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 13 AJAW 18 YAXK’IN and closing on 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 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.

I took the time to drive out to Santa Fe from California with my partner in glyphs Mary from Australia. She had never experienced the vast deserts of the Great Basin and the high snows and alpine forests of the Rocky Mountains. So it was a delight to share these natural wonders with her. To reach the remaining archives I flew by plane. In every cache of documents, I found details of inscriptions that have since been eroded away and that are related to Classic Maya Era Day activities- they are small details but ones that help me verify or discredit elements of past drawings and to make new ones that I hope will advance the field in the area of Era Day mythic history.

When I start to examine any archive, my mind inhabits another zone completely where time, hunger, and daily concerns just disappear. Its like gold fever in a way. Twelve hours can pass and it feels like I have only been there only two hours! Every photo, every document holds the potential for new discovery and revelation into the ancient mythic mind of the scribe. The pursuit of knowledge for knowledge's sake is still a noble task in my book. Yet once I wake from that trance and the work is over, I suddenly feel the hunger pains in my stomach, and my aching back.

With this note, I post just a few photos. The first is courtesy of the MARI Archives at Tulane depicting a girl at the site of Quirigua standing beside two altars. I hope it gives you a feel for many of the early photos I examined. Another is of me on the Penn campus debating with one of my great heroes of all time Ben Franklin (eventhough he is just a statue).

OK Now its off to Mexico to explore some key Maya sites and monuments South of the border.