will have a chance to decipher hieroglyphs on their own during the workshop with the assistance of the tutors. General tuition will be given in French but explanations can also be provided in other languages (English and Spanish) on an individual basis. No previous knowledge of Maya culture, Maya hieroglyphs, ancient scripts, or linguistics is required to attend the workshop.

Towards the end of the three day workshop, participants will be able to understand the basic structure of Maya texts, decipher calendrical information, reconstruct chronology, point at verbs and nominal phrases, and much more.

Le 8ème siècle. Aux quatre coins du monde Maya, des rois divins sont à la tête de gigantesques cités. Au sein de leurs palais et temples, des hommes et des femmes, membres de l’élite maya, vivaient au rythme de grandes cérémonies que de nombreux scribes ont immortalisées sur de splendides monuments.
Qui n’a jamais rêvé de comprendre cette civilisation aujourd’hui disparue, qui peuplait alors ces cités lointaines, de décrypter ses textes ou de mieux connaître sa riche mythologie? Qui n'a jamais rêvé de voir le soleil souverain guider ses pas au cœur du pays Maya, vers la richesse et l'histoire de la civilisation maya !

L'objectif de cet atelier est de donner une introduction solide à l'étude de l'écriture maya. Pendant trois jours et avec l'aide des tuteurs, les participants seront amenés à déchiffrer eux-mêmes plusieurs textes hiéroglyphiques. L'atelier sera donné en français (les tuteurs maîtrisent aussi l'anglais et l'espagnol). Aucune connaissance préliminaire en épigraphie maya n'est requise pour assister à cet atelier.

A la fin des trois jours, les participants seront en mesure d'identifier les glyphes les plus répandus de l'écriture maya, de comprendre la construction grammaticale d'un texte, de reconstituer la chronologie d'un récit historique de l'époque maya classique.

Intermediate I Workshop

This is a first-level intermediate workshop open to those with some very basic knowledge of Maya writing. As we are not offering a true Beginners workshop for non-French speakers this year, this workshop will also be open to those with no prior experience who cannot participate in the French Introductory Workshop. This workshop will be taught in English.

“The Queen Got Lost and the King Got Lost”: Dynastic Crises in Classic Maya States
Tutors: Dmitri Beliaev (Knorosov Center for Mesoamerican Studies, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow) & Alexander Safronov (Faculty of History, Moscow State University)

The k’uhul ajaw or divine king was the central figure in Classic Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions. The history of Classic Maya kingdoms was the history of royal dynasties, starting from ancient kings and continuing to the present. However, as in other ancient societies, this was more a desired ideal and not a real picture.

Through the analysis of hieroglyphic inscriptions from selected Maya sites (Tikal, Dos Pilas, Palenque, Yaxchilan), we will analyze the perception of dynastic crises in Classic Maya politics and ideology and try to answer following important questions. How were dynastic crises described in Classic Maya texts? Were dynastic crises always considered to be a bad time not worth to be recorded in the hieroglyphic texts; or could they actively be used to establish rights of new ruling families? Did the figures of a “bad king” or “usurper” exist in Classic Maya culture?

Intermediate II Workshop

The second-level Intermediate Workshop is open to all participants who have basic knowledge of Maya writing: some calendrical knowledge and the ability to structure hieroglyphic inscriptions and understand their syntactic components are prerequisites to fruitful participation on this workshop level. This intermediate workshops will be taught in English.

Let Slip the Glyphs of War: Reading Maya Warfare
Tutors: Christian Prager (University of Bonn) & Sven Gronemeyer (La Trobe University, Melbourne)

We would like to put emphasis on the practical work with the inscriptions and glyphs, which will be distributed in working groups among the participants. During the workshop, we will only provide few and short presentations. The workshop will concentrate on hieroglyphic inscriptions from various sites in the Maya Lowlands, recounting conflict and warfare. What conflicts took place among generations of Maya kings and queens during the Middle and Late Classic period? The focus will be placed upon the royal discourse on conflict and rhetorics of war, as recorded in an abundance of texts from the Western and Eastern area of the lowlands (from sites such as Yaxchilan, Dos Pilas, Naranjo, Palenque, and Tortuguero).

