23rd European Maya Conference: Valencia, Spain

Women and Maya Culture

05 – 10 November 2018

The 23rd Annual European Maya Conference is co-organised by WAYEB—the European Association of Mayanists—as well as the University of Valencia and the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain. The conference will begin with an introductory lecture to the workshops on Monday November 5th, followed by three-day workshops and concludes with a two-day symposium held from Friday November 9th to Saturday November 10th 2018 at the University of Valencia / Polytechnic University of Valencia.

Programme for Symposium

Symposium (09 – 10 November 2018)

Woman and Maya Culture

The Conference theme for EMC23 is WOMEN AND MAYA CULTURE. The conference will be devoted to debating various aspects pertaining to the aspect of women in Maya culture, both from a historical vantage as well as from the perspective of research history and scientific progress. Three main thematic sessions have been established for this purpose:

1) In the first session, entitled “Women in the ancient Maya culture”, research will be presented which, from a gender perspective, will contribute to making visible the role played by women in the ancient Maya society, with special emphasis on their participation in political relations between the different kingdoms of the Classic Maya period, contributions to the productive system as well as their pivotal role in religious and ritual events. This will be addressed from a variety of different disciplinary approaches, including archaeology, iconography, epigraphy, literature and anthropology.

2) In the second session “Explorers in the Maya area of the 19th and 20th centuries and the first scientific research led by women” will highlight the work of women explorers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, despite the adverse conditions encountered in the rainforest of the Maya area, in search of ancient ruined cities to document them through photographs and drawings of high quality, and whose names have been unduly left in unfair anonymity. The session will also address the contribution that scientists such as Tatiana Proskouriakoff and Linda Schele, among others, have made to the field of architecture, art and Maya epigraphy. This will allow a reassessment of their work in light of technological advances of the 21st century, which will be of great interest and heighten the scope of their initial contributions.

3) Finally, the third session “Women in contemporary Maya society” will focus on the role that women play in today’s Maya society, especially with regard to the preservation of ancient traditions, while at the same time addressing the gradual loss of power that has been experienced throughout the history of this culture.

List of Speakers :

  • Rosemary Joyce (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Cristina Vidal Lorenzo (Universidad de Valencia) and Gaspar Muñoz Cosme (Universidad Politécnica de Valencia)
  • Harri Kettunen (University of Helsinki)
  • Marc Zender (Tulane University)
  • Mallory E. Matsumoto (Brown University) and Mary Kate Kelly (Tulane University)
  • Nikolai Grube (Rheinische Friedrick Wilhelms Universität, Bonn)
  • Oswaldo Chinchilla (Yale University)
  • Dmitri BeliaevPhilipp Galeev and Sergei Vepretskii (Russian State University)
  • Boguchwala Tuszynska (Independent researcher)
  • Rogelio Valencia Rivera (Independent researcher)
  • Dorota Bojkowska (Jagiellonian University) and Joanna Asia Jablonska (University of Bonn)
  • Cameron L. McNeil (Lehman College and the Graduate Center, CUNY), Edy Barrios (Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala-CUDEP) and Mauricio Díaz (PARAC)
  • John Chuchiak (Missouri State University)
  • Andrea Peiró Vitoria (Universidad Politécnica de Valencia) and Óscar Quintana Samayoa (Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala)
  • Claudia Zehrt and Kate Jarvis (British Museum)
  • Elaine Day Schele (Austin Community College)
  • Anabelle Rodríguez (Rutgers University) and Alessandro Pezzati (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)
  • Patricia Horcajada Campos and Belén Romero Caballero (Universidad de Valencia)
  • Genner Llanes Ortiz (Leiden University)
  • Catherine J. Letcher Lazo (University of Bonn)
  • Monika Banach (Jagiellonian University) and Elena Brito Herrera (Asociación de Grupos de Mujeres Tejedoras Ixiles Q’imb’al)

Maya Hieroglyphic Workshops (08 – 10 November 2018)

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).

Opening Lecture

Marc Zender, (Tulane University)

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.

Beginners Workshop

Introducción a la escritura maya
Introduction to Maya Writing

Tutor(e)s: Felix Kupprat and Rogelio Valencia

La información obtenida a través de los textos jeroglíficos mayas ha cambiado, de manera fundamental, nuestro conocimiento acerca de la antigua civilización maya. El ser capaz de leer lo que los mayas escribieron acerca de su propia historia y sus rituales, nos provee de una ventana fascinante y sin parangón, hacia el interior de una cultura cuyos descendientes continúan prosperando en sus comunidades en México, Belice, Guatemala y Honduras.


El objetivo de este taller is proveer el estudiante de una introducción intensiva al estudio de los jeroglíficos mayas. Los participantes tendrán la oportunidad de leer jeroglifos por su cuenta a lo largo del taller con la ayuda de los tutores. El curso se ofrecerá en español pero se proveerán explicaciones individuales en inglés y en alemán.


No se requiere de ningún conocimiento previo de la cultura maya, de su escritura, de escrituras antiguas o de lingüística.


