Posted by: Johan Normark | November 5, 2013

Collapses in Brussels

The latest European Maya Conference in Brussels was the first one I have attended since 2006. I had a paper that was accepted for the Krakow conference four years ago but I retrieved it because the conference coincided with a workshop at Stockholm University. Hence, I am not a frequent attendant. Why you may ask since I am working in the Maya area? It probably has to do with the topics at the conferences. Over the years my interests have gradually spilled over from Maya archaeology to ontological aspects in archaeology. Few Mayanists care about the latter issues and my work is therefore better appreciated outside Maya archaeology.

I found several of the papers in this year’s conference to be useful for my own projects. The research paper that probably will have the deepest impact in Maya archaeology was delivered by Takeshi Inomata. He showed how the current chronology of the Maya highlands relies on bad radiocarbon dating. His revised version now puts it in better agreement with the lowland chronology. There is now an “Olmec” collapse in 400 BC and a revival in the highlands around 100 BC followed by yet another collapse in AD 150, thus, around the same time as the “Mirador Basin” collapse.

Nikolai Grube’s paper also shows that the historical dates in Maya inscriptions change towards period dates. Women disappear from the inscriptions at the same time when alliances cease to be important. Between AD 780 and 800 long war narratives dominates. This is followed by a roughly 50 year long period (800-850) when the old order is reconstructed. The final 3 katuns of inscriptions (850-909) focus on period endings and rituals. I may add that the latter focus is what continues into the Postclassic and, in my view, has laid the foundation for various erroneous interpretations of the “meaning” of the Maya calendar (such as the 2012-phenomenon).

My former licentiate thesis opponent Jesper Nielsen focused on the concept of spolia, the reuse of decorative elements in other architecture. The glyph for K’ak’ (fire) sits at the western entrance of the monastery at Izamal. This Jesper believes is not a coincidence since the major temple Izamal was dedicated to K’inich K’ak’ Mo’ (however, this is not the mound upon which the monastery sits). Spolia is therefore an example of how the Maya maintained connections and memories of their past in the new Colonial order. Jesper also brought up the Habsburg double headed eagle as an example of how the Maya use Spanish imagery but fill it with another meaning. Such an eagle has also been found in Aktun Santa Cruz in the Cochuah region. 

No visit to Brussels is complete without visiting this place

No visit to Brussels is complete without visiting this place


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