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The Maya Society of Minnesota (MSM) for over 35 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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Upcoming Events

Volume XXXIX, Number 1 - FALL 2016

Program Year 16-17 features an exceptional series of high quality and informative lectures. Our programming is one of the hidden secrets of the metropolitan area. Please join us in exploring Ancient and Modern Mesoamerica with some of its most accomplished scholars and cultural experts.

 *Note: The dates and time for the lectures are tentative. Please check with our website for updates regarding times and locations.

September - Jim Rock, PhD, UMN Duluth Planetarium

Every day those of us who live in the metropolitan area walk through the spritual landscape of the L/Dakota. This will be an opportunity to explore the importance of cultural landscapes, a critical part of ancient and modern indigenous communities throughout the Americas.

Friday lecture - September 23, 2016, 7:30 pm*

Makoche Wanagi: The Spiritual Landscape of the Dakota and the Land of Spirits around Kaposia I/Battle Creek/Mounds Park/Wakan Tipi, Inyan Sha and Bdote

This evening’s lecture (near the Fall Equinox) will prepare us for a visit the following day (please join us!) to the sacred sites mentioned above.  Indigenous Sacred Space-Time is all around us, over and beneath us and within us when we are mitakuyapi (relatives).  As we live and walk with and know our hunkakan (ancestors and their stories) and the land of our hunkakan, the land below deeply reflects and accurately mirrors the spiritual landscape above.   Bdote is where rivers join and in this case it is our Dakota Chekpa or Navel center of the universe.  With contact, this region became the Twin Cities but the Chekpa has always referred to the Navel or to Twins or to the seventh child in birth order.  The seventh direction is the center of the six cosmic directions and their colors just as the Maya worldview with some differences.  We will see that the work described by Karen Bassie-Sweet in Maya Sacred Geography and the Creator Deities (2008) has direct relevance here to caves and water and twins and snakes and thunder and lightning. 

As professors at the University of Minnesota Duluth in the department of Physics and Astronomy and Indigenous Critical Education, Rock has been learning and researching these sites for over 50 years and Gould for 20 years. They recently published an article regarding the feminine spiritual significance of this area, the cave petroglyphs, the geo-astronomical earth-sky connections and the changing constellations over millennia.  We will explain Rock’s co-authored text D(L)akota Star Map Constellation Guide: An Introduction to D(L)akota Star Knoweldge (2014) and also draw upon other related researchers such as David Lee Smith (Hochunk Nation, 1997) and Dennis Slifer’s The Serpent and the Sacred Fire: Fertility Images in Southwest Rock Art (2000) and Lightning in the Andes and MesoAmerica (2013) by Staller and Stross.

Saturday workshop - September 24, 2016, 9:00am –Noon*

Makoce Wakan Akan Mihunkakan ob maunnipi (we walk with the ancestors and origin stories upon sacred ground)

 Please read the Friday lecture information (above) for details of the workshop.  NOTE: We'll meet at the corner of Earl Street and Mounds Blvd at Indian Mounds park


October - Dr. Linda R. Manzanilla, UNAM (Mexico)

Dr. Manzanilla is one of the lead investigators at Teotihuacan. She teaches at UNAM, Mexico’s National University. In addition to being an internationally recognized scholar, she is an excellent lecturer.

Friday Lecture - October 7, 2016, 7:30 pm*

Teotihuacan, an exceptional metropolis of Classic Central Mexico

Teotihuacan was one of the major urban developments in the ancient world, but also constituted an exception in Mesoamerica. During the first six centuries AD, it was a 20 km.2 city, with a strict urban grid, a multiethnic settlement with a corporate organization at the base and summit of this society, and a very dynamic entrepreneurial intermediate elite heading the neighborhoods. This talk will review the major characteristics of this city through my projects in apartment compounds such as Oztoyahualco 15B, neighborhood centers such as Teopancazco, and palatial structures such as Xalla. The talk will stress two main characteristics of this site: craft production at four levels, and the extensive movement of sumptuary goods through corridors of ally sites.


Saturday Workshop - October 8, 2016, 9:00 am – Noon*

An interdisciplinary methodology to unveil Teotihuacan

An interdisciplinary methodology to unveil Teotihuacan: the articulation of archaeologists with osteologists, geophysicists, geologists, biologists, chemists and geneticists. Without an interdisciplinary perspective, it is impossible to find out how people lived in the city of Teotihuacan, from what regions did the migrants come from, what were their activities when living, where did foreign crafts and raw materials come from, what were the changes in this societies through time, what were the major factors involved in the collapse. We will view domestic life before and during the Classic period of Teotihuacan. We will discuss the palace of Xalla: and the ruling elite of Teotihuacan. And finally we will discuss activities of post-Teotihuacan groups in the tunnels around the Pyramid of the Sun.



