22nd European Maya Conference: Malmö, Sweden

Maya Religion and History

11 – 16 December 2017

The 22nd Annual European Maya Conference is co-organised by the European Association of Mayanists, WAYEB, and Malmö University, Faculty of Education and Society and The City of Malmö in Sweden. The conference will begin with an introductory lecture to the workshops on Monday December 11th, followed by three-day workshops and concludes with a two-day symposium held from Friday December 15th to Saturday December 16th 2017 in the building Orkanen, ‘The Hurricane’, at Malmö University.

Programme for Workshop and Symposium

Maya Religion and History

The European Maya Conference 2017 is co-organised by the European Association of Mayanists, WAYEB, and Malmö University, Faculty of Education and Society in Sweden. The conference begins with an introductory lecture to the workshops on Monday December 11th, followed by three days of workshops and concludes with two days of symposium from Friday December 15th to Saturday December 16th in 2017 in the building Orkanen, the Hurricane, att Malmö University in Malmö.

The Conference theme for EMC22 at Malmö University is MAYA RELIGION AND HISTORY. The theme connects to J. Eric S. Thompson’s book Maya History and Religion, a well-known example synthesising the state of the art of the known research of both Maya history and religion at the time. Since Thompson’s book was published the first time, much has happened and later research has changed and revised the knowledge from various academic disciplines regarding Maya history and religion. Since Maya Studies is a dynamic field, it seems timely and urgent to make a new effort to once more collect interesting research on Maya Religion and History in broad and general strokes.

The main topic is broken down to the following subthemes:
– Cosmology, gods, and rituals
– Gender, identity, and sexuality
– Place, space, and landscape
– History, memory, and conceptions of time
– (Inter-)cultural encounters between the Maya and their neighbours

These themes can all relate to research that is based on glyphic texts, ethnohistorical sources, iconography, as well as on extensive archaeological and anthropological fieldwork. All the subthemes also apply to a diachronic perspective and in terms of continuity and change in the field. Furthermore, the subthemes connect to the contemporary aspects of life among the Maya and Mesoamerican cultures as a broader cultural area.

List of Speakers (in alphabetical order):

  • H.E.M. Braakhuis (Utrecht University)
  • Allen Christensen (Brigham Young University)
  • John Chuchiak (Missouri State University)
  • Albert Davletshin (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow) and Sergei Vepretskii (Lomonosov Moscow State University)
  • Elisabeth Graham (University College of London)
  • Daniel Grana-Behrens (Universität Bonn and Frobenius Institut Frankfurt am Main)
  • Nikolai Grube (Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms Universität Bonn)
  • Stephen Houston (Brown University)
  • Wieslaw Koszkul and Jaroslaw Zralka (Jagiellonian University)
  • Felix Kupprat (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
  • Bodil Liljefors-Persson (Malmö University)
  • Peter Mathews (La Trobe University Melbourne)
  • Romelia Mo Isem (Ministry of Education Guatemala)
  • Charles M. Pigott (University of Cambridge)
  • Meaghan Peuramäki-Brown (Athabasca University)
  • Frauke Sachse (Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms Universität Bonn)
  • Harald Thomaß (University of Hamburg)
  • Alexandre Tokovinine (The University of Alabama)
  • Verónica A. Vázquez López (Yaxnohcah Archaeological Project), Kathryn Reese-Taylor (University of Calgary), Debra S. Walker (University of Florida), Mikaela Radford (University of Calgary) and Armando Anaya Hernández (Universidad Autónoma de Campeche)
  • Lorraine Williams-Beck (Universidad Autónoma de Campeche)
  • Ulrich Wölfel (University of Bonn) and Byron Hernández (Universidad de San Carlos, Guatemala)
  • Marc Zender (Tulane University)

The conference will be preceded by three-and-a-half day long workshops. A beginners, two Intermediate, one advanced and one special workshops will be available. All groups will be taught and supervised by experienced tutors. Tuition will be available in English, Spanish, and French (at Beginners level).

Marc Zender, (Tulane University) and Peter Mathews, (La Trobe University, Melbourne)

The opening lecture serves as a brief introduction to Maya hieroglyphic writing as well as provides participants with the latest developments and discoveries in epigraphy.

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 morning. Ensure that you arrive for registration on Monday.

Introduction to Maya Writing
Tutor: Ramzy Barrois

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.

Ritual Action in Maya Inscriptions
Tutors: Felix Kupprat & Christian Prager

Maya inscriptions tell us a great deal about ritual activities. The inscriptions on stelae and other pieces of monumental art frequently contain auto-references to their inauguration ceremonies on important calendar stations. We also learn about royal rituals and ceremonies, including auto-sacrifice, offerings, dance and funerary rites. In this workshop we will read a variety of hieroglyphic texts related to the different dimensions of ritual life in the Classic period, from sites like Tikal, La Corona, Palenque, Yaxchilan, Copan, and the cave of Naj Tunich. The latter was an important pilgrimage center on a regional scale and the numerous hieroglyphic inscriptions painted in the cave provide fascinating contexts for the interpretation of politics and ritual action during the Late Classic Period. Through the analysis of text and context, we will try to define the concrete actions and the underlying believes that define certain groups of rituals. We will also discuss some of the ritual components of other fields of interaction, such as martial action, marriage or the ball game. The workshop combines lectures, exercises and student projects in an interactive hands-on forum. Groups of 3-4 participants will analyse the different types of ritual and the results will be discussed among all participants in order to obtain a broader perspective on the topic. A series of short presentations by the tutors will provide contextual information and background data. This workshop addresses intermediate to advanced students and assumes that participants have a basic or working knowledge of Maya hieroglyphic writing and the calendar.

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.

Myths of the Ancient Maya
Tutors: Oswaldo Chinchilla & Marc Zender

Ancient Maya mural paintings, decorated ceramics, and sculptures preserve a wealth of representations of the primeval deeds of the gods who originated the world and created the conditions for life. In this workshop, we will explore pictorial records and hieroglyphic passages that provide terse but tantalizing clues about the mythical beliefs and narratives that circulated orally in ancient Maya communities, and were likely performed in dances and religious rituals. What do the hieroglyphic texts tell us about the myths of the ancient Maya? How do these narratives relate with those recorded in much later texts, such as the Popol Vuh? Can we interpret Classic Maya mythical imagery through the lens of the Popol Vuh? How do we assess the relevance of modern narratives for the study of ancient Maya myths? How are myths relevant for the study of ancient Maya religion, social life, and politics? We will examine different approaches to the study of ancient Maya myths, and the challenges imposed by the available sources. Students will engage in a critical scrutiny of selected pictorial and glyphic examples, and learn about recent epigraphic and iconographic breakthroughs, which offer ways to tackle the interpretation of ancient Maya myths and their artistic representations.

Paleography of Maya Hieroglyphic Writing
Tutors: Albert Davletshin & Philipp Galeev

Scripts change over time and space, as do individual signs. Maya writing provides a unique opportunity for studying graphic variations because 1) Maya inscriptions cover a time span of almost 2000 years, 2) the texts stem from different sites situated all over large portions of the Maya Lowlands and 3) most of them are dated with the precision of one day in the text. On the other hand, the graphic variation of Maya writing is extremely complex; the signs are figurative and sophisticated. Thus, Maya inscriptions favour and necessitate a theory of graphic change that remains to be formally developed. During the workshop we will discuss a wide range of topics: graphic analysis of signs, rules of writing signs by hand, graphic variation in time and space, motivations of graphic change, and changes involving different levels of the script such as graphic elements, individual signs, and spellings. We will provide the participants with a workbook that is designed as a practical guide to Maya paleography including exercises and didactic materials. The workshop is practically oriented; we expect the students not only listen to the lectures but also to work with the provided materials because … all glyphs are bright and beautiful.

Requirements: Relatively advanced knowledge of the Maya writing. Laptops are recommended.

Language: The Workshop will be conducted in English.

Paleography of Colonial documents: Working with Spanish and Maya Language Colonial Documentation
Tutor: John Chuchiak

This workshop will provide participants with an introduction to reading and transcribing documents written in Spanish America from the late fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The workshop will also provide a general introduction to the colonial institutions and types of documents produced in the greater Maya World for both beginners and specialists alike. Although the course sessions will be taught primarily in English, all of the documents will be in either Spanish or Yucatec Maya.

Requirements: Previous training on the subject is not required. Laptops are recommended.

Language: The Workshop will be conducted in English.


Bodil Liljefors-Persson