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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.

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.

NEW DATES. Friday Lecture - November 18, 2016, 7:30 PM (Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100e)

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 19, 2016, 12:00 – 5:00 PM (Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6s, the Anthro Lab)

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 
(Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100e)

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 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 (Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100e)

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 (Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6s, the Anthro Lab)

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.


A biographical note: Karl W. Laumbach

Raised on a northeastern New Mexico ranch located between Springer and Cimarron, Karl Laumbach has pursued an archaeological career in southern New Mexico since 1974. A graduate of New Mexico State University, he directed projects for the NMSU contract archaeology program for nine years before joining Human Systems Research, Inc. (HSR) in 1983. After serving as Executive Director of that organization for 10 years, he is now an Associate Director and Principal Investigator for HSR. His research interests are varied, including historical research in his native northeastern New Mexico, the pueblo archaeology of southern New Mexico, and the history and archaeology of the Apache. Fascinated with the history of south central New Mexico, Karl has been involved in recording sites and collecting history of that area for the last 40 years. His interaction with private landowners has been integral in the preservation of numerous archaeological sites. Another major effort has been the Cañada Alamosa Project, a research program that explores the last 4000 years of human occupation and environmental change in the Rio Alamosa drainage of Socorro and Sierra Counties.

Active in public education, Karl has co-authored a curriculum for New Mexico school teachers entitled “Capture the Past”, published by Eastern New Mexico University. Another publication is Hembrillo: An Apache Battlefield of the Victorio War” available through Human Systems Research. Karl was a gubernatorial appointment on the Cultural Properties Review Committee for the State of New Mexico from 1997 to 2003, serving as both vice-chairman and chairman as well as chairman for the archaeological subcommittee. Active in the history of Sierra County, he has been affiliated with the board of directors for the Sierra County Historical Society and Geronimo Springs Museum since 1992.  In January of 2002, he was inducted into the Dona Ana Historical Society’s Hall of Fame “for his outstanding contributions to the history and culture of the Mesilla Valley”. Karl lives and works in Las Cruces, New Mexico with his wife Toni, Chief Curator and Deputy Director of the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum and their son Kristopher.

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 (Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 100e)

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 (Hamline: Giddens Learning Center 6s, the Anthro Lab)


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).