November - Dr. Marc Zender, Tulane University Professor

This is a can’t miss weekend. Marc is a captivating lecturer, with extraordinary understanding of ancient Maya painting and art.

Friday Lecture - November 4, 2016, 7:30 PM*

The Lord of the Deer: A Lost Maya Myth

Several Classic Maya vases and monuments reference tantalizing fragments of a narrative concerning Huk Sip (the Old Deer God) and his interactions with Juun Ixiim, the Maize God.  Through an analysis of the texts and imagery reflecting this lost myth, as well as careful comparison with some related modern Maya myths, much can be reconstructed of the basic events of the tale, though many mysteries remain. Still unresolved is the extent to which these various fragments reconstruct a single, underlying myth at all, raising questions about many of our reconstructions of ancient Maya mythic narratives.

Saturday Workshop - November 5, 2016, 9:00 AM – 3:00PM*

Classic Maya Mythologies (Workshop Fee $30.00)

Underlying Maya cosmology, history and religion are several key mythological narratives explaining the origins of the world, humanity and civilized/moral behavior.  Classic Maya writing and art provide our most important windows into these narratives, identifying key mythological characters by name, attribute or association.  Occasionally these figures have survived in more or less recognizable form in colonial or modern traditions -- as with the Storm God (Chahk) and the Creator God (Itzamna).  More often they have not, and the sum total of our knowledge of their role in the mythology comes from careful study of the texts and art in which they occur.  Such is the case with K'awiil, Juun Ixiim and God L, complex entities who defy the simple labels of "Lightning God," "Maize God" and "Merchant God of the Underworld."  

Beginning with a review of what is currently known about the major gods, places and events of Maya mythology, this seminar-style workshop focuses on an investigation of what might be termed the "lost gods" of this canon.  Recent discoveries concerning the Principal Bird Deity, the Wind God, and Gods D and N are highlighted.  A secondary but equally important focus stems from questions about the nature of the mythological narratives, particularly with respect to subtle variations in theme and focus in different regions.  Was there ever a unified Maya mythology?


Biographical Note

Marc Zender received his PhD from the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology of the University of Calgary in 2004. He has taught linguistics, epigraphy, and Mesoamerican indigenous languages (e.g., Yucatec Maya, Classical and Modern Nahuatl) at the University of Calgary (2002-2004), Harvard University (2005-2011), and is now an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University, New Orleans (2011-present). Marc’s research interests include anthropological and historical linguistics, comparative writing systems, and archaeological decipherment, with a regional focus on Mesoamerica (particularly Mayan and Nahuatl/Aztec). He is the author of several books and dozens of articles exploring these topics. In addition to his research and writing, Marc is the editor of The PARI Journal, and (with Joel Skidmore) co-maintainer of Mesoweb, a major internet resource for students of Mesoamerican cultures.


December - Gina Miranda, Maya Day Keeper

Editors note: Gina is soft spoken and gentle, with an incredible gift. She has been described as “the ultimate combination of ancient practice and contemporary science, coming together in the modern world”. Her blog is a blend of science and spirituality.

Friday Lecture - December 2, 2016, 7:30 pm*

New approach to Mayan astrology.

Combining the teachings acquired from an old Mayan day keeper 4 decades ago with new information, Gina will present a new view of the Mayan calendar. In this talk we will explore this approach, which could have implications as profound as to change the way we look at our lives. From now on we can look at the Mayan calendar, one of humanity greatest achievements, is more than just a calendar. It is the core of an ancient philosophy and and a way of life that preceded Mayan culture by thousands of years.



February - Karl Laumbach, Principal Investigator, Human Systems Research

Karl’s topic is Elk Ridge, where he spent 40 years trying to save this Mimbres site from the ravages of pot hunters. This is a significant story related to cultural patrimony and ethics.

Friday Lecture - February 24, 2017, 7:30 pm*

The Elk Ridge Story

Digging for “pots” in pueblo sites has been a recreational activity across the American Southwest for more than a century.  During the mid-1970s, commercial “pothunters”, spurred on by a growing art market for all things Southwestern, began the methodical bulldozing of Mimbres Pueblo sites in southwestern New Mexico. By 1989 many of the large Mimbres pueblo sites on private land (and many on public land) had been destroyed.  In an effort to stop this wholesale destruction, a legislative effort enacted a law which made it a 4th degree felony to knowingly disturb a human burial on private land in the State of New Mexico.