Hacia el final del taller de tres días, los participantes serán capaces de comprender la estructura básica de los textos mayas, de su información calendárica con el fin de realizar reconstrucciones cronológicas, así como reconocer estructuras nominales y verbales.



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



Máximo número de participantes: 20

Admittance: 20 participants max.

Intermediate Workshop

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.

Cherchez la femme! Looking for Female Characters in Maya Hieroglyphic Texts
Tutors: Albert Davletshin and Daria Sekacheva

Hieroglyphic texts tell us life stories of both women and men. The objective of the workshop is practical, to learn how to discern female names and identify female personages in Classic Maya inscriptions. We will start with a series of brief lectures. They will be dedicated to the marker of female names and its optionality, peculiar titles, specific relationship glyphs and female-oriented contexts. Then, armed with new information students will dive into prepared collections of Late Classic texts from such Maya cities as Yaxchilan, Bonampak and Piedras Negras and start searching for females. At the end, the catch will be inspected and discussed. Finally, we will try to translate a few female names and define their peculiarities. Are female names rather different in their structure from male names and more similar to child names as one might have used to think about?

This is an intermediate workshop open to those who possess basic knowledge of Maya writing. The workshops will be taught in English, although the tutors also speak Spanish and German.

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.

Admittance: 40 participants max.

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.

Advanced Maya Hieroglyphic Writing Workshop
Seen But Not Heard? Women in Classic Maya Art & Writing

Tutor: Marc Zender

Since Proskouriakoff’s (1960, 1961, 1963, 1964) perceptive and pathbreaking work almost six decades ago, it has become increasingly apparent that numerous Classic Maya monuments, murals, and portable objects (including the surviving codices) depict and textually reference ancient women. To the extent possible in the always-contingent state of Maya decipherment, their names and titles have been isolated and read, and their genealogical and political connections have been reconstructed. Less clear, and occasionally even contentious, have been the precise scope and significance of women’s roles in Classic Maya society. Certainly, queens and princesses were frequent subjects—though far less frequent than kings and princes—and evidence now suggests that courtesans, priestesses, and captives/slaves were also depicted on occasion (Houston 2014, 2016; Zender 2004). But what measure of control, if any, did these women exercise over their depictions in art? Were Classic women (of whatever social class) even literate, or at least conversant with any of the complicated conventions of Maya iconography and the hieroglyphic script? To some extent, we must grapple here with negative evidence: there are no unambiguous indications that Classic women were trained as either scribes or sculptors. But does this necessarily mean that women never produced pictorial art or inscriptions? Certainly, regnal queens commissioned architecture and monuments (see Martin and Grube 2008), and it, therefore, seems likely that they would have had at least some say in their contents, albeit doubtless mediated by precedent and decorum.

Following the tutor’s general introduction, and a seminar-style review of the literature and present understandings of women in Classic Maya art and writing, workshop attendees will divide into compact working-groups of 4-5 students to analyze texts selected for their thematic relevance to the workshop themes, and then present their findings to the group as a whole. Occasional short talks by the tutor and group discussion will punctuate this three-day workshop.

This workshop is open to students who already possess a relatively advanced knowledge of Maya writing. The workshop will be taught in English, although the tutor also speaks Spanish and German. Laptops or tablets are recommended to facilitate the study of workshop materials.

References (and Suggested Reading)

Houston, Stephen
2014 Courtesans and Carnal Commerce. Maya Decipherment, June 8th, 2014.

2016 Gladiatrix. Maya Decipherment, June 8th, 2016.

Martin, Simon, and Nikolai Grube
2008 Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens. 2nd ed. Thames and Hudson, London and New York.

Miller, Mary
2015 Among the Maya: Female slaves from Jaina to Malinche. Paper presented at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, March 18th, 2015.

Proskouriakoff, Tatiana
1960 Historical Implications of a Pattern of Dates at Piedras Negras, Guatemala. American Antiquity 25(4):454-475.

1961 The Lords of the Maya Realm. Expedition 4(1):14-21.

1963 Historical Data in the Inscriptions of Yaxchilan, Part 1: The Reign of Shield-Jaguar. Estudios de Cultura Maya 3:149-167.

1964 Historical Data in the Inscriptions of Yaxchilan, Part 2: The Reigns of Bird-Jaguar and His Successors. Estudios de Cultura Maya 4:177-201.

Zender, Marc
2004 A Study of Classic Maya Priesthood. PhD thesis, University of Calgary.


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

Language: The Workshop will be conducted in English.

Admittance: 30 participants max.


Cristina Vidal Lorenzo and Gaspar Muñoz Cosme (main organisers, Universidad de Valencia and Universidad Politécnica de Valencia). Núria Feliu Beltrán, Patricia Horcajada Campos, Nuria Matarredona Desantes, Esther Parpal Cabanes, Andrea Peiró Vitoria, Silvia Puerto Aboy , Mª Luisa Vázquez de Ágredos Pascual (researchers, Universidad de Valencia and Universidad Politécnica de Valencia).