Guided by the tutors, the individual work groups will concentrate on the analyses of the hieroglyphic narratives. From the accounts of single inscriptions, we advance the image by comparing different sources and assemble a comprehensive insight into the discourse on warfare, local history, and intersite relations. By doing this, the participants will obtain further insights into historiography and deepen their knowledge of the writing system.

Advanced Workshop

Advanced participants with well founded knowledge of Maya writing are offered a special Advanced Workshop to give them the opportunity to expand their proficiency of Classic Maya Writing and to provide them with insight into very special aspects of Classic Maya culture – though with specific focus on epigraphy, language and iconography.

Grammar of Hieroglyphic Mayan
Tutors: Alfonso Lacadena (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) & Albert Davletshin (Russian State University for the Humanities)

Thanks to the decipherment of Maya Hieroglyphic writing, studies in Maya grammar have been assuming an ever greater importance from the eighties onward, because grammar constitutes the indispensable foundation for correct interpretation and understanding of Maya inscriptions.

According to the current theory, all Classic inscriptions record a prestigious language of Cholan affiliation we call Hieroglyphic Mayan today. Hieroglyphic Mayan was used everywhere in the Maya Lowlands; its use does not correspond to any known linguistic and political entities. Even Postclassic Codices and the celebrated Diego de Landa's "Relación de las cosas de Yucatán" of the 16th century feature Hieroglyphic Mayan. Still, lexical and grammatical isoglosses from vernacular Mayan languages and non-Mayan glosses are attested in the inscriptions. The Advanced Workshop will offer an up-to-date outline of Maya grammar including phonology, morphology, syntax and dialectology. Particular attention will be given to the most recent suggestions and approaches.

Special Workshop

We are offering a Special Workshop on iconography this year that is open to participants on all levels. Some prior knowledge about Mesoamerican art and writing will be useful, but is not a prerequisite.

Maya Iconography: The Evolution of Styles and Themes in Monumental Art in the Late Classic to Early Postclassic Period
Tutors: Erik Boot (Independent Scholar) & Elisabeth Wagner (University of Bonn)

This year our workshop will be iconographic. As with most previous workshops we hosted, our subject follows the theme of the EMC symposium (this year "Post-Apocalypto: Crisis and Resilience in the Maya World").

Our workshop focuses on the formal stylistic and thematic evolution of Maya iconography in monumental art (e.g., stelae, lintels, altars, murals) from the (Late) Classic period to the (Early) Postclassic period. For workshop purposes we have limited the material to Tikal (including Jimbal and Ixlu), Petexbatun/Río La Pasión area (mainly Dos Pilas, Aguateca, Machaquila, and Seibal), Coba, Ek' Balam, Chichen Itza, and Mayapan. Some pertinent examples from other Maya sites will be included.

Questions that will be addressed during the workshop include: On which monumental media is Maya iconography represented, where is it located within a site, what are the basic themes, are there noticeable differences between Classic and Late to Terminal Classic to (Early) Postclassic examples, and if differences exist how can these be described and/or defined? Especially the last question directs our attention to the intersection of formal stylistic and thematic evolution of monumental Maya iconography.

The workshop will start with an introductory presentation on Maya iconography, which includes a theoretical and methodological overview and examples from other world regions, and the workshop material. Depending on the size of our workshop group, subsequently participants can work individually or in small groups. Through discussion and short presentations by the participants we hope to arrive at a better understanding of Maya iconography during this period. As the clue of various examples of Maya iconography is presented in the associated hieroglyphic texts, we ask that our participants have some basic knowledge of the Maya writing system (i.e., how to find a date, verb, &c.). Having worked on Maya iconography previously is helpful, but not a prerequisite. The workshop material will be contained in a source book, which will be made available to participants at printing cost (price range, based on previous years, ca. EUR 7.50-10.00).


Organisers

Dr. Peter Eeckhout and Dr. Sylvie Peperstraete of the University of Brussels