Posted by: Johan Normark | April 16, 2014

The 2012-phenomenon and the (new) age of hyperobjects

Yes I know, I have ceased to blog so I should not post anything more here (115 days have gone since my “last” post). All I will do here and in the future is to post links to my texts on Here is a paper I presented last week in London.

Posted by: Johan Normark | December 21, 2013

The end

As I mentioned in my previous post I have decided to stop blogging. This is the final blog post but the blog will remain online. It will remain online partly because if my plans work out I will write at least two more articles on my blogging about the 2012-phenomenon.

I have written 821 posts, there are 3146 comments and at the time of writing 564,422 views. Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting on it for the past 4.5+ years.

Why am I ceasing to blog? There are several reasons. The blog has served me well when I actually wrote about Maya stuff or theoretical issues. More recently my posts have tended to focus on the books I have bought, the conferences I have attended (and not attended), vacations, etc. I feel that I no longer have a genuine interest in maintaining what the blog originally was about. It has almost turned into an extension of my facebook account. Although I seldom posted stuff on the blog during the past six months it still took time to maintain and overview the blog. I do not have that time anymore.

I may create a webpage where I update my research but less often than on this blog. However, that is not something I plan to do in the near future. If I do it I will add the link on this blog.

Today is the ha’b (365-day) anniversary of the end of the 13th Baktun last Gregorian year (and even this year the December solstice falls on the 21st). I thought that would be a good date to “terminate” the blog. But who knows, maybe “I’ll be back” like another terminator (?)…

Happy solstice everyone. A new age emerge today. As it coincide with the death of the composer of one of my favorite tunes I end the blog with this beautiful instrumental tune.

Posted by: Johan Normark | December 18, 2013

The end is nigh

I should have been presenting two papers in Bournemouth during the last two couple of days but the flu struck me on Sunday and I have spent the three last days indoors and in bed here in Göteborg. Hence, I will not be reporting anything from the TAG conference as I had originally planned. 

My interest in this blog has also plunged during the past six months or so. Therefore I have decided to stop blogging on December 21, i.e. one year after the supposed “end date” of the Maya Long Count. Thus, I will only write one more blog post which will be #821. If you want to see what I am up to in the future you should visit my page

Posted by: Johan Normark | December 4, 2013

New project(s)

I have not been active on the blog for about two weeks as my focus is elsewhere. This is a busy time of the year but two days ago I received an unexpected phone call. A project application of mine (“The necromantic ordering of days: from the Long Count to the Short Count in Maya calendars”) had been approved so now I can begin my fourth postdoctoral research project in seven years. This happened just as I was about to start writing on a fifth project application, this time together with my former thesis advisor Per Cornell and my new colleague Christian Isendahl (also a Mayanist, formerly at Uppsala University). This (fifth) project, in cooperation with INAH-QR in Mexico, will deal with the settlements along the Cancun-Tulum coastline during the contact period. Let’s see if we receive funds for that project as well.

So what is my new (fourth) project about? It emerged from my coverage of the 2012-phenomenon on this blog (who says blogging is a waste of time?) and elsewhere on the internet. It sparked my slumbering interest in the Maya calendars. Since time and temporality are some of my main interests in archaeology I saw a way to combine three different aspects of time in this project: the Maya view(s) of time, archaeological views of time and ontological aspects of time. My growing interest in the field of “neuroarchaeology” (Malafouris, Renfrew, etc.) will also be applied in this project. That is, how do objects shape our mind? Or to put it in the context of my project: how did the Maya calendar(s) shape the mind(s) of the Maya?

Time-keeping and calendars emerge through the interaction between objects and the events they generate. Once codified, the calendars are “necromantic” objects that affect the perception of time across multiple generations. Just like our own lives are shaped by ancient Roman months and a later Papal calendar reform, the lives of the Classic period Maya were affected by calendar systems created by long-dead Formative period people.

The specific aim is to study how the Formative (2000 BC–AD 250) and Classic (AD 250–1050) Maya Long Count of accumulative time disappeared in favor of a cyclical Postclassic (1050–1519/1697) Short Count. The “divine kingship” was associated with the Long Count until the cessation of dated monuments at the beginning of the 10th century AD, an event that coincided with the Maya collapse. In the Postclassic period the Short Count dominated and did so until the Spanish conquest of Noj Petén in 1697. This calendar consists of cycles of 256 years and its importance in the Postclassic coincides with myths of previous ages. Knowledge of earlier history, past collapses and perception of ruins enforced a calendar change that emphasized previous creations and/or repeated periods of time. The change in how the Maya used their calendars will primarily be studied from changes in site plans, artefact assemblages, etc. and when these occurred in relation to known calendar periods. 