 Prior to the spring of 1989, no one knew that a large intact Mimbres Pueblo lay buried under alluvium on the West Fork of the Mimbres River.  For the 90 days before the law took effect, the landowner used heavy equipment to extract as many pots as possible but the sheer depth of the deposits prevented complete destruction. The Elk Ridge Story chronicles those halcyon times and the controversial effort by Human Systems Research to preserve what was left of a previously undocumented and highly significant Mimbres Pueblo.


Saturday Workshop - February 25, 2017, 9:00 am – Noon*

Southwestern Ceramic Workshop with an Emphasis on the Mimbres Mogollon Culture

Toni S. Laumbach and Karl W. Laumbach

On Saturday morning, February 25th, Toni and Karl Laumbach will present a workshop on the technology of ceramics from the American Southwest with an emphasis on the Mimbres Mogollon culture. Toni Laumbach, former Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces, is a recognized authority on the prehistoric ceramics of the American Southwest. Prehistoric ceramics in the Southwest provide a wealth of temporal and spatial information as the styles vary significantly in both time and space. A power point presentation focusing on production technology will be followed by a hands-on opportunity to observe and appreciate the exquisite Mimbres Black-on-white ceramics that have paradoxically contributed to the destruction of far too many Mimbres period archaeological sites.


March - Dr. Karl Taube, University of California, Riverside

Dr Taube is an exceptional scholar of American Mesoamerica, archaeology, epigraphy and ethnohistory. The corpus of his academic work demonstrates brilliance, breadth of inquiry, as well as depth of mastery. Besides that, he is a good speaker.

Lecture: Friday, March 31, 2017, 7:30 pm*

Bloodsport: The Ballgame and Boxing in Ancient Mesoamerica

 One of the most frequently noted aspects of the rubber ballgame in Mesoamerica is the close relation to human sacrifice, especially in terms of decapitation. However, there tends to be little discussion of the underlying motivations and meanings of this ritual act. In this study, I will discuss how human sacrifice and the ballgame relates to agricultural fertility and abundance, including the ritual flooding of ball courts to denote them as deep, watery sources of fertility and growth. I trace this to the early Olmec (ca. 1200-500 b.c.) who offered rubber balls to the sacred spring at El Manatí and portrayed the feline Olmec rain god as a ballplayer. The Olmec also related their feline rain deity to ritual boxing, a very widespread but little studied sport in ancient Mesoamerica. The early Zapotec site of Dainz features many monumental reliefs of ritual boxers wearing jaguar helmet masks, at times with the facial features of Cocijo, their aspect of the rain god. The Zapotec had held stone manoplas, or "stone knuckles" often used in boxing often portray jaguar faces. The boxing complex appears in Classic Maya art, including vessel scenes as remarkable corpus of figures from Luba'antun, Belize. In addition, in recent research, I have found this boxing complex to as far east as the Ulua Valley of Honduras, with clear relations to the major nearby site of Copán. Finally, I will discuss that the tradition of ritual boxing continues to this day in highland Guerrero, where young men dressed as jaguars engage in combat atop mountains, with their falling blood compared to fertile rain.


Saturday workshop - April 1, 2017, 9:00 am - Noon


One of the most striking events known for the pre-Hispanic in Maya is the florescence of the great city of Chichen Itza in northern Yucatan during the time of the Classic Maya collapse. Aside from the grandeur of its monumental architecture and sculpture, Chichen Itza is also renowned for its celebration of foreign, highland Mexican traditions, both in terms of architecture and iconography. Although for many years, the site of Tula, Hidalgo, has been identified as the source of much of the foreign influence, this continues to be a subject of vigorous debate. In this presentation I will readdress this topic with special focus on the iconography of Chichen Itza as well as the presence of foreign, non-Maya texts. It will be noted that although many themes and motifs do indicate substantial contact with Tula, this influence went both ways, with many Maya traits appearing at Tula as well. In addition, recent investigations at the Initial Series Group at Chichen Itza has revealed a remarkable corpus of scenes portraying a duck-billed deity that probably constitutes an Early Postclassic form of the wind god and as such, can be considered as an ancestral form of Ehecatl. Rather than being of Central Mexican origin, this duck billed god can readily traced in southeastern Mesoamerica to the early Maya, the Olmec, and even earlier. Moreover, the Initial Series Group has the most developed monumental program dedicated to the production of cacao in ancient Mesoamerica.



University of St. Thomas Art History is bringing Dr. Joanne Pillsbury in from the Met (and formerly Dumbarton Oaks) on April 28 for their speaker series on Sacred Space.  The title of her talk is "Palace into Temple: Architecture at Chan Chan, Peru." .

Questions? Contact the Maya Society at or 952-542-9851 (Tom Olson), 651-221-4576 (Ed Fleming), 612-963-8857 (Molly Tun).