An Upcoming Publication from Yale University Press:
THE LIFE WITHIN: CLASSIC MAYA AND THE MATTER OF PERMANENCE
by Stephen Houston
Coming in March 2014
For the Classic Maya, who flourished in and around the Yucatan peninsula in the first millennium AD, artistic materials were endowed with an internal life. Far from being inert substances, jade, flint, obsidian, and wood held a vital essence, agency, and even personality. To work with these materials was to coax their life into full expression and to engage in witty play. Writing, too, could shift from hieroglyphic signs into vibrant glyphs that sprouted torsos, hands, and feet. Appearing to sing, grapple, and feed, they effectively blurred the distinction between text and image.
In this first full study of the nature of Maya materials and animism, renowned Mayanist scholar Stephen Houston provides startling insights into a Pre-Columbian worldview that dramatically contrasts with western perspectives. Illustrated with more than one hundred photographs, images, and drawings, this beautifully written book reveals the Maya quest for transcendence in the face of inevitable death and decay.
A New Publication from Dumbarton Oaks:
PLACE AND IDENTITY IN CLASSIC MAYA NARRATIVES
by Alexander Tokovinine
Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology Series
Understanding the ways in which human communities define themselves in relation to landscapes has been one of the crucial research questions in anthropology. Place and Identity in Classic Maya Narratives addresses this question in the context of the Classic Maya culture that thrived in the lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula and adjacent parts of Guatemala, Belize, and Western Honduras from 350 to 900 CE. The Classic Maya world of numerous polities, each with its own kings and gods, left a rich artistic and written legacy permeated by shared aesthetics and meaning. Alexandre Tokovinine explores the striking juxtaposition of similar cultural values and distinct political identities by looking at how identities were formed and maintained in relation to place, thus uncovering what Classic Maya landscapes were like in the words of the people who created and experienced them. By subsequently examining the ways in which members of Classic Maya political communities placed themselves on these landscapes, Tokovinine attempts to discern Classic Maya notions of place and community as well as the relationship between place and identity.
Coming in July 2013 from The University of Texas Press
The Spectacle of the Late Maya Court: Reflections on the Murals of Bonampak
by Mary Ellen Miller and Claudia Brittenham
The blurb from The University of Texas Press website:
Located within the deep tropical rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico, the Maya site of Bonampak is home to the most complete and magnificent mural program of the ancient Americas. In three rooms, a pageant of rulership opens up, scene by scene, like pages of an ancient Maya book. Painted c. AD 800, the murals of Bonampak reveal a complex and multifaceted view of the ancient Maya at the end of their splendor during the last days of the Classic era. Members of the royal court engage in rituals and perform human sacrifice, dance in extravagant costumes and strip the clothing from fallen captives, acknowledge foreign nobles, and receive abundant tribute. The murals are a powerful and sophisticated reflection on the spectacle of courtly life and the nature of artistic practice, a window onto a world that could not know its doomed future.
This major new study of the paintings of Bonampak incorporates insights from decades of art historical, epigraphic, and technical investigation of the murals, framing questions about artistic conception, facture, narrative, performance, and politics. Lavishly illustrated, this book assembles thorough documentation of the Bonampak mural program, from historical photographs of the paintings—some never before published—to new full-color reconstructions by artist Heather Hurst, recipient of a MacArthur award, and Leonard Ashby. The book also includes a catalog of photographs, infrared images, and line drawings of the murals, as well as images of all the glyphic texts, which are published in their entirety for the first time. Written in an engaging style that invites both specialists and general readers alike, this book will stand as the definitive presentation of the paintings for years to come.
Ordering information can be found at the The University of Texas Press.
Maya Archaeology 2, edited by Charles Golden, Stephen Houston and Joel Skidmore. Precolumbia Mesoweb Press, San Francisco.
Precolumbia Mesoweb Press has just published Maya Archaeology 2, a beautifully illustrated volume with important contributions on the archaeology and epigraphy of Calakmul and Palenque. Authors of the included reports and articles are Ramón Carrasco Vargas, María Cordeiro Baqueiro, Simon Martin, Arnoldo González Cruz, Guillermo Bernal Romero, and David Stuart. The book will be available May 2013, and order information is now available here through the Mesoweb website.
Astronomy in the Maya Codices
Harvey M. Bricker and Victoria R. Bricker
Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society
Volume 65 — $75.00
936 pp. (28 front matter, 908 text)
The Precolumbian Maya were closely attuned to the movements of the Sun and Moon, the stars and planets. Their rituals and daily tasks were performed according to a timetable established by these celestial bodies, based on a highly comples calendar system. Agriculture provided the foundation for their civilization, and the skies served as a kind of farmer’s almanac for when to plant and when to harvest. In this remarkable volume, noted Maya scholars Harvey Bricker and Victoria Bricker offer invaluable insight into the complex world of the Precolumbian Maya, and in particular the amazing achievements of Maya astronomy, as revealed in the Maya codices, the indigenous hieroglyphic books written before the Spanish Conquest. This far-reaching study confirms that, independent of the Old World traditions that gave rise to modern Western astronomy, the Precolumbian Maya achieved a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy based on observations recorded over centuries.
WINNER OF THE 2011 J. F. LEWIS AWARD
“Astronomy in the Maya Codices is the first thorough treatise on the codices since Thompson’s A Commentary on the Dresden Codex four decades ago. The Brickers’ work is special in that it gives a complete account of the historical background of scholarly inquiries into each of the instruments they deal with. The Brickers attempt to place each codical instrument in real time, an approach they uniquely develop and fully justify. This work will remain the ‘last word’ on the role of astronomy in the codices and in Maya thought for a long time to come.”
Anthony F. Aveni
Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and
Anthropology and Native American Studies
“Astronomy in the Maya Codices represents a compilation of almost three decades of scholarly research conducted by the Brickers, reflecting a unique collaboration that combines their respective areas of expertise in linguistics, epigraphy, and astronomy. Their book is the most comprehensive treatment of the Maya codices to date, and is likely to remain a classic for years to come.”
Curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology
Florida Museum of Natural History
“Astronomy in the Maya Codices is simply a tour de force. The breadth and depth of Harvey and Victoria Bricker’s research on the Maya codices and the accessibility of their writing style make this important book a ‘must read’ for a host of constituencies, from scholars of the Maya to astronomers to the interested general public.”
Jeremy A. Sabloff
President, Santa Fe Institute