21st European Maya Conference: Moscow, Russia

Hierarchy and Power in the Maya World

17 – 22 October 2016

The 21st European Maya Conference will be held in Moscow, Russia, from 17 to 22 October 2016. The meeting is organized by the Knorozov Center for Mesoamerican Studies, Russian State University for the Humanities and the Department of Ancient History, Lomonosov Moscow State University in cooperation with Wayeb (European Association of Mayanists). The conference is supported financially by the Russian Scientific Foundation. It will combine three-and-a-half day workshops (October 17 – 20) and a symposium (October 21 – 22).

Programme for Workshop and Symposium

Hierarchy and Power in the Maya World

For many decades discussions concerning Maya political organization were concentrated around competing theoretical models – such as theocratic model, “city-state” model, “regional state” model, and others. It was considered that the Maya area was generally organized in a uniform way although evolved and changed in time. Recent epigraphic, archaeological, and historic discoveries have demonstrated that the Maya society was always characterized by a wide variety of political organization and that different forms of power relations existed in time and space.

The conference will focus on various forms of construction and expression of the power in the Maya culture from prehispanic to modern times. Topics that will be covered include:

  • origins and development of complex societies in the Maya area
  • hierarchies and heterarchies in Maya societies
  • political, economic, and ritual dimensions of power among the Maya
  • Maya settlement patterns and political organization
  • Maya and Western culture – oppression and resistance

List of Speakers (in alphabetical order):

  • Tomás Barrientos (Universidad del Valle, Guatemala)
  • Dmitri Bondarenko, Dmitri Beliaev (Russian State University for the Humanities) and Alexander Safronov (Lomonosov Moscow State University)
  • Margarita Cossich Vielman (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
  • Daniel Grana-Behrens (Frobenius Institut Frankfurt am Main)
  • Nikolai Grube (Bonn University)
  • Christophe Helmke (University of Copenhagen) and Ivan Savchenko (independent researcher)
  • Stephen Houston (Brown University)
  • Maria Josefa Iglesias and Andrés Ciudad (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
  • Takeshi Inomata (University of Arizona)
  • Johanna Asia Jablonska (University of Bonn)
  • Milan Kovac (Comenius Bratislava University)
  • Felix Kupprat and Verónica Amellali Vázquez López (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
  • Maxime Lamoureux Saint-Hilaire (Tulane University)
  • Simon Martin (University of Pennsylvania Museum)
  • Mallory Matsumoto (Brown University)
  • Philippe Nondédéo (CNRS-Université de Paris Panthéon) and Alfonso Lacadena (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
  • Tsubasa Okoshi Harada (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
  • Carlos Pallan (University of Bonn)
  • Gabriela Rivera (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
  • Sergio Romero (University of Texas at Austin)
  • David Stuart (The University of Texas at Austin)
  • Erik Velásquez (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
  • Sergei Vepretskii (Lomonosov Moscow State University) and Philipp Galeev (Russian State University for the Humanities)
  • Claudia Zehrt (University College London)

The three-day workshop groups will be taught and supervised by experienced tutors. Participants will be tutored in English. Spanish explanations can be provided by tutors, on an individual basis, for workshops of all levels.

Introduction to Maya Writing
Tutors: Ramzy Barrois, Julia Bernatskaya & Daria Bayda

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 English but explanations can also be provided in other languages (Spanish and French) 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.

This is an intermediate workshop open to those 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.

The Origins of Power from the Perspective of the Ancient Maya
Tutors: Felix Kupprat & Erik Velásquez García

In hieroglyphic Maya texts, the divine lords (k’uhul ajaw) of the Classic period repeatedly emphasized their ties to primordial kings, such as gods, ancestors and cultural heroes, who – according to the written record – ruled centuries and even millennia before them. The very institution of the political leader was legitimized by the means of a discourse about an ancient cosmic order in which power is held by extraordinary individuals, from deep-time to the Classic present. These narratives and their meaning in the socio-political landscape are crucial to our current understanding of rulership and the political system of the ancient Maya. In this workshop we will examine various key texts which provide information about who and what the Maya (wanted to be) perceived as prototypes of the political order, focusing on the contents of the respective narratives, as well as regional versions and adaptions.

Hieroglyphic texts will be analyzed in small groups of 3-5 persons, and afterwards discussed with the whole group. Short talks by the tutors will provide contextual information. If possible, attendees are kindly asked to bring a portable computer. However, a computer is not a requirement.

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.

On the Same Team: Talking Hierarchy in Classic Maya Texts
Tutors: Alexandre Tokovinine & Alexandre Safronov

This advanced workshop explores recent advancements in the studies of Classic Maya politics at the local and regional levels. The goal is to review textual and visual rhetoric of power and to highlight the dynamic relationship between the evolution of the ancient Maya political landscape in 378-810 C.E. and changes in its representations in various media. The workshop materials will be organized into three major chronological blocks corresponding to the episodes of political consolidation in 378-435 and 550-695 C.E., as well as the more fluid politics of the eighth century C.E. The eighth century segment will also feature narratives and representations of Classic Maya courtly life reflecting a shift to non-royal elites in the available texts and images. A background in Maya archaeology and epigraphy is required to attend this workshop.

We are offering a Special Workshop 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.

Economic Foundations of the Empire: Aztec Hieroglyphic Books of Tribute, Cadastres and Population Censuses
Tutors: Albert Davletshin & Alfonso Lacadena

Within the rich corpus of surviving Aztec hieroglyphic texts and their varied subjects, a group of documents has been traditionally classified as economic (Glass and Robertson 1975). These economic documents include lists of tribute, tax records, population censuses, cadastres and land tenure records. By the time the Spaniards arrived the economic documents had already existed and they continued well after the Conquest, incorporatig the new realities of the colonial regime.

In the Workshop, we will comment on an ample selection of Aztec economic and administrative documents, including (a) Matrícula de Tributos and Codex Mendoza which are key to understanding the Mexica tributary system,(b) census and cadastral documents, like Codex Santa María Asunción, Codex Vergara, Beinecke Map, and Matrícula de Huexotzingo, and (c) documents used in judicial proceedings, like Codex Osuna, Codex Cozcatzin, and Memorial de los Indios de Tepetlaoztoc which concern a miscellany of economic issues. During the sessions we will analyze the structure and compositional conventions of these documents, read the hieroglyphs and alphabetic glosses and contextualize them historically. Special attention will be paid to Aztec numerical and arithmetical system from the point of view of Nahuatl writing and language.

Requirements: Previous training on the subject is not required (although no doubt any knowledge of Aztec writing, history and culture, Nahuatl and Spanish languages, and Novohispanic paleography is welcome). Laptops are recommended.

Materials: A Workbook with a collection of practical hieroglyphic materials and a selection of texts will be provided, as well as other useful materials in a digital format (dictionaries, grammars, academic literature, hieroglyphic facsimiles).

Languge: The Workshop will be conducted in (what is sincerely intended to be) English.


Dmitri Beliaev, Alexander Safronov, Yulia Bernatskaya, Philipp Galeev, Sergei Vepretski, and Darya Baida