Maya Society of Minnesota

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The Maya Society of Minnesota (MSM) for over 40 years has promoted study of the ancient and modern Maya. Our vision is that people have the opportunity to appreciate the Maya and to celebrate and respect their culture and history. Monthly programs and lectures on the Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures are supported by annual memberships and are open to the public. The society also cooperates with and supports schools and other arts and cultural organizations in community education programs.  The Maya Society of Minnesota adheres to the Society for American Archaeology Principles of Archaeological Ethics.

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The Monkey Scribe OnLine
Upcoming Lectures: Fall 2019 Speakers

October: Dr. Takeshi Inomata, University of Arizona 

Lecture: Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, 7:00 pm
Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 100e
Large ceremonial constructions at the dawn of Maya civilization
Recent investigations in Tabasco have identified the large ceremonial center of Aguada Fénix, dating to 1000-800 BC. Its platform measures 1.4 km in length. This center and other related ceremonial groups in the region were constructed during the transition from mobile lifeways relying heavily on hunting, gathering, and fishing to a sedentary lifestyle with a strong commitment to maize agriculture. These finds indicate the importance of ritual and collective work at the beginning of Maya civilization.

Workshop: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, 9:00 am
Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 6s
LiDAR in Maya archaeology
Many parts of the Maya area are covered by heavy vegetation, making archaeological surveys challenging. LiDAR, a mapping technique using airborne laser scanning, is transforming this situation, leading to the discoveries of new sites and features. I will explain the principles of LiDAR, and its major contributions to Maya archaeology.

November: Julia Miller, Ph.D.

Lecture: Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, 7:00 pm
Hamline University, Drew Science, Room 118
From Ichcanzihó to Merida: Conquest, Collusion, and Conversion
Francisco de Montejo's founding of Merida in the great plaza of Ichcanzihó on January 6, 1542 set in motion centuries of interplay between the Spanish crown, the Catholic church, and the Maya. The earliest plan of the new city defined the spatial racial segregation of the population that would continue to shape the "White City" over the next centuries. However, neither the crown nor the church could hope to develop their new territory without the cooperation of the Maya and other indigenous peoples. In this lecture, I will explore the history of Merida, as reflected in the city plan and the surviving colonial buildings, as the product of the conflicts and coordination between the crown, the church, and the Maya.

Workshop: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, 9:00 am
Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 6s
True When She Tries to Write it Down
Tour guides have a tremendous power to share information to a wide audience of national and international visitors to their region. But, what happens when the tour guide gets creative or gets it wrong? Using stories, discussion, and performance, we will look at tour guides as purveyors of oral history and try to understand how the original written histories are transformed in their voices and, when written down by those who take their tours, become the new truth.

December: Linnea Wren, Travis Nygard, and Kaylee Spencer

Linnea Wren is Professor Emerita of Art History at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN.
Travis Nygard is Associate Professor of Art History at Ripon College in Ripon, WI.
Kaylee Spencer is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Lecture: Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, 7:00 pm
Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 100e

Evening Lecture presented by Linnea Wren, Travis Nygard, and Kaylee Spencer

To Face or to Flee from the Foe: Women in Warfare at Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is famous for its expansive imagery celebrating elite male warriors, priests and rulers. Spread prominently across the site’s architectural surfaces, the imagery extols warfare as a strategy of state power and an individual display of masculine prowess. But women’s lives are also engulfed by war.

Our research focuses on the battle murals of the Upper Temple of the Warriors. In these murals, Women are depicted as both targets and respondents to Itza military violence.   The inclusion of women in the battle murals raise question about Maya warfare in general. Were warfare and conquest exclusively men’s work? What impact did warfare and conquest have on women? What role did women have within a male ideology of warfare and conquest? What response did women take towards the defense of their communities and in resistance to the aggression of Itza invaders? Was violence towards women was an accepted consequence, and perhaps even a strategy, of Maya warfare?

These scenes also raise questions for contemporary audiences. What is the relation between sexual violence and war? When do images not only record, but also normalize violence? How do we confront violence in the distant past and in the present? We suggest that the murals of the Upper Temple of the Jaguars not only enlarge our understanding of war and violence in the ancient Maya past, but also can serve as a catalyst for ongoing dialogue.

Linnea, Travis and Kaylee have published their research, “To Face or to Flee from the Foe: Women in Warfare at Chichen Itza,”  in the volume  Landscapes of the Itza: Archaeology and Art History at Chichen Itza and Neighboring Sites in Yucatan, Mexico, published in 2018 by the University Press of Florida. Landscapes of the Itza, edited by Linnea, Travis and Kaylee together with Cynthia Kristan-Graham, presents the most recent archaeological, epigraphic, and art historical research on Chichen Itza and neighboring sites.

Workshop: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, 9:00 am
Hamline University, Giddens Learning Center, Room 6s
Women of All Repute: Reconstructing the lives, roles, and contributions of Maya Women
The Saturday morning workshop will focus on women as important actors on all levels of Maya society. Women’s contributions to their households encompassed the political, economic, familial and personal spheres. We will look at women’s lives in both elite and commoner social strata. In doing so, we will draw from the interdisciplinary perspectives of archaeology, epigraphy, iconography and ethnographic perspectives. We will also look at the questions that remain in recovering a full understanding of the ancient Maya household and all of its members.

Upcoming Lectures: Spring 2020 Speakers


Dr. Brent Woodfill, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Winthrop University

Lecture: Friday, April 3, 2020, 7:00 pm
War in the Land of True Peace:  The Fight for Maya Sacred Places
For the ancient and modern Maya, the landscape is ruled by powerful entities in the form of geographic features like caves, mountains, springs, and abandoned cities—spirits who must be entreated, through visits and rituals, for permission to plant, harvest, build, or travel their territories. Consequently, such places have served as points of domination and resistance over the millennia. Guatemala’s Northern Transversal Strip has always been a  strategic region with its wealth of resources—fertile soil, petroleum, and the only noncoastal salt in the Maya lowlands, and it is also home to some of the most sacred Maya places. In this talk,   Woodfill delves into archaeology, epigraphy, ethnohistory, and ethnography to explore the biographies of several of these places, covering their histories from the rise of the Preclassic Maya through the spread of transnational corporations in our time, and show how they have continuously served as battlefields between foreign conquerors and local struggles for autonomy.

Workshop: Saturday, April 4, 2020, 9:00 am
Collaborative Research and Community Engagement in Guatemala and Mexico:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 21st Century Maya Archaeology
Archaeologyespecially in the Maya worldis often depicted as a romantic endeavor in which great individuals head into the untamed jungle to make great discoveries.  While this has certainly happened, it is increasingly rare due to several factors.  Guatemala currently has the second-highest population density in the New World, meaning that humans have encroached upon and taken up residence in most of the far-flung corners of the country.  After the brutal civil war in Guatemala and the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, the Maya have been able to take increasing ownership of their patrimony, history, and ancestral places.  Hydroelectric dams, mining operations, African palm plantations, and illicit landing strips are proliferating in the few remaining areas without a strong local presence.  Because of all of these reasons, more archaeologists are working closely with contemporary Maya communities and finding ways to combine archaeology with initiatives that address local interests, be they development, education, or human rights.  In this workshop, Woodfill will lead a frank discussion of the challenges, goals, advantages, and accomplishments of his 20 years of conducting community research in Guatemala and Mexico..

Questions? Contact the Maya Society at or 952-542-9851 (Tom Olson), 651-221-4576 (Ed Fleming).