28th European Maya Conference: Bonn, Germany

“Regionalism and Unity: Exploring Intracultural Variation and Commonality in the Maya Region”

 December 4th to December 10th 2023


The 28th European Maya Conference is co-organised by the European Association of Mayanists (Wayeb) together with the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn and is going to be hosted by the Department for the Anthropology of the Americas of the Institute for Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Bonn, Germany, from December 4th to 10th, 2023. The conference will begin on December 4th with a welcome address, and will combine four days of workshops (Tuesday to Friday, December 5th-8th) and a two-day symposium (Saturday to Sunday, December 9th-10th).

The topic of the 28th European Maya Conference is Regionalism and Unity: Exploring Intracultural Variation and Commonality in the Maya Region. We are used to talking about “the Maya” in both popular and academic discourse. But did or does such a single homogeneous Maya culture actually exist? In fact, the idea of a large Maya culture, stretching from the highlands of Guatemala to Yucatan, only emerged in the 19th century in connection with the European desire to divide the world into cultural areas. In this regard, the term “Maya” which originally designated the language and inhabitants of Northern Yucatan, was used for an entire language family and the various peoples speaking these languages and inhabiting the territory that comprises the Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo, and the countries of Belize, Guatemala, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador.

Full program (direct link)

Full program and further information

Practical information (transportation & accommodation)

The University of Bonn Policies for Protection Against Sexualized Discrimination and Violence


List of Speakers:

Nikolai Grube & Harri Kettunen: Regionalism and Unity: Exploring Intracultural Variation and Commonality in the Maya Region
Juan Carlos Meléndez & Emiliano Ricardo Melgar: Lapidary Variations and Commonalities in Antiquity: An Overview of Ancient Maya Portable Greenish and Bluish Stone Mosaic Masks (CE 300 – 800)
Xin Lin 林忻 & Guo Peng Chen 陳國鵬: The Maya Commons
Catherine Nuckols: Within Arm’s Reach: Scribal Workshops and the Geographic Extent of Eighth-Century Maya Full-Figure Inscriptions
Lorraine A. Williams-Beck: Where an Area is More Than Land: Pre-Columbian Cultural Identity in the Chenes Region
Kathryn Reese-Taylor, Felix A. Kupprat, Armando Anaya Hernández, Debra S. Walker, F. C. Atasta Flores Esquivel, Joshuah Lockett-Harris, Matthew Longstaffe, Véronica A. Vázquez López, Valeria Montserrat Suasa Nuñez, Sophía Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Kyle Farquharson, Nicholas P. Dunning: Regional Identity as Reflected in the Settlement of the Bajo El Laberinto Area
Ivan Šprajc: Astronomical Orientations in the Lowland Maya Architecture: Common Trends, Regional Patterns, and Temporal Variations
Vera Tiesler: Regionalism Versus Unity: Exploring Head and Tooth Crafting Under the Backdrop of Mobility and Cultural Change in the Greater Maya Area
Caitlin Earley & Ulrich Wölfel: Global concepts, local expressions: Regional innovation in Chaculá ceramics and sculpture at the end of the Classic Period
Erin L. Sears: Making Ceramic Mayans within a Highland–Lowland Interaction Zone
Brent K.S. Woodfill: Dynamic Regional Relations and Local Identities at the Highland-Lowland Interface in Central Guatemala
Jarosław Źrałka, Juan Luis Velásquez, Vera Tiesler, Jakob Sedig, David Reich & Dorota Bojkowska: The same or different Maya? Diversity and homogeneity in the Ixil region during pre-Hispanic times
Victor Castillo: Kingdoms of the Highland Maya: A Reappraisal
Iyaxel Cojti Ren: Diversity and Integration in the Maya Highlands during the Late Postclassic Period
Mallory Matsumoto: Water and Baptism in K’iche’an Social Identity: From Postclassic to Colonial
Lolmay García & Brigittine French: Voces múltiples en las memorias históricas de los kaqchikeles y continuidades en procesos históricos de violencia en Guatemala
Kristell Pech Oxte: Formas de lo humano en la literatura maya contemporánea: análisis de obras de la península de Yucatán y Guatemala hacia un rastreo de lo similar y lo diverso en la naturaleza-maya
Nancy Alicia Martínez: Writing with Five Senses: Regional Variations in Contemporary Ts’íib
M. Charlotte Arnauld: Variation in Terminal Classic isthmic connections: Maya cities at the crossroad
Christa Schieber de Lavarreda: Tak’alik Ab’aj, Unidad Regional versus Diversidad local
Oswaldo Chinchilla: The Pacific Coast: Maya or Not?
Jan Szymański, Joachim Martecki & Gabriela Prejs: How Far Is Beyond? Social and Cultural Identities in the Preclassic Western El Salvador and Its Ties with the Maya Area
Philippe Nondédéo: Terminal Classic Occupation at Naachtun, Peten: An Example of Resilience and Sociopolitical Reorganization after Political Crisis


Keynote lecture (Monday 4 December):

Nikolai Grube & Harri Kettunen: “Regionalism and Unity: Exploring Intracultural Variation and Commonality in the Maya Region.”

