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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

Come to our silent auction on March 31 starting at 6:00 pm before the Friday night lecture (in the Giddens Learning Center Atrium of Hamline)!--all proceeds will go towards Maya Society programming and events!  (Due to campus restrictions there will NOT be a potluck.  We apologize for this change).  We will also hold an open board meeting at 7:00 pm this evening.  Please contact if you would like more information or have items of interest to donate.


Volume XXXIX, Number 2 - WINTER/SPRING 2017

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.

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.


April- Dr. Joanne Pillsbury, Andrall E Pearson Curator of Ancient American Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Joanne Pillsbury is the Pearson Curator of Ancient American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Previously associate director of the Getty Research Institute, and prior to that, director of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, she has also taught at the University of Maryland and the University of East Anglia. She has been the editor, co-editor, or author of numerous books and articles on ancient American art and architecture, and the history of archaeology and collecting.


Lecture: Friday, April 28, 2017, 6:00 pm (University of St. Thomas: O'Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium) 

Palace into Temple: Architecture at Chan Chan, Peru 

The city of Chan Chan, located on Peru’s north coast, was one of the largest pre-Hispanic cities in the New World. Capital of the empire of Chimor, it was the seat of one of the largest and most complex states of the Andean region prior to the rise of the Inca in the fifteenth century. At the core of the city are ten monumental structures richly ornamented with adobe reliefs. The study of these compounds presents us with distinct challenges, but also great opportunities for examining how some of the most spectacular buildings of the ancient Americas were conceived of and used over time.

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