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 20, 2013

Apocalyptic hyperobjects

A weird coincidence. In a couple of previous posts I have described the “2012-phenomenon” as a hyperobject. I will also give a talk about it next year in London. Roughly one year ago I went to Tjolöholms slott (Tjolöholm Castle) outside Göteborg for an interview for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. The interview was about the 2012-end date and the reason why we went to Tjolöholm was because it was the setting for parts of Lars von Trier’s movie Melancholia. Two days ago this review of Timothy Morton’s book Hyperobjects was posted. It uses Melancholia as an example throughout the review.

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 18, 2013

The rise of the Maya (sorry, Viking) warriors

We have a new apocalyptic date contender. This time it apparently comes from Norse mythology. Be prepared on February 22, 2014. Watch the “Viking” blowing a Bronze Age lur. Only 1500 years or so separate them, but who cares..?

This group of apocalypteros really should have pushed this end date a bit earlier. There is no time to build up a whole “2014-phenomenon” with this short notice. No, you apocalyptic fans better go back to Mesoamerica again and prepare for 2027 instead. In the mean time you can experience some  Swedish music about both the Maya and the Vikings and violent stuff.

Here is a song about Viking warriors and Ragnarök made by the Swedish Death Metal band Amon Amarth.

Earlier today I stumbled upon a song about the “Maya” made by the Swedish Death Metal band Unleashed. It was released last year so it was probably inspired by the Maya apocalypse and Apocalypto as well. Apparently the Maya warriors were actually Vikings according to this “alternative” history…

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 16, 2013

Nordic TAG 2014

Yesterday the sessions for next year’s Nordic TAG were posted here. It is my old department at Stockholm University that arranges the conference this time. I think I may submit an abstract or two and if I do it I will most likely submit one of them to one of the old microarchaeologist’s sessions. If I go it will be my third Nordic TAG (Aarhus and Kalmar being the previous ones).

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 12, 2013

Identity, fragility, Black Swans, neuroscience

I just placed an order on Amazon. Within a few weeks I hope to be able to read these six books:

How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement by Lambros Malafouris and Colin Renfrew; The Fragility of Things: Self-Organizing Processes, Neoliberal Fantasies, and Democratic Activism by William E Connolly; The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb; Place and Identity in Classic Maya Narratives by Alexandre Tokovinine; Politics of the Maya Court: Hierarchy and Change in the Late Classic Period by Sarah E Jackson; and Ruins of the Past: The Use and Perception of Abandoned Structures in the Maya Lowlands by Travis W. Stanton and others.

The books all relate to my current, past and future research topics. The first and last book in this list belongs to my future “neuroarchaeological” project on how ancient ruins shaped Postclassic Maya calendars. The other four books melt together both my former “climate” project and my current “water” project (too complicated to go into detail here).

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 8, 2013

Cochuah volume

Good news from last night (Swedish time that is): the volume on the archaeology and anthropology in the Cochuah region (edited by Justine Shaw) has been accepted for publication by The University of New Mexico Press. My contribution consists of two articles; a traditional one on Postclassic miniature shrines and a Deleuzean inspired one on the caves in the region. I thought about writing yet another article on the causeways for this volume but my colleague Alberto Flores covers that part this time.

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 7, 2013

The 2012-phenomenon and the (new) age of hyperobjects

I have finally settled for a preliminary abstract for the conference on art history in London that I mentioned a week or so ago (I shall try to combine Meillassoux’s contingency with OOO). There might be some slight changes but here is the abstract:

Apocalyptic and new age fantasies focusing on the erroneous “end-date” of the Maya Long Count saw some absolute purposeful meaning encoded in an ancient calendar. However, as Meillassoux’s take on facticity indicates: there is no absolute reason or ground for reality. The absolute is contingent.

The 2012ers also failed to see that what they were and still are part of: the growing awareness of hyperobjects. Timothy Morton’s hyperobject is an object so massive that we encounter it everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Global warming is Morton’s preferred example. We encounter its local manifestations in rain, puddles, news, political debates, etc. However, we can never point out its specific time-space location. In fact, the hyperobject emits time and space. The appearance of the hyperobject is the past, it is what objects encounter in any situation. The withdrawn essence of the hyperobject is the future, it is what it will generate in new relations. A hyperobject has a birth, life and death although on a scale beyond humans.

The 2012-phenomenon is such a hyperobject. Its parts consist of objects and other hyperobjects such as the Aztec Calendar stone, Tortuguero Monument 6, the precession of the equinoxes, the Milky Way, archaeological text books, the Bible, Capitalism, Internet, etc. The 2012-phenomenon is a symptom of the ecological crisis. Despite that the “end date” has expired it has not ended since its parts will become part of a new hyperobject in the years to come since the symptoms of the ecological crisis remain.

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 6, 2013

Alexander Bard on the Meillassouxian God

The Swedish artist, song-writer and philosopher Alexander Bard mentions Quentin Meillassoux’s inexistent God in his presentation which ends by declaring Internet as a God (among several gods). 

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

Posted by: Johan Normark | October 30, 2013

The 18th European Maya Conference in Brussels on Saturday


Posted by: Johan Normark | October 29, 2013

Maya Arte(Facts)

I have been invited to a session at the Association of Art Historians 40th  Annual Conference in London at the Royal College of Art, 10-12 April 2014. Although I am not an art historian I have covered certain aspects of Maya art in my previous studies. However, it is not my knowledge of Maya art that is the cause for the invitation. It is my coverage of Speculative Realism (SR) and Object Oriented Ontology (OOO) on this blog.  Two of my latest articles, one on senses and one on gender, cover some aspects of SR but most of my articles on SR and OOO issues in archaeology are either in press, in review or in preparation. This session, organized by Dr Aron Vineger, allows me to do a Meillassouxian analysis of Maya art. So far I have not come up with an abstract but suggestions are welcome. Here is the abstract of the session: 

This panel looks to the debates surrounding the concepts of fact, factuality, and facticity in order to ask questions about the material and ontological aspects of art making in conjunction with those raised by the fact-family of terms in (social) science, history, and philosophy. And if we extend a preoccupation with fact, to the concept of the ‘fetish,’ which shares the same root as fact, we also encompass religion, economy, anthropology, and colonialism. One might make the argument that facticity is one of the most compelling ways of exploring the interconnections between all of these domains.

Some version of the fact/value issue has always been operative in art history, criticism, and aesthetics. For artists and theorists, a notion of the ‘pictorial fact’ has been integral to claims of objectivity, singularity, and a sheer ‘thereness’ in excess of any signification, meaning, and value. This panel is also spurred on by some compelling new thoughts about factuality and facticity that have been launched in the last few years. For example, Bruno Latour’s concept of the ‘factish,’ Quentin Meillassoux’s notion of ‘factiality,’ and Jean-Luc Nancy’s reinterpretation of Kant’s ‘fact of reason,’ have reawakened an interest in and critique of phenomenological and social scientific articulations of fact in relationship to politics, freedom, contingency, and the absolute.

This panel encourages speculative and concrete reflections on matters of fact in relationship to the intersections of art, history, visual culture, ethics, and politics whatever the manifest content, location, or time period. 

Santa Cruz

Posted by: Johan Normark | October 17, 2013

Candi Sukuh

Contrary to Gunung Padang the information regarding the Hindu temple (candi) of Sukuh is more easily accessible (and less affected by pseudo-archaeological claims). This “Hindu” temple, built around 1437, is located on the western slope of Gunung Lawu east of Solo (Surakarta). Hence, it is roughly 2000 years younger than Gunung Padang in western Java. Despite the presence of Hindu and Buddhist influences in-between their construction periods, both sites have a terraced (“step-pyramidal”) layout.

There are other temples on the slope of Gunung Lawu (such as Balinese looking Candi Ceto). They belong to the last phase of Hindu temple constructions in Java before the royal courts of the island turned to Islam in the 16th century. The main structure is located at the far end of three terraces and it differs from the typical Javanese Hindu temples, probably because the religion had become influenced by other Javanese beliefs. Yes, it looks very much like a small Mesoamerican pyramid (more similar to pyramids at El Tajin than a Maya pyramid). 






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