The Classic Maya made a critical distinction between the ordinary daily movement of humans and sacred, formal movement. Stephen D. Houston examines a rich inventory of glyphic references, imagery, and formal routes to show how linear movement formed the essence of sacred and marked motion among the Maya.
Stephen D. Houston, Dupee Family Professor of Social Science and Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Brown University
The Tatiana Proskouriakoff Award Lecture 2013 was presented by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University on October 3, 2013.
[00:00:10.17] Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Jeffrey Quilter, director of the Peabody Museum. Thank you for coming. Welcome to the Harvard Museum, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Tonight, I'm delighted to present the Tatiana Proskouriakoff Award lecture.
[00:00:27.22] But before we get to it, I'd like to make a few announcements. First of all, please join us if you can this Saturday, October 5 for a special event organized by the Peabody Museum and the Semitic Museum, Amazing Archaeology at Harvard. This is a family friendly event with lots of cool activities for all ages, including a 3D immersive tour of the pyramids and tombs of Giza, conversations with archaeologists about their recent finds or lack thereof, and opportunities to sketch real Maya glyphs. Next Wednesday night, we are very happy to be partnering with the Harvard University Native American Program to bring to campus Kevin Gover, the director of the National Museum of the American Indian. Dr. Gover will talk about changing the narrative, American Indians and American cultural myth. That'll be right here next Wednesday night.
[00:01:23.78] For a complete list of Peabody Museum fall programs and all four museums that are now make up the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, please stop by the table to the right, and also please join the PM's email list to get regular updates on events and happenings at the museum. Finally, following tonight's talk, we invite you to join us all for a reception on the third floor galleries of the Peabody. You can get there by the stairs directly around the corner or the elevator outside that door. You can see the exhibits and meet our speaker.
[00:01:58.29] Now, to introduce tonight's speaker, I'd like to introduce Professor William Fash, who is going to introduce our speaker. Professor Fash is the Charles P. Babbage professor of Central American and Mexican archaeology and ethnology, my predecessor as director of the Peabody Museum, an appointment he held for eight years. He, along with his wife, Barbara, are the foremost scholars of the Copan region of Honduras and the Copan site, where they've worked for many years, and experts in Maya archaeology, as well as tonight's speaker. He has been awarded the highest civilian honor of the government of Honduras, the Order of Jose Cecelio del Valle. Also in 2008, he was given the Hoja de Laurel de Oro by the government of Honduras for 30 plus years of, quote, "preserving and documenting Honduras' cultural heritage."
[00:02:48.85] Would you please welcome Professor Fash, who will introduce tonight's speaker? Thank you.
[00:03:05.38] Hello, everybody, and welcome. So tonight, we're going to be treated to a very special presentation by a terrific speaker and scholar and a good friend. But first a little background on the Tatiana Proskouriakoff Award. So back in 1958, an internationally renowned scholar of Mesoamerican studies, Tania Proskouriakoff, as she was known to friends, came to the Peabody Museum via the Carnegie Institution of Washington as an expert in art, architecture, and, eventually but most importantly, hieroglyphic writing. Her research became the foundation for the decipherment of the Maya writing system and historiography, and her studies to the Maya and Vera Cruz art styles are considered classics among art historians and archaeologists alike.
[00:03:55.32] The Proskouriakoff Award was established at Peabody Museum by a gift from Landon Clay to recognize the artistic achievements of non-European cultures of the New World, along with outstanding contributions in the field of Mesoamerican archaeology, epigraphy, and art. Past recipients of the award is a virtual who's who of Mayanists, including Michael Coe, Steve's mentor at Yale; Floyd Lounsbury, another of Steve's mentors; Peter Mathews,Schele one of his colleagues at Yale; Linda Schele; David Kelley; Vicki Bricker; Alfonso Lacadena; and, of course, David Stuart.
[00:04:36.30] So to introduce Professor Houston, over the past decade plus, he has spoken in a number of conferences here at the Peabody Museum that the Director of the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Barbara Fash, and I have organized on the topics of ancient Maya writing and on Maya archaeology, which shouldn't be too surprising, because Professor Houston has been asked to speak at virtually every conference on ancient Maya writing and Maya archaeology that was worth attending.
[00:05:06.35] Steve Houston is quite simply the most prolific Maya scholar of his generation, producing on his own or with his many colleagues 20 books, dozens of journal articles, book and encyclopedia chapters, technical reports, and professional papers, more than most people produce in an entire lifetime of scholarship. Yet, somehow, he manages to also serve on many professional boards and associations and still answers almost every email I've ever sent him within a few minutes. Unbelievable. Actually, almost disgusting.
[00:05:42.25] He's a sage and a sophisticated colleague and a friend to all fair minded scholars. Now the Dupee Family Professor of Social Science at Brown University, where he's been a full professor since '04, Dr. Houston previously served as the Jesse Knight University Professor at Brigham Young University and started his teaching career at Vanderbilt in '87, the year he obtained his PhD With distinction from Yale. And while at Vanderbilt, Steve co-founded and co-edited a new journal, "Ancient Mesoamerica," which has flourished to this day and takes top honors as the best of a genre in the very large field of Mesoamerican archaeology. Well at Vanderbilt, Steve followed up on his PhD thesis on the inscriptions of the late classic Maya site of Dos Pilas and others in the [INAUDIBLE] region of Western Guatemala, publishing two books on the topic before turning his attentions and his formidable grant writing skills to the famous site of Piedras Negras, very important from the pen perspective and for the perspective of the decipherment of writing.
[00:06:50.54] Steve's work of interdigitating the hieroglyphic record with the more traditