Posted by: Johan Normark | April 9, 2010

Birth, infancy and the road of life

The Postdoctoral Archaeological Group (PAG) at Stockholm University will organize a workshop on the future of gender studies in archaeology later this year (To Tender Gender- The Pasts and Futures of Gender Research in Archaeology). My participation is still unsure but my possible contribution will be called Birth, infancy and the road of life: The aging body in Maya iconography and epigraphy. This is actually an old piece of paper that was prepared for a conference on childhood that I never attended. It is also based on some of my earlier ideas and my first published monograph (Genderized Time and Space in Late Classic Maya Calendars). Here is the abstract:

Time is not entirely an abstract concept, since the human body changes with time. This is particularly evident in the Maya area, in southern Mesoamerica, during the Classic period (A.D. 250-900). Common in the hieroglyphic record are accession dates and death dates of male and female rulers. Less common are the at least 35 known birth dates. These were often retrospective and not contemporaneous, often inscribed after the ruler was inaugurated. The birth dates were important since the day of one’s birth affected the rest of one’s life. This paper shall discuss the possibility of “fake” birth dates. The rulers’ lives appear to have been conceptualized as roads along which certain events took place, and having a good birth day may have been an advantage. Inscriptions mention pre-accession rituals that may be related to certain life-crises in the rulers’ early phases of life. Entering and ending certain sections of these roads are sometime related to death phrases in the inscriptions. However, death and rebirth were closely related since there existed a belief in reincarnation or rather recycling of souls.

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