Sunday, October 31, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Well I made it to the Capital of Yucatan! Merida has a host of wonderful museums, not the least of which is the Palacio Canton- a pink and white marble palace (built around 1900) that houses many of Yucatan's finest archaeological treasures, not the least of which is the inscribed Panel 1 from Chichen Itza's Caracol-a stellar observatory with a spiral staircase and observational windows and a building that is a testament to the pinnacle of Maya Astronomy.
So the morning after I arrived (Palm Sunday-the streets were filled with processions of waving palms, song and dance), I walked the 10 blocks to the (it felt like 20) and was allowed to take many pictures of all monuments on display. Frustratingly, most of the monuments and artifacts are not labeled telling of their origins, but fortunately I knew most of them. Panel 1 from the Caracol is displayed in dim light and in the open air without protective glass which makes photographing it a lot easier. I asked if I could use my portable LED light to cross light while took photos and of course they said no. Regardless, I was great to be so very close to such an important inscription and allowed to photograph it at hi resolution. It had sustained a lot of damage since it was recovered in the 1930's with many chips, gouges and scrapes.
Why am I so interested in this monument? Well, it records one of the many Era Day inscriptions (and in reversed order at that!) in connection to the supposed founding of the Caracol. The stela also contains the last known inscriptions of one of Chichen's most prominent rulers that of the great K’ahk’-u-Pakal. It describes many doings of this ruler toward the end of his life and in connection with the 17th TUUN of K’ATUN 1 AJAW (beginning on 10.2.17.0.0. 13 AJAW 18 YAXK’IN and closing on 10.3.0.0.0. 1 AJAW 3 YAXK’IN or circa 886-889 AD). From the good work by other epigraphers such as Erik Boot and Alexander Voss, we can postulate that the Caracol was a building related to the divination and that the Itza B’olon K’awiil was the orator and the prognosticator of the Tz’ikinal (a name for the Caracol?) that had the function to announce and proclaim the prognostication for the year based on astronomical observations. Okay so what does all this mean for my work? Well, when the Caracol was built and Panel 1 dedicated, scribes tied the buildings celebration to not only the life of K’ahk’-u-Pakal but also to the beginning of time and the first day of the Current Era, the so called “zero date” of the Maya calendar. Which makes a lot of sense because the Era date 22.214.171.124.0. 4 AJAW 8 KUMK'U served as the initial base date for almost all Maya astronomical calculations as is exemplified so prominently in the Maya book known today as the Dresden Codex.
Needless to say I took a gazillion shots of everything. Its was then well into the afternoon and intensely hot, I made it back to the hotel soaking wet and exhausted yet happy with my cache of new photos.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
After San Diego's Museum of Man, I turned my sights eastward to Explore Maya archives housed in the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe New Mexico, MARI archives at Tulane University at New Orleans, and The Museum of Anthropology in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. All contain thousands of unpublished documents and photos of Maya monuments from the latter part of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century.
Monday, March 22, 2010
My trip to the San Diego Museum of Man yielded many photos of the casts and their inscriptions of Quirigua monuments on display. These casts were made in 1914 under the direction of Edgar L. Hewett (then the director of the School of American Archaeology) for the Panama California Exposition that opened in 1915. The museum staff allowed me full access for two days to take photos of the inscriptions on the Zoomorphs, especially Zoomorph P (many thanks to director Kate Vogel and assistants Judith Green Wells, Kenneth Bordwell and security guard David Potter for their help). Although this monument has been closely studied in the past, the inscriptions along its south side have not been well documented due to erosion factors and lack of good photographs. The monuments are housed in a beautiful cathedral-like building complete with a dome top. The building's high ceilings and open gallery complement the lofty heights of the stelae on display. The collection also has a cast of Stela C that contains the most detailed account of Era Day events from the Late Classic Period. Delightfully, they also had casts of Palenque's Temple of the Cross and Temple of the Sun's inner sanctuary panels that also record short but important Era Day passages. These panels are located to the left and right walls of the museum's main entrance. Three Era Day passages under one dome-what luck!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Currently, I am on a 5 month research tour of the US, Mexico and Guatemala in search of Maya Era Day Inscriptions. This project is part of my doctoral research at La Trobe University, Melbourne Australia. The core of my research centers on the analysis and interpretation of hieroglyphic texts and archaeological data pertaining to ancient Maya origin mythology from Classic Period (250-900 AD). It investigates those inscriptions that tell of the origin of the cosmos and the birth of the ancient Maya world on Era Day that occurred on August 13, 3114 BC. Previous attempts to organize Maya cosmology have failed to include all known Era Day inscriptions. Consequently, there is no comprehensive overview of actions, gods and place names relating to the cosmogonic act. My research will present and examine all known Era Day inscriptions for a complete analysis and I hope to relate these findings to the rich imagery on the temple walls and artifacts on which they were written.
Vital to the project is the photographing, drawing and cataloguing of all hieroglyphic passages relating to Era Day. Logistically this is quite a challenge since texts and monuments are scattered in site museums, archives and private collections all over North and Central America. My initial survey revealed that of the thirty nine known Era Day passages, nineteen of the inscriptions and associated monuments need to be photographed and drawn. Previously, these Era Day texts have not been properly documented so as to render accurate drawings for translation. It will be my task to photograph them at night (with a raking light source) to bring out surface details not discernable in the daylight hours. The new photos will then aid in making new drawings. Archival research is equally vital. My findings have uncovered the locations of several key photos and casts of texts made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that are indispensable to the new translations. These materials are distributed in libraries and museums in the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala.
First up on the agenda is, the San Diego Museum of Man that has on display a cast-replica of Guatemala's, Quirigua Zoomorph P. This monument is read in tandem with its companion altar (called Altar P') that lay directly in front of it. Altar P’ and Zoomorph P also are related in time in that they both record the same initial Long Count date of 126.96.36.199.0. 4 AJAW 13 KEH (September 15, 795 AD), so they were both dedicated on the same day by a ruler known as "Sky Xul". Both are intricately carved with imagery and inscriptions. The attached figure (by Dmitri Kessel, May 1965, Life Magazine) shows both Zoomorph P and its Altar P' together on site. The two works invoke a similar earth based related iconography; Altar P' displays a masked, anthropomorphic figure leaping out of, or falling into, a giant chasm in the earth that is supported on the back of a giant bird while Zoomorph P displays a biciphalic creature whose back supports a giant mountain "WITZ" mask- out of one end emerges a seated human figure from a gaping maw while the opposite end displays a giant mask of the Principle Bird Deity.