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Maya quiz

Howlers

I posted this over at rightreading, but I’ll repeat it here, since it pertains to Mesoamerica:


llama

When you attempt something ambitious you’re bound to make some mistakes along the way. I’m sure the book I’m working on will have its fair share (recently I realized I had confused the Mughal painters Bichitr and Bishandas). But sometimes a mistake is so stunning that it’s hard to recover from.

I was finding Charles H. Parker’s Global Interactions in the Early Modern Age, 1400-1800 generally interesting and credible. Then I came upon this sentence:

The lack of any indigenous pack animals, except for the llama, and the absence of a wheel meant that humans formed the primary source of portage in Mesoamerican trade.

Probably another reason Mesoamericans depended on humans for portage is that the nearest of their “indigenous” llamas was nearly 2000 miles away in the South American Andes.

This reminds me of a visit to the market in Chichicastenango in Guatemala a few decades ago. The blanket vendors all touted their blankets as pura lana, which means “pure wool.” At the market I met a foolish young Spanish-challenged gringo carrying a blanket he had bought. He’d paid a high price, but it was worth it, he assured me, proudly proclaiming it “pure llama!”

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Image from felipe ascencio‘s photostream.

Drinking vessel, 600-800 CE

lacma drinking vessel from campeche area

The portion of this painted ceramic drinking vessel that is shown in this image shows a well-turned- jaguarsporting a knotted scarf and a deer antler. He is a wayob’ — the companion spirit of a Maya ruler. Other wayob’ shown on the other sides of this vessel are a toad and a serpent (the young man at right is emerging from the serpent’s jaws). The vessel, from the southern Campeche area, is in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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Drinking Vessel, 600-800 CE. Mexico, Southern Campeche. Ceramic with cream, red, and black slip, H: 5 3/8 in., D: 5 1/8 in. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of the 2006 Collectors Committee.

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Photo Wednesday: Water delivery

Back soon

Photo Wednesday: The Stone of the Sun

This image of the Aztec calendar wheel — also known as the Stone of the Sun — that was excavated in the Zócalo (main square) in Mexico City comes from Drogdon’s photostream. The basalt stone is about twelve feet in diameter. It is now in the collections of the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

It’s possible that this is a photo of a replica, as it doesn’t look sufficiently aged to be the real stone. (If anyone knows, please leave a comment.)

Maya foods that changed world cuisine

Friday roundup

Photo Wednesday: Hanging plants

Friday roundup

Photo Wednesday: Colorful hammocks

Photo Wednesday: Beach near Tulum

Friday roundup

Guatemala in danger

In an opinion piece in the Global Post, Mark Schneider argues that the Guatemalan state is in danger of collapsing. This is how he begins:

While U.S. attention has rightly been focused on Mexico’s drug wars – with high-profile trips by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before this weekend’s Summit of the Americas – Mexico’s southern neighbor is in far more serious danger of becoming a failed state. Reeling from gangs, corruption and pervasive poverty, Guatemala now faces well-armed, well-financed drug cartels. Click here for more »

A new discovery at El Mirador


A pair of monumental (26-foot) stucco panels have been discovered at the important classic Maya site of El Mirador in the Peten by a team led by Richard Hansen of Idaho State University. The figures in the panels appear to represent the heros twins of the Maya creation myth.

This is clearly an important find. The panels can be dated to the Late Preclassic period, from about 300 BCE to a little after the beginning of the common era.

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Video via MSNBC

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Happy Haab 5125

chajchaay, a maya ball game

Yesterday, Sunday Feb. 22, marked the first day of the Maya year 5125, according to the Maya solar calendar, or haab. The haab is also known as the “vague year,” because it did not adjust for the extra quarter day in the solar year. The Maya were, however, perfectly aware of the discrepancy, which they had calculated more precisely than was the case in Europe’s Julian calendar. Because they had several calendar systems it was not important to them that the haab include such an adjustment.

According to Prensa Latina, over the past couple of decades traditional Maya calendrical celebrations, which had been forced underground by centuries of repression, have become less secretive. The photo (by AFP via Straits Times (of all places, shows  men playing chajchaay, which is described in the caption as “an ancient Maya ball game,” in Guatemala City. It is questionable whether this game has any connection to those played on the ball courts of the classic Maya. Below is one of several YouTube videos showing the game.

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Friday roundup

Landslide death toll rises

The number of dead from a landslide near Aquil Grande in Alta Verapaz in Guatemala has risen to 37; that number does not count an equal number of missing persons. A previous slide had hit the same road on December 14, killing two people, and barricades were put up to keep people away from the danger area. Many of the dead in the second slide were coffee plantations workers who simply went around the roadblocks. Click here for more »

Photo Wednesday: Furniture delivery

Maya playing cards

Friday roundup

Maya multiplication

Viene el dia de los muertos

tom and friend at day of the dead

With Day of the Dead around the corner, Rafael Jesús González’s blog is well worth visiting. He traces the celebration from its ancient roots through the colonial period and into the present.

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Above: Me (right) and a friend, at the 2006 Dia de los Muertos celebration at the Oakland Museum. Tee shirt image by José Guadalupe Posada, photo by Anne Christensen.

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Turtles at Monterrico

Sea turtle project at La Barrona Hatchery, Guatemala

Sea turtles at Monterrico, Guatemala

Black sand beach, Monterrico, Guatemala

black sand beach at monterrico, guatemala

Guatemala’s Pacific coast has some fine black sand beaches, such as this one at Monterrico. The area is not very developed for tourism, which has its advantages as well as some disadvantages. Get there by going to La Avellana and then taking a half-hour boat ride through the mangroves to the beach.

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Shown: detail of a photo from Walter Rodriguez’s photostream.

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Photo Wednesday: Maximon

Wilfredo Lam and Carlos Luna

Wilfredo Lam painting

Wilfredo Lam (1902-19982) was an influential modernist Cuban painter. Among those who acknowledge his influence is the contemporary painter Carlos Luna. While Luna was born in Cuba, his work “deals in part with the duality of Cuban and Mexican heritage,” according to the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) in Long Beach, where a show of the artists’ work is being presented through the end of August. Luna’s work, like Lam’s, is rich in historical and cultural symbolism.

carlos luna, gran mambo

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Above: Wifredo Lam, Untitled, ca. 1947, oil on canvas 49 x 59 ¼ in.
Below: Carlos Luna, El Gran Mambo, 2006, oil on canvas, 144 x 192 in.

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Is that Maximon playing the marimba?