Beginners’ Workshop: An Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphs

Marie Botzet (Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya, Universität Bonn), Dimitrios Markianos-Daniolos (Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya, Universität Bonn) & Panos Kratimenos (Institute of Archaeology, University College London)

The Beginners’ Workshop will provide a general introduction to Maya epigraphy. It is open to anyone interested in the topic, and is especially ideal for people who have never worked with Maya inscriptions, although people with limited previous experience are also welcome. The workshop will cover various topics, including the history of decipherment, an overview of the corpus, and the inner workings of the writing system itself. Starting from the basics, the participants will learn about the principles of Maya hieroglyphic writing, the Maya calendar, and the structure of texts. Hieroglyphic inscriptions from different Maya cities will be studied, as a means of providing a general picture of the politics, beliefs, and individual actors of the ancient Maya world. By the end of the workshop, the participants will be able to read simple inscriptions, follow calendrical calculations, and identify key historical figures. The workshop will be conducted in English, but individual explanations will also be available in Spanish and German.

Instruction language: English. The instructors are also able to attend questions and comments in German and Spanish.

Admittance: 40 attendees (max.).

Intermediate Workshop: Regional variation in ceremonial discourse in Classic Maya inscriptions

Felix Kupprat (Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Alejandro J. Garay Herrera (Abteilung für Altamerikanistik, Universität Bonn) & Guido Krempel (Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya, Universität Bonn / CNCPC -INAH)

This workshop focuses on Classic Maya texts describing the different ritual activities and ceremonial practices of the lowland elites. As case studies, we will put emphasis on inscriptions from the sites of Tonina, Copan and Tikal, comparing them to select examples from other sites or regions. The main objective is to determine similarities and differences in ceremonial discourse, seeking out the parallels between the practices recorded at different sites, but also localized particularities and idiosyncrasies. Furthermore, we will discuss the issue of the Maya religion, which seems to have been quite homogeneous at the regional level, but at the same time extremely diverse with regard to particular patron gods in different sites and regions. Concerning ritual practices, we will describe distinct regional focuses for the three case studies, including calendrical, funerary and accession rites. The workshop is tailored towards participants with basic to advanced knowledge of Maya hieroglyphs and we encourage attendees to bring a personal device with WiFi connectivity to display online resources and PDF files (laptop, tablet, etc.) during the workshop.

Instruction language: English. The instructors are also able to attend questions and comments in German and Spanish.

Admittance: 25 attendees (max.).

Advanced Workshop: Mystery Texts

Nikolai Grube (Department for the Anthropology of the Americas / Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya, Universität Bonn), Christian Prager (Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya, Universität Bonn) & Elisabeth Wagner (Textdatenbank und Wörterbuch des Klassischen Maya, Universität Bonn)

Despite significant advances in deciphering Maya hieroglyphic writing, we can currently comprehend only about 60 percent of the attested over 1000 signs linguistically, whereby only 40 percent are deciphered with absolute certainty. Fortunately, these constitute the most frequently documented signs, allowing us a substantial linguistic understanding and the ability to translate a multitude of hieroglyphic texts. Nevertheless, within the extensive corpus of hieroglyphic inscriptions, we encounter texts that we grasp linguistically, yet their content remains enigmatic to this day. This mystery arises from four distinct factors: 1) certain signs elude decipherment, 2) terms from Classic Mayan are not preserved in modern Mayan languages and hence remain incomprehensible, 3) metaphors are only partially understood, 4) texts are constructed upon ontologies that continue to elude our understanding. In our workshop, we will present a selection of such “mystery texts” from throughout the Maya region to decipher them in collaboration with participants and collectively try to interpret their enigmatic contents.

Instruction language: English. The instructors are also able to attend questions and comments in German and Spanish.

Admittance: 25 attendees (max.)

Special Workshop: Kaqchikel Maya Culture through the living art of weaving

Ana Lucía Sebaquijay (Universidad de San Carlos, Guatemala) & María Francisca Elías Canás (ENBI Nim Naoj, San Martín Jilotepeque, Chimaltenango, Guatemala / Department for the Anthropology of the Americas, University of Bonn)

El tejer es una antigua técnica de expresión artística y, al mismo tiempo, la materialización de la memoria cultural y de la identidad maya. El tejido maya se remonta a tiempos precoloniales. Su supervivencia en el presente es un testimonio de la creatividad y resistencia de los mayas actuales. En el taller, los participantes se iniciarán en el arte de tejer Kaqchikel y, al mismo tiempo, conocerán aspectos importantes de la cultura Kaqchikel de hoy día. El taller se centra en el manejo del telar y en el aprendizaje de las técnicas básicas de tejido.

Instruction language: Spanish.

Admittance: 10-12 attendees (max.).