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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 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!

Friday, April 15th, 2016, Lecture:
“Space Travel and Time Machines among the Highland Maya: Ancient Cosmology in Modern Towns"

Dr. Jerome M. Levi, Professor of Anthropology, Carleton College
7:30 pm, Drew Science 118, Hamline. $5 suggested donation (students and members, free)

Combining ethnographic data collected during fieldwork on the Harvard Chiapas Project in the late 1970s with more recent information gathered since 2006 as director of Carleton College's off campus study program in Guatemala, this presentation examines how ancient Maya cosmology—in particular the 360 day solar calendar or haab (plus the five “lost” or unlucky days), the 260 day ritual calendar or tzolkin, the synchronization of both calendars in a 52 year cycle, and the belief that all time and space comprise dual aspects of a single continuum—is reflected in the oral narratives, expressive culture, and built environments of modern Maya towns in the highlands, specifically in Chichicastenango, Guatemala and Chalchihuitan, Chiapas, Mexico. The paper also critically reflects on the relationship between myth and history, symbol and reality, suggesting that certain myths and metaphors among contemporary Maya offer an important moral allegory: namely, the ambitions and failings of the ancient Maya past communicate an important message regarding the potential shape of our future.

Special display by Robert Tom (Augsburg College) to preceed lecture (6:45 - 7:30 pm):
“Abstract Pottery and Spirituality in Guatemala"

Pottery and Spirituality in Guatemala is designed to engage the creative, imaginative, and technical process to produce, and interpret, a work of ceramic art within an indigenous Mesoamerican culturally inspired context. A significant experiential engagement with artistic, spiritual, and cultural resources in Guatemalan locations will be the subject in the understanding of creating within a spiritual manner. An emphasis will be placed on a variety of ceramic approaches; hand building techniques and concepts, and formal and abstract expressions of ceramic form and function. Students will critically analyze works of art and their spiritual functions produced by historical study and indigenous pottery makers. Students will be involved with a rigorous inquiry into the ways artistic expression can record, discover, and creatively express the truths of human experience.

Pottery and Spirituality in Guatemala will encourage students to reflect upon their own religious/philosophical beliefs and to deepen their appreciation of their own culture and religious values while gaining understanding on the synergetic forces that shape cultures and belief systems.

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