K-16 Educator Workshop
Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphs Workshop
This workshop will teach registrants the basics of reading the Maya hieroglyphs, using a variety of examples from ancient Maya monuments. We will look at the structure, topics, and vocabulary of ancient Maya texts, and we will work through the basics of the Maya calendar. The history of the discovery and decipherment of Maya hieroglyphs will also be discussed. Finally, we will work together to read a few real ancient Maya texts.
* Novice participants are welcome to attend the Welcome Remarks and Introduction to the Maya lecture of the Teacher Workshop, begining at 9:00am.
The Bold and the Bellicose: Maya Warfare in the Conquest Era
Dr. Matthew Restall
What happened when Spaniards invaded Maya kingdoms? Why was the outcome so varied and complex, defying a memorable narrative like that of the so-called Conquest of Mexico? The Maya of Yucatan were “a bellicose people” who were “raised from birth in warfare”; Guatemalan Mayas were “very bellicose and bold in war.” At least, so claimed the Spanish conquistadors who faced them in battle in the early sixteenth century.
Yet only decades later, Spaniards and Maya nobles alike concluded that the wars of “the conquest” had brought defeat and demographic decline. Such claims underpinned the long-lasting impression that while the Mayas that faced Spanish invaders were warlike, they nonetheless soon succumbed to colonialism—along with the Aztecs and other Mesoamericans—bringing “the Ancient Maya” to an end. Spanish and British colonists later promoted the idea of Maya disappearance in southern Yucatan, perpetuating the twin myth of a people crushed or vanished.
On the other hand, modern scholarship has emphasized the survival of the Itza Maya kingdom in the Petén until 1697, and imagined the cruzob rebels of the Caste War as holdouts against Spanish/Hispanic conquest. As a result, the bellicose Maya of the conquistador imagination were revived, as if Maya men were inherently and enduringly either bravos or pacificos.
In this keynote address, Matthew Restall challenges these impressions, combining archival research into the sixteenth century with comparative understandings of the Spanish-Aztec War and of Pre-Columbian Maya political and military traditions. He hopes to use the topic of Maya warfare to urge us to think differently about Maya bellicosity, Maya responses to invasion, and the periodization of Maya civilization.
Contested Landscapes: Competition and Warfare in the Mopan Valley of Western Belize
Jason Yaeger and M. Kathryn Brown
The myth of the Peaceful Maya has been laid to rest, as archaeologists, art historians, and epigraphers have demonstrated that warfare played a salient role in ancient Maya civilization. Iconographic programs and historical narratives document the preparation for, execution of, and celebration of warfare and conquest, and they allow us to understand the places of warfare and militarism in royal authority. Documenting warfare and military events archaeologically has proven more difficult, requiring a comprehensive program of research targeted at uncovering multiple lines of evidence. In this paper we present data recently collected at Xunantunich, Buenavista del Cayo, and sites in the countryside between the two sites that reveal the types of features used to fortify and defend sites, including ditch-and-rampart complexes, palisades, and walls. We also discuss recent evidence for Late and Terminal Classic warfare events at sites in the valley. We situate this new evidence within a model of the political dynamics of the larger Mopan River valley landscape, to highlight the social and political motivations for warfare during the Classic period, and the role of conflict between the centers that competed for control of the valley.
Fortresses, Refuges, and Surveillance: Reconsidering the Pervasiveness of Maya Warfare
Thomas Garrison and Stephen Houston
The ancient Maya tendency toward conflict has been acknowledged since the discovery of chaotic battles scenes in the Bonampak murals over 70 years ago. Since then, detailed hieroglyphic records of conflicts and their aftermath have enriched the knowledge of Maya violence. Archaeologists have long noted physical defensive features at individual sites and less commonly, across landscapes. However, a common trend in most discussions of Maya warfare is that it is considered to be a contributing factor in societal decline, be it as large areas of the lowlands are abandoned at the end of the Preclassic or, as a contributing factor to the eventual decline of Classic period civilization. Recent discoveries made in the analysis of 2100 km2 of data captured over northern Guatemala by the PACUNAM LiDAR Initiative suggest that it is time to reconsider the pervasiveness of Maya conflict through time and space, including the strategies employed, and the cultural consequences of war. Defensive systems were far more common at Maya sites than previously thought and the motivation for constructing such features appears to have varied. In some cases, a city’s epicenter was defended through strategic terracing or ditch-and-rampart systems. In other areas, small plateaus were isolated from the rest of a settlement in an attempt to create easily defensible refuges.
This talk surveys some of the salient defensive features revealed in LiDAR before focusing on the area between the kingdoms of El Zotz and Tikal. Some of the most extensive and intensive defensive systems come from this part of the central Peten, highlighting a contested landscape between cities of significantly different size. Defensive systems are found on both level and sloped terrain. A possible system of intervisible watchtowers is spread across hills in the region. And, the new site of La Cuernavilla represents a true fortress, a unique settlement in the Maya Lowlands. Most importantly, preliminary analysis and ground-truthing efforts suggest that most of these features and sites date to the Early Classic period, a time of great growth and innovation in the region. Contrary to standard narratives surrounding Maya warfare, it appears in this case that conflict was a catalyst for growth.
The War and its Consequences: La Blanca (Petén) at the Terminal Classic Period
Cristina Vidal Lorenzo and Gaspar Muñoz Cosme
The final stage of Late Classic period in the Mopan River valley coincides with the desertion of some settlements, just as they emerged from a turbulent time of architectural remodeling and modifications of a defensive nature. The abandonment of settlements, such as La Blanca and Chilonché, was probably the result of a long period of social conflict originating in the Petexbatun region and the decline of the valley’s commercial fluvial network.
In the case of La Blanca, the appearance of several hastily abandoned burials, located in palatial buildings and other prominent public spaces of the settlement, may imply occasional activity and internal struggles amongst newcomers, who settled ephemerally after the desertion of the original population. The study of architectural transformations undergone by the palatial buildings of the Acropolis of La Blanca in their final moments of occupation, along with the analysis of the funerary traits of the burials performed just after their abandonment, as well as their unearthed remains, may contribute to our understanding of this unsettled period between the Late Classic and the beginning of the Postclassic in the Mopan River valley.
Fractured Lands: War in the Kingdoms of Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan
Andrew K. Scherer and Charles Golden
Ongoing research on warfare and the ancient Maya highlights not only the historical importance of inter-polity violence, but also the diverse forms that conflict took over the course of the Classic period. As part of our broader research on the comparative socio-politics of the Classic period Maya of the western lowlands, we have studied the material remains of warfare in the kingdoms of Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan for the past two decades, focusing especially on evidence from fortifications throughout the region. Here we present an overview of the results of that work, highlighting both the serendipity of our work as well the importance of open dialogue and collaboration with our colleagues on the themes of war and violence. We complement our review of the archaeological and bioarchaeological evidence for war and violence with data from the hieroglyphic and iconographic records.
The Epigraphy of Classic Maya Warfare
For a long time, archaeologists have used the distribution of settlement features such as monumental architecture, causeways, residences, and other landscape modifications as a key to understand how a society organized and supported itself at the regional scale. However, in the heavily forested regions of the Yucatan Peninsula, such a comprehensive bird’s-eye view on settlement and landscapes has rarely been possible outside of a few site’s immediate surroundings. Thanks to an intensive and long-term program of surveys and excavations it has been possible to document Maya settlement over an area of approximately 200 km2 centered on the Classic city of Holmul, revealing ever-changing patterns of settlement features from the very beginnings of human occupation to its end, from 1000 BCE to 1000 CE. These permanent features of the landscape inform us about the pragmatic aspects of ancient Maya society (politics and economy) but also about the spiritual linkages between their cultural, natural and supernatural worlds.
Scattered to the Wind: The Monuments of Caracol’s K’an II and the Wars of the 7th Century
Christophe Helmke and Jaime J. Awe
The reign of the king known as K’an II (r. AD 618-658) proved to be one of the longest and most influential of the Caracol dynasty. Under his rule, the site of Caracol witnessed a flourishing in material wealth and numerous construction projects, including the expansion of the system of causeways that connected smaller satellite centers to the greater monumental epicenter. He also saw to the dedication of many monuments, including stelae, an array of altars, a panel and the famed hieroglyphic stair. An examination of these important historical sources details the many conflicts that punctuated the reign of K’an II. Yet, these monuments also relate another story, since these stand as witnesses to later martial actions, wherein the monuments were splintered, defaced and widely scattered; not only within the site of Caracol itself, but farther afield across the eastern central lowlands. In eliciting this story, we conclude with a reconstruction of events that led to the destruction and displacement of the monuments of K’an II.
De Arte Duellica: Military Sciences and the Ancient Maya
Ancient Maya warfare has been the focus of various studies, ranging from archaeology to epigraphy, anthropology to history, as well as incorporating multidisciplinary research projects bringing together various voices. However, one branch of studies, military science(s), has been largely overlooked. The benefits of military sciences to the study of Maya warfare include examining armed conflicts systematically from the point of view of the military itself, exploring both singular and universal features of warfare, understanding, applying, and modifying military concepts, such as rules of engagement, strategic and tactical interdiction and asymmetric and non-linear warfare, recognizing the differences and characteristics of terms (and levels of analysis) such as technical, tactical, operational, and strategic, and to understand military disciplines, organization, and concepts such as leadership, strategic planning, operations, intelligence, logistics, communications, and military education, as well as universal laws and patterns based on military geography. Although any given war, including ancient Maya warfare, is different from another war waged at a different time in a different part of the world, some patterns of warfare and military organization remain universal in nature. Looking at the Maya warfare from the perspective of military sciences provides researchers in the field of humanities with a different outlook at armed conflicts in the area, providing new approaches, new theoretical and methodological frameworks, and opening up new research questions and research strategies.
Multun Tzec (Mountains of Skulls)-Conquest Era Encounters with Yucatec Maya Warfare: A Study in the Tactics, Weapons and Battle Strategies of Late Postclassic and Conquest Era Warfare, 1517-1550
John F. Chuchiak IV
Arthur A. Demarest long ago proved through his archaeological project in the Petex Batun region that the Classic Maya had a system of constant but controlled conflict. However, during the late Classic period this system of Maya warfare broke down, and destructive regional warfare evolved. As this paper will argue, a similarly traumatic and destructive pattern of change in the nature and extent of Maya warfare began to evolve during the later Postclassic period and into the early 16th century.
Maya warfare appears to have undergone serious changes in technology and ferocity on the eve of the Spanish conquest. Aspects of the military, logistical, social, political and religious contexts of warfare among the Yucatec Maya are considered in this present study in order to examine the different ways in which the Conquest and Colonial era Maya approached the conduct of war and how these Maya conceptions clashed with a new and strange alien invader.
In the case of the cultural contacts between the Spaniards and the Maya, things as simple as the concept of the use of signs, symbols, and gestures, and the most basic elements of the culturally acceptable rules of war clashed, leading to the violent rejection of the other. These clashes and military engagements in the early conquest and colonial period led, in the case of the Yucatec Maya, to an increase in the violence, brutality, and the destructive nature of the conquest wars.
7th Annual Tulane Hieroglyphic Forum: The "Star Wars" Glyph
This year, the hieroglyphic forum will focus on the enigmatic ‘star wars’ glyph. Although the available evidence still won't allow a phonetic decipherment of this important verb, recent research nonetheless contributes a great deal to our understanding of its grammar, pragmatics, and ideological underpinnings. Among other things, we will explore how the Maya presented the mythological origins and religious rationale for warfare, and highlight new epigraphic evidence for the planning and prosecution of large scale military confrontations, sometimes at surprising distances.
A Comparative Perspective on the Bioarchaeology of War in the Maya and Andean
This workshop will provide a comparative view of Maya warfare from the perspective of a bioarchaeologist whose research focus is Andean South America. It will highlight what are some striking similarities between the two regions, while noting differences between the two in the nature of their archaeological and iconographic record. Commonalities include frequent depictions of combat and the taking, display and sacrifice of captives and the glorification of warriors and warfare in art and oral history. Another similarity between the two areas is substantial variability over time and space in the archaeological evidence of armed conflict and the construction of defensive architecture. One way in which the Andean Area stands out, however, is for its exceptional preservation of human skeletal and mummified remains that offer silent testimony of the impact of interpersonal violence in past societies.
De Ultima Ratio Regio: A Reading the Komkom Vase discovered at Baking Pot, Belize
The Terminal Classic is a fascinating period of transition made all the more interesting by the recent discovery of the Komkom Vase at the archaeological site of Baking Pot, in western Belize. Excavations at the site, by the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project, led to the discovery of artefact-rich deposits dated to the Late-to-Terminal Classic, including the Komkom vase. The vase owes its importance to the lengthy glyphic text that adorns its circumference, its late date and its remarkable archaeological context. This vase provides an astonishing account of historic events involving war and peace, verbs of motion and rituals. Many heretofore unknown actors and toponyms are featured in the narrative making this an exceptional account of early ninth century political history. This workshop provides an overview of the glyphic text that adorns the Komkom Vase as well as texts from Naranjo and other archaeological sites in the vicinity, in light of significant parallel clauses that duplicate events, repeat expressions and narrative structures.
Tools of the Maya: A Lithic Analysis Workshop
Lithics, or stone tools, are integral parts of studying ancient lifeways. These durable materials tell us about how past peoples made and used tools. Lithic technology was integrated into all aspects of past life, including subsistence, economic activities, and ritual and political activities. Studies of Maya lithics have traditionally focused on the ritual and political significance of these implements, although increasing emphasis has been placed on their economic significance. These different emphases present methodological challenges for scholars of Maya lithics.
This workshop will be a hands-on presentation of lithic analysis, including discussions and explanations of commonly used analytical techniques used in the Maya region. Using collections from the Middle American Research Institute, participants will examine typological, metric, and indexical measures of lithic materials. This workshop will provide a companion to discussions of warfare during the symposium through discussions of the function of lithic materials. Participants will gain an understanding of what lithics have, and can, tell us about ancient Maya lifeways.
An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Ancient Maya Warfare
This workshop examines ancient Maya warfare from the point of view of a variety of disciplines, including archaeology, epigraphy, linguistics, iconography, colonial history, geography, and one largely overlooked field, military sciences. Besides disciplinary perspectives, the aim is to explore areas between the disciplines in order to advance to a more holistic view of ancient Maya warfare. The source materials stem from archaeological remains, hieroglyphic texts, languages, art, Post-Conquest native texts, Post-Conquest historical sources, and geographic data. The epigraphic and iconographic records will be contrasted to archaeological evidence and to a variety of documents from the Post-Contact period, while the influx and influence of military sciences will be explored and assessed, bringing into the discussion various levels of analysis. Furthermore, military geography is discussed in relation to the assumed tactical, operational, and strategic planning of various ancient Maya military campaigns. In addition, during the workshop we will discuss potential motivations and politics behind the ancient Maya armed conflicts. The workshop seeks to bring together all potential disciplines relevant to the study of ancient Maya warfare and invites participants to accumulate further data and prospective research questions on the topic.
LiDAR: The Future of Lowland Maya Archaeology
This workshop is designed to introduce archaeologists and amateur enthusiasts alike to the revolutionary benefits LiDAR surveys are bringing to our understanding of the ancient Maya. The workshop is divided into two sections. In the first, there will be a brief introduction to the technology of LiDAR mapping followed by examinations of recently acquired images. In the process, we will discuss how this new information is likely to change our understanding of lowland Maya settlement and of many other aspects of their civilization. In the second section, we will use the computers in the MARI GIS lab to learn how to use simple techniques to visualize LiDAR data and detect features of archaeological interest. This section is set up as a lab open house, open to all registrants, in which attendees will work individually or in pairs.