The Monkey Scribe OnLine: Volume XXXVIII, Number 1 - FALL 2015

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

Friday, November 13, 2015
Lecture: Fire Ceremony, Sacred Memory, and Ritual Revitalization: Remembering Kaloomte K'abel at the Classic Maya City of El Peru-Waka'

Dr. Olivia Navarro-Farr, Assistant Professor, The College of Wooster
7:30 pm, 100E Giddens Learning Center, Hamline. $5 suggested donation (students and members, free).    


Initial archaeological investigations at El Peru-Waka's primary public shrine revealed intense ritual activities performed throughout the site's decline, following the collapse of the city's royal court. Recent investigations focused on understanding the form and function of this edifice in earlier periods. The exposure of the fronting attached platform revealed the re-use of Early and Late Classic sculpted monument fragments adorning its north and south walls. Additionally, excavations on the summit of this platform revealed a complex architectural sequence spanning at least four centuries. The final phase features a U-shaped structure with a fire altar dating to around the 9th or 10th Centuries. Two earlier substructures were also encountered buried within the platform. As the season drew to a close, excavators encountered a vaulted chamber built into the staircase of the earlier of the two substructures housing the remains of a royal individual. This figure was aligned with the Kan Kingdom of Calakmul and has been identified as the historically known ruler Lady K'abel, who ruled at Waka' during the early 7th Century and was central to the Waka' dynasty's political fortunes throughout this period.

Saturday, November 14, 2015
Morning Workshop: Archaeology, Representation, and Preservation: the Ethics and Politics of Conducting Collaborative Archaeology in a Protected Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala and the Cleveland Museum of Art

9 am, 6S Giddens Learning Center (Anthro Lab), Hamline. $10 suggested donation (students free).

This workshop will focus on the multiple networks and levels of political and social collaboration with which the El Peru-Waka' Regional Archaeological Project (EPWRAP) continues to engage. Part of our discussion will focus on the complications of these relationships, the ethics of collaboration with local communities both indigenous and Ladino, and what is at stake for communities, ecologies, cultural resources, and the future of how these sectors continue to be integrated within the aegis of Guatemala's political, economic, and national institutions. The project also in the initial stages of collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA). Specifically, I will talk about how I am working with the CMA on a digital web app that museum visitors can click on to see an interactive interview with me on the excavation of Burial 61 (that we believe to house Lady K'abel) whose portrait is featured on the CMA's centerpiece of the Mesoamerican collection, Stela 34 of El Peru -Waka'. The recorded interview features selected photos displaying the process of excavation. The hope for this collaboration is that by providing the archaeological context that speaks to one of the CMA's most famous pieces, viewers will have a better appreciation of this historical figure and of the importance of archaeological context for revealing heretofore unknown information that is otherwise lost to looting.


Volume XXXVIII, Number 2 - WINTER/SPRING 2015

Friday, December 4th, 2015
Lecture: The Spatial Distribution of the Mexica knife in Postclassic Mesoamerica

Tim Guyah
7:30 pm, Drew Science 118, Hamline. $5 suggested donation (students and members, free).

Mexica knives are defined as large, thin, bifacially chipped, longitudinally asymmetrical knives with a short pointy base and a large leaf-shaped blade with (usually) convex edges. This artifact designation comes from the ancestral name of the Aztec because its distinct morphology is hardly present in Mesoamerica prior to the Mexica emigration into the valley of Mexico; furthermore, these knives are abundantly found in ceremonial contexts associated with the Postclassic Mexica and Aztec. As far as I have researched, Mexica knives were not duplicated by any other culture in Postclassic Mesoamerican prehistory except the contemporaneous Maya. Since the Mexica knife is a key part of the Mexica creation lore and it remains a dominant theme in Aztec culture and religion, then it is reasoned that splinter groups of the Aztec/Mexica continued to practice their religion and thus produced Mexica knives when occupying foreign territories. Conversely, Aztec/Mexica-influenced cultures may have produced Mexica knives in some capacity. The Mexica knife has a wide geographic distribution in Mesoamerica, ranging from the Basin of Mexico to the Yucatan and Guatemala.

Friday January 22nd, 2016
Lecture: Transculturation in the Andean Arts of Peru: The Empowerment of Cultural Identity in the Peasant Community of Sarhua

Dr. Olga González, Associate Professor, Macelester College
7:30 pm, 100E Giddens Learning Center, Hamline. $5 suggested donation (students and members, free)

Indigenous groups in Peru have used popular art extensively to assert their Andean cultural identity. The artwork of the Asociación de Artistas Populares de Sarhua (ADAPS) is a compelling example of how art has been employed to revalorize and preserve Andean culture. Interestingly, to give continuity to Andean culture the artists purposefully transformed their style of painting to appeal to and educate a Western audience. Inspired by the so called “traditional tablas pintadas,” paintings portraying family genealogies, the artists created the “modern tablas pintadas” that depict the customs, traditions and historical events of the peasant community of Sarhua. In this presentation, I will discuss the development of these Sarhuino tablas pintadas to show the extent to which the experience of transculturation in which marginal groups appropriate and reshape materials and forms belonging to the dominant culture has been crucial to the ADAPS’ artistic project for pedagogical and political purposes.

February 19, 2016
Lecture: Culinary Treasures of Mesoamerica

Amalia Moreno-Damgaard
7:30 pm, 100E Giddens Learning Center, Hamline. $5 suggested donation (students and members, free)

During this lecture, Amalia Moreno-Damgaard explores the area of Mesoamerica from a native and culinary angle. Numerous papers and books have been written and published from an anthropology and archeology perspective, but few about the food culture of this important region. By connecting ancient history to present day, Amalia discusses important developments that have shaped the culinary scene through time and the foods that are a part of it. To link her teachings to modern times, Amalia shares her experience, techniques, and personal anecdotes connected to the contemporary Mesoamerican kitchen paired with delicious samples of traditional cuisine followed by Amalia’s Guatemalan Kitchen-Gourmet Cuisine With A Cultural Flair book signing.

Friday, March 18th, 2016, Lecture:
“Stone-Age Agriculture in the Neotropics: How the Ancient Maya Fed the Multitudes”

Dr. David Lentz, Professor, UC Center for Field Studies
7:30 pm, Drew Science 118, Hamline. $5 suggested donation (students and members, free)

How the ancient Maya managed to feed so many people with a stone-age technological base has been the topic of debate among Mayanists for decades if not centuries. The possibility of long-fallow swidden agriculture, as practiced among many Maya groups today, has been suggested as the agricultural basis for the ancient Maya. Recent studies at Tikal, Ceren, Chan, Aguateca and other centers, however, have shown that land use practices of the ancient Maya were far more complex than previously known. This discussion will touch upon the various food production techniques employed as well as methods for sustaining soil fertility and erosion control. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016
Morning Workshop: Maya Ethnobotany: A Hands-On Approach to Indigenous Food and Medicine

9 am, 6S Giddens Learning Center (Anthro Lab), Hamline. $10 suggested donation (students free).

This workshop is designed to introduce the wide variety of Maya foods and medicinal plants to workshop attendees. Participants will not only get to observe slides and hear stories of Maya farmers and curanderos, but they will also get to feel, smell and, most importantly, taste the food of this exciting culture. Medicinal plants also will be discussed, shared and touched. Come share the flavors, aromas and fragrances of Mesoamerica!

Questions? Contact the Maya Society at or 952-542-9851 (Tom Olson).