15th European Maya Conference: Madrid, Spain

Maya Society and Socio-territorial Organization

29 November – 4 December 2010

The 15th European Maya Conference will be held in Madrid, Spain, from 29 November – 4 December 2010. The meeting that is organised by the Sociedad Española de Estudios Mayas in cooperation with the Museo de América and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid will combine a three-and-a-half day long Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop (29 November – 2 December) and a symposium (3 – 4 December).

Programme for Workshop and Symposium

In recent years, the structure and internal organisation of Maya society has been the subject of animated discussion. Various explanatory models have been proposed, ranging from simple forms of organisation, which comprise two basic integrated segments of nobility and commoners, to more complex systems that incorporate other ranks and social segments; there are further proposals that –not necessarily antagonistic but rather complementary– suggest a structure based on hierarchical pyramids and heterarchic webs.

The categorisation of Maya social structure is only the first step in the exploration of a much richer universe, in which other elements such as territory, economy, beliefs and rituals define essential dimensions that need to be taken into account. Social groups are distributed in space in residential patterns and different levels of clusters, occupying the territory, while at the same time providing order and meaning. Within this territory the social groups change into economic agents of production and consumption at different scales that ultimately form the political entity.

To acquire a better understanding of this important topic, we hope to discuss a wide range of questions during the symposium, including the description and discussion of Maya social structure and its proposed models of interpretation, the kinship system, the role of descent groups, the mechanisms of inheritance and succession, strategies of integration and relation between different social segments (rituals, alliances, marriages, visits, administration), the spatial expression of social groups (settlement patterns, grouping of domestic groups within major economic-administrative units in urban contexts, and the establishment of hierachical webs and heterarchies), as well as society and economy. All these topics may be addressed in synchronic or diachronic perspective.

Papers will be presented by (in alphabetical order):

  • Arlen & Diane Chase (University of Central Florida)
  • Allen J. Christenson (Brigham Young University)
  • Andrés Ciudad, Pepa Iglesias, Jesús Adánez, Pedro Pitarch & Alfonso Lacadena (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
  • Chance Coughenour (University of Leicester, UK)
  • James A. Doyle (Brown University)
  • Ana García Barrios (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid) & Erik Velásquez García (UNAM)
  • Nikolai Grube (University of Bonn)
  • Stephen Houston (Brown University)
  • Ana Luisa Izquierdo y de la Cueva & Guillermo Bernal Romero (UNAM)
  • Melanie J. Kingsley (Brandeis University)
  • Rodrigo Liendo Stuardo (UNAM)
  • Simon Martin (University of Pennsylvania Museum)
  • Cameron L. McNeil (Lehman College, CUNY)
  • Dominique Michelet, Marie-Charlotte Arnauld & Philippe Nondédéo (CNRS, Université de Paris 10)
  • Timothy W. Pugh (Queens College of the City University of New York)
  • William Ringle (Davidson College)
  • Mario Humberto Ruz Sosa (UNAM)
  • David Stuart (University of Texas at Austin)
  • Vera Tiesler & Andrea Cucina (Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán)
  • Alexandre Tokovinine (Research Associate, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection)
  • Ulrich Wölfel (University of Hamburg) & Elisabeth Wagner (University of Bonn)

Introductory Lecture

Alfonso Lacadena (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) and Simon Martin (University of Pennsylvania Museum)

Traditionally, the opening lecture is the first event of the EMC. It serves as a introduction to Maya hieroglyphic writing and provides participants with a general overview of the history of the decipherment.


All groups will be taught and supervised by experienced tutors. Instruction will be available in English and Spanish (at Beginners level).

The workshop includes INTRODUCTORY LECTURES on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday morning participants will be assigned to their individual workshops.

Tutors: Christophe Helmke (University of Copenhagen), Harri Kettunen (University of Helsinki), Guido Krempel (University of Bonn)

The past four decades we have witnessed groundbreaking developments in the field of Maya epigraphy. The information enclosed within these texts has fundamentally changed our understanding of the ancient Maya culture. To be able to read what the Maya themselves wrote about their affairs is an intriguing intellectual endeavor and a captivating window into a past culture – with repercussions into present-day realities in the Maya 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 English but explanations can also be provided in other languages on an individual basis. No previous knowledge of Maya culture, Maya hieroglyphs, ancient scripts, or linguistics is required to attend the workshop. At the end of the three day workshop, participants will be able to understand the basic structure of a text, decipher calendrical information, reconstruct chronology, point at verbs and nominal phrases, and much more. The focus of the introductory level workshop is on the Late Classic history of Piedras Negras in the present-day Guatemala.

Alfonso Lacadena (Universidad Complutense), Sebastian Matteo (SAB, Brussels), Asier Rodríguez Manjavacas (SEEM), Hugo García Capistrán (UNAM)

En el Taller se abordarán diversos aspectos sobre el desciframiento de la escritura maya, su funcionamiento, así como una introducción a la gramática de la lengua maya jerolífica. Con estas herramientas y trabajando con un amplio y variado repertorio de textos procedentes de inscripciones en monumentos de piedra, cerámica, concha y hueso, así como de los códices, los participantes podrán iniciarse en la lectura y traducción de los textos jeroglíficos, conociendo los principales géneros literarios y temas en ellos tratados.

Maya Society
Tutors: Dmitri Beliaev (Russian State University for the Humanities), Alexandre Tokovinine (Research Associate, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection)

The goal of this workshop is to explore the canvas of Classic Maya society by looking at carved stone monuments and other media. Since so much of what we know from written and pictorial sources was produced at and for the members of the royal courts, any discussion of the Classic Maya society from this perspective centers on those who made up these courts, from the pivotal figure of the ruler, the queen, other members of the royal family, to vassals and other subordinates of well-defined or vague functions. We are going to look at several representations of Classic Maya courts in action and also follow life trajectories of certain court members of different rank and status. This workshop will be based in particular on the inscriptions and imagery from the site of Piedras Negras and, to a lesser extent, from the Yaxchilan, Bonampak, Palenque, and Tonina areas because of the wealth of information on non-royal individuals at and around these sites. We are also going to consider a series of court scenes on polychrome vessels of Late Classic period.
This is an intermediate level workshop, so the participants are expected to have sufficient background knowledge of Maya writing. This includes calendar and distance numbers, basic sign inventory, reading order and grammar at a level of A Brief Introduction to Maya Writing in Texas Handbooks by Stuart or Reading Maya Glyphs by Coe and Van Stone. We also recommend Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphs (available in English and Spanish at www.mesoweb.com) by Kettunen and Helmke. There will be no cutting and pasting of glyph blocks at this level. The organizers of the workshop are going to provide the participants with the required reading materials.

Maya Codices: Reading the Postclassic Painted Books
Tutors: Christian Prager (University of Bonn), Bruce Love (Independent Scholar)

This intensive three-day workshop will cover three Maya hieroglyphic codices: Madrid, Paris and Dresden. The workshop combines lectures, exercises and student projects in an interactive hands-on forum. Contents of all three codices will be reviewed–including the astronomical pages–one codex for each day of the workshop. Tutors will place special emphasis on the 260-day divinatory almanacs (rain ceremonies, agriculture and planting, deer hunting, carving images of the gods, beekeeping), the Chahk pages, the K’uh pages of the Paris Codex, and the yearbearer pages, which are found in all three codices.

This workshop is designed for the intermediate to advanced students and assumes that participants have a basic knowledge of Maya hieroglyphic writing and the calendar. This workshop will be taught in English.

Local organisers: Andrés Ciudad, Alfonso Lacadena, Pepa Iglesias, Jesús Adánez, Ana García Barrios, Rocío García Valgañón, Auxi Zamora, Florencia Scandar, Cristina Badia, Gloria Puigmal, Laya Cabrerizo, Carmen Palacios, Nacho Cases.