Posted by: Johan Normark | January 30, 2013

The Maya calendar as a necromantic device

“Clocks and calendars are necromantic devices-tools by which the dead think for the living, and the dead’s thoughts deflect the living’s attention from the cycles in the present. This is a consequence of the mediation of cognition by artifacts, and it is a feature of how artifacts can distribute cognitive models across time, culture, and space” (Birth 2012:35).

I received a package of books from Amazon today. In it were five books, two of which will be important in my upcoming project application on “neuroarchaeological” aspects of the Maya calendar(s) that I mentioned here one year ago. The quote above is found in one of these books; “Objects of Time: How Things Shape Temporality” by Kevin K. Birth. Seldom have I found a book that is so well suited for my own purpose. The author even mentions the Maya calendars (and 2012…), but the main source is Rice’s may-cycle model which is not supported by most Mayanists, including myself.

The second book is “The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology,” edited by Daniel H. Lende and Greg Downey. Both books, along with my previous readings of the works by Lambros Malafouris, other “neuroarchaeologists” and Tim Ingold will be combined with object-oriented ontologies in order to study how objects and hyperobjects of various sizes affect the way time is perceived and “codified” in calendars, how these calendars then, as real objects, create(d) various sensual objects and how these real and sensual objects eventually came to transform the accumulative Long Count calendar into the cyclical Short Count calendar. Not only were the calendars necromantic devices, but so were the ruins surrounding the Postclassic Maya. The ancestors not only bore the burden of time, they also shaped and transformed time for those who lived among them.


Responses

  1. “…to study how objects and hyperobjects of various sizes affect the way time is perceived and “codified” in calendars.”

    “The ancestors not only bore the burden of time, they also shaped and transformed time for those who lived among them.”

    Sounds fascinating.

  2. It’s good to hear someone tries this approach to calender studies. Any chance you’ll be looking into a problem of what came first – the Long Count or the bar and dot notation?


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