Conference: The 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings at UT-Austin Reply

The 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings (Workshops and Symposium), will be held January 9-13, 2018, at the University of Texas at Austin.

Forty years ago, in 1978, UT Austin hosted the first Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop by Linda Schele, and an institution was born. Over the years the annual event grew as an open and vibrant gathering of scholars, students and others, sharing in the newest research in (mostly) Maya art, archaeology and related disciplines. 2018 brings exciting new changes, marking not only the beginning of our third k’atun, but also our new identity as the UT Mesoamerica Meetings, emphasizing the interconnectedness of all Mesoamerican cultures. To celebrate our anniversary and our new direction, we will devote our 2018 conference to a novel topic: Mesoamerican Philosophies: Animate Matter, Metaphysics, and the Natural Environment.

Ancient Mesoamerican religion and worldview hinges on a special understanding of “matter” and the metaphysical expression of the sacred. The world and what inhabited it – landscapes, buildings, objects, illnesses, even time itself — were considered animate and “living” in some sense, creating a dynamic system of interactions and relationships between people, gods, and things. These ideas found a constant expression, at different scales, in the region’s art, imagery, architecture, and ritual deposits, yet it is fair to say that these elemental notions have not been organized as a cohesive philosophy in any systematic way. At the 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings scholars and students will bring ancient Mesoamerican philosophy and religion into sharper focus, looking at how the ancient Maya, Aztecs, and other Mesoamerican cultures communicated these important ideas, and developed many notions of their own. In short, the conference will be looking at some of the most foundational but least articulated concepts of a cohesive ancient Mesoamerican worldview.

Among the questions we will be asking are: How do we refine our picture of Mesoamerican ideas as a cohesive system, a philosophy that might be placed alongside other ancient traditions worldwide? How did Mesoamerican peoples represent and interact with “living” things, spaces, materials and landscapes to express their understanding of human action in an animate world? Can we come up with a more accurate idea of “animism” in describing aspects of the Mesoamerican worldview? In what ways do such ideas have direct bearing on archaeological interpretation? These are large issues, and other related questions will no doubt arise during the conference. We see it as the beginning of a new and necessary foray into defining Mesoamerican thought as a set of philosophical traditions with key repercussions in scholarly research and cultural understanding.

For more information on the symposium and the workshops, including paper submissions, please visit the 2018 Mesoamerica Meetings webpage.

MM 2018 poster


The 2014 Maya Meetings: Tikal and its Neighbors 1

Stela 31 Tlaloc shieldThe 2014 Maya Meetings begin next week in Antigua, Guatemala, devoted to “Tikal and its Neighbors.” The conference will include workshops and a symposium devoted to the latest research on the archaeology and history of the central Peten region.

I and other contributors to Maya Decipherment will be in attendance, and there will probably be some interesting items to report after the conference. Regular posts on Maya Decipherment will resume later in January. A happy New Year to all.

Maya Spooks 3

K’ahk’ U Ti’ Suutz’, “Fire-Mouthed Bat,” a common wahy demon on Classic Maya vases (Drawing by D. Stuart).

Around this time of year I often give my “Maya Spooks” lecture to students here at UT-Austin, highlighting the grisly and fright-filled demons (wahyoob) of Classic Maya art and religion. The lecture title is “Spooks, Witchcraft and the ‘Dark Side’ of Maya Art and Rulership (a.k.a. The Halloween Lecture).”  This semester I’m teaching on the Aztecs, so in lieu of lecturing I hereby post my brief treatment of the subject written back in 2005. This write-up was part of the larger sourcebook I put together for the Austin Maya Meetings that year, devoted to “Glyphs on Pots: Decoding Classic Maya Ceramics.”

My own thinking on wahy beings keeps being refined somewhat. I still see them as animate dark forces wielded by court sorcerers, perhaps even rulers themselves, in order to inflict harm or disease on others. But wahyoob can be exceedingly complex and multi-layered, and they certainly aren’t really the benign, shamanistic “animal companion spirits” as we often described them a couple of decades ago. I’m hoping to find time write something more in-depth on the fascinating topic of royal sorcery one of these days, perhaps even as a book on Classic Maya witchcraft.

In the meantime… boo!

“The Way Beings” by David Stuart (pdf file)

Excerpt from: David Stuart, 2005. Glyphs on Pots: Decoding Classic Maya Ceramics. Sourcebook for the 2005 Maya Meetings at Texas. Department of Art and Art History, UT-Austin, Austin.

The 2013 Maya Meetings in Austin Reply

The Art of Maya Architecture:
Cosmology and Dynasty in the Built Environment
January 15-19, 2013
The University of Texas at Austin

The Maya Meetings return to Austin in January 2013 for five days of workshops and symposium.

Conference information, programs and registration information here

The 2013 Maya Meetings will explore new ideas about the art and meaning of ancient Maya architectural decoration and design. The last several years of archaeological research in the Maya region have revealed many examples of ornate temple decoration, as well as important reconsiderations of the symbolism and significance of buildings long known to archaeologists and art historians. Using archaeology, iconography, epigraphy, and the study of architectural forms, the Maya Meetings will focus on the built environment as expressions of ritual, cosmological and political space. This year we will have a number of compelling presenters, including several rising scholars in the field of Maya research.