13th European Maya Conference: Paris, France

Maya Daily Lives

1 – 6 December 2008

The 13th European Maya Conference 2008 will be organised by GERM (Groupe d’enseignement et de recherche maya) as a joint cooperation of the Musée du Quai Branly, the Université de Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, the INHA, Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art and the CNRS, Centre Nacional de la Recherche Scientifique, in Paris, France, from December 1-6, 2008. The conference will combine a three-and-a-half day long Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop (December 1-4) and a symposium (December, 5-6). Both events will be held at the Musée du Quai Branly.


The theme of this year’s conference will be: Maya Daily Lives.

Daily life is a basic and inescapable topic for ethnography, ethnohistory and ethnolinguistics, as well as epigraphy, iconography and archaeology, allowing for a genuinely interdisciplinary discussion. It concerns commoners as well as elites, and it refers to the domestic field as much as to the public sphere, and to the social domain as much as to the economical and political one. Daily life has mainly to do with recurrent practices and discourses.

Papers will be presented by:

  • James J. Aimers (Dep. of Anthropology, SUNY Geneseo)
  • Chloé Andrieu (Université Paris X Nanterre)
  • Ana García Barrios (Univ. Complutense) & Verónica A. Vázquez López (Proyecto Arqu. Calakmul)
  • Mary A. Ciaramella (Independent Scholar)
  • Pierre Robert Colas † (Vanderbilt University)
  • Lourdes de Leon (CIESAS, Mexico)
  • Laure Déodat & M-Charlotte Arnauld (CNRS, Université de Paris I)
  • Nikolai Grube (University of Bonn)
  • Anna Margaretha Hohmann-Vogrin (University of Technology Graz)
  • Stephen Houston (Brown University)
  • Kevin Johnston (Ohio State University)
  • Ochiai Kasuyasu (University of Tokyo)
  • Christian Klingler (University of Bonn) & Catherine Letcher Lazo (University of Hamburg)
  • Olivier Le Guen (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)
  • Julie Patrois (CNRS, Paris)
  • Ruth Piedrasanta Herrera (Universidad Rafael Landívar)
  • Matthew Restall (Penn State University)
  • Sergio Romero (Vanderbilt University)
  • Andres Ciudad Ruiz (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
  • Payson Sheets (University of Colorado)
  • Mario Ruz Sosa (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
  • Valentina Vapnarsky (CNRS, Paris)
  • Claudia Zehrt (University College London)

The conference will be preceded by a three-day long hieroglyphic workshop. Several groups from beginners to advanced level will be available. All groups will be taught and supervised by experienced tutors. Tuition will be available in English, Spanish and French (for beginners level). The workshop includes introductory lectures by Alfonso Lacadena García Gallo (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) and Simon Martin (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday morning participants will be assigned to their individual workshops. The programme will finish on Thursday afternoon with recapitulating sessions in each workshop.

Opening lecture

Alfonso Lacadena García Gallo (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) & Simon Martin (University of Pennsylvania Museum)

The opening lecture will serve as a general introduction for all participants of the EMC Hieroglyphic Workshop. This year it will be divided into two talks given in two different languages. Alfonso Lacadena will give his presentation in Spanish, Simon Martin in English. Both presenters will cover different aspects. There will be a short break between the two talks.


Workshops are divided into three separate levels: Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced. We strongly recommend that participants register for a workshop which suits their individual level of experience to benefit most in the three days. Please, note that this year, an additional Special Workshop on Iconography is offered which is generally open to all participants who have some prior basic knowledge of Maya art and writing.

Beginners Workshop

Tutors: Geneviève Le Fort (University of Neuchâtel), Christian Prager (University of Bonn), Ramzy Barrois (CEMCA Guatemala), Sven Gronemeyer (University of Bonn), Jean-Michel Hoppan (CRNS, Paris), Guido Krempel (University of Bonn), Sebastian Matteo (SAB, Brussels), and others

The Beginners Workshop is open to all participants with no prior or little knowledge of Maya writing. This workshop does not have a regional or thematic focus but concentrates exclusively on teaching “newcomers”, in a structured and didactic way, how to read Classic Maya hieroglyphic inscriptions. Every participant will be provided with a comprehensive special booklet – in addition to the official EMC workbook.

The participants will be divided in smaller groups and will be given step-to-step guidance by the tutors. General tuition will be held in English and French this year. Explanations can also be provided in Spanish and German on an individual basis.

At the end of the three days, participants will be able to understand the basic structure of a text, decipher the calendrical information, reconstruct the chronology, point at verbs and nominal phrases, and much more.

Intermediate Workshops

Intermediate Workshops are 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. All intermediate workshops will be taught in English.

Intermediate 1: “Gods, Warriors and Usurper Kings: Hieroglyphic Inscriptions of Palenque”
Tutors: Dmitry Beliaev (Russian State University for the Humanities), Alexandre Tokovinine (Peabody Museum, Harvard University)

The Palenque workshop offers an in-depth discussion of the most significant texts from this famous Classic Maya site. This discussion will be structured along three major themes, which run through the entire corpus of Palenque inscriptions: gods, wars, and legitimization of royal power.

We shall explore some recent insights and advancements in understanding Palenque’s place in a larger political landscape. We shall also investigate relations between Palenque rulers and the divine patrons of their dynasty and of their lands. Finally, we are going to look at how Palenque lords constructed certain narratives, which would justify their claims to royal status and political power.

Intermediate 2: “Ceramics of the Eastern Central Lowlands”
Tutors: Christophe Helmke (University of Copenhagen), Harri Kettunen (University of Helsinki)

The figurative scenes and glyphic texts, which embellish the ceramic vessels of the ancient Maya, form an important part of the iconographic and epigraphic corpus. Due to the function of such vessels within private palatial settings, we obtain glimpses of mythic events, some of them comic, which are otherwise left without mention in the imposing stone monuments erected in public settings. The ceramic vessels therefore form a supplementary source of knowledge, which aptly complements that obtained from the more standard laudatory texts engraved in stone.

This workshop provides an introduction to the ceramic vessels of the eastern Central Maya Lowlands, from sites such as Naranjo and Tikal, and is ideal for entry-level intermediates. We will explore the variety of information that ceramic vessels conveyed to their ancient users and to present-day researchers. In addition to the dedicatory formula (also known as Primary Standard Sequence) with which the vessels themselves were consecrated, we will examine iconographic programmes and some of the more arcane glyphic captions. We will also focus on a selection of key specimens, with secure provenance, to highlight how much information can be gained from vessels recovered as part of legitimate archaeological excavations.

Some general background in Maya calendrics and glyphic writing is preferred. Focus will be placed on structural and syntactical analyses, as well as the identification of agents, their names and titles.

Intermediate 3: “Postclassic Maya Codices”
Tutors: Pierre Robert Colas † (Vanderbilt University), Bruce Love (Independent researcher), Andreas Fuls (Technical University of Berlin)

The workshop will begin with an introduction to the three essential Maya codices, the Dresden, Madrid and Paris. Following the introduction, our focus will move to the basic nucleus of all codices, the almanacs and the workings of the 260-day divinatory calendar. Here different topics and their religious and cultural import will be taught, such as almanacs for prophecies, hunting, bee-keeping, weddings, baptisms, weaving, idol creation, etc. The astronomical part of the Codex workshop will focus on the Dresden Codex Venus and Eclipse tables as well as the constellation pages of the Paris Codex. It will be shown how the Maya related their observations to mythological dates far back in time, and how to use the tables. Finally, the codices are viewed as part of a 1500-year continuum of religious practice; from the Classic Period to today’s contemporary Maya practice of divination and agricultural rites. The workshop will consist of small lectures and group work implementing the teachings on the spot. Participants will leave the workshop not only with technical knowledge of the calendar and astronomy but with a rich picture of Postclassic Maya cultural traditions.

Requirements: Workshop attendants should have a basic knowledge of Maya hieroglyphic writing, in particular the calendrical system (haab and tzolkin). Instruction will be given primarily in English, but help can be provided in Spanish and French on an individual basis.

Advanced Workshop

Advanced participants with well founded knowledge of Maya writing are offered 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.

“Classic Maya Grammar – Possessive expressions in Maya hieroglyphic texts and relevant extant Mayan languages”
Tutors: Alfonso Lacadena García Gallo (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Søren Wichmann (MPI Leipzig), Albert Davletshin (Russian State University)

In this workshop we will evaluate previous work on possessive expressions in the inscriptions and systematize the data. Previous work on possession has not directly addressed the issue of diachronic and areal variation in the expression of possession, so we will pay particular attention to these aspects. At the outset of the workshop we will discuss spelling rules as they apply to suffixes, introduce studies of possession in modern Mayan languages as a basis for a comparative perspective, and provide a critical overview of studies of possession in the hieroglyphic inscriptions to date. The workshop will then continue to focus on issues of morphophonemics, morphology, semantics and syntax of possession drawing upon the entire corpus. Attendants should bring laptops, if possible, since we will hand out inscriptions on CD’s. Attendants are also requested to acquire copies of the following works prior to the workshop and bring them along:

Houston, Stephen D., John S. Robertson, and David Stuart.
2001. Quality and Quantity in Glyphic Nouns and Adjectives. Research Report on Ancient Maya Writing no. 47. Washington, D.C.: Center for Maya Research.

Lacadena, Alfonso and Søren Wichmann.
n.d. Harmony rules in the suffix domain: a study of Maya scribal conventions. Can be downloaded from http://email.eva.mpg.de/%7Ewichmann/harm-rul-suf-dom7.pdf.

Meléndez Guadarrama, Lucero.
2007. La posesión lingüística en la lengua de las inscripciones mayas. Master’s Thesis. México D. F.

Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas.
(This will be scanned and uploaded prior to the workshop).

Zender, Marc.
2004. On the morphology of intimate possession in Mayan languages and Classic Mayan glyphic nouns. In Wichmann, Søren (ed.), The Linguistics of Maya Writing, pp. 195-209. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

Special Workshop

Responding to recent requests about iconography workshops, 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.

“Classic Maya Iconography”
Tutors: Erik Boot (Independent Scholar), Elisabeth Wagner (University of Bonn)

Defined in a most basic manner, Maya iconography studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images within Maya visual art. This year we host a workshop dedicated to Maya iconography. The workshop will open with an introductory presentation on the general principles of iconographic study, with emphasis on its application in Maya studies. As will be shown, in many instances advancements made in the decipherment of Maya writing also advanced our understanding of Maya iconography (and vice versa). The workshop will focus on two major themes in Maya visual arts and narratives, starting in the Late Preclassic and terminating in the Late Postclassic. One theme involves the Maize God and associated beings, the other theme involves accession and perpetuation of paramount lordship, with a focus on the representation of the Maya court in visual art. In regard to both themes, attention specifically will be directed to the stela-program of Waxaklajuun Ubaah K’awiil of Copan. Short introductory presentations on these themes will be given as well. A source book with relevant illustrative material will be made available to all participants (at printing cost price of approx. 7,50 EUR). We recommend participants to bring a notebook, so electronic files can be made available. If you have a specific iconographic subject on which you are currently working and on which you want to work at the EMC, you can join our group as well.

Local organisers: Philippe Nondédéo, Charlotte Arnauld, Valentina Vapnarsky, Alain Breton, Dominique Michelet, Aurore Monod-Becquelin and Ramzy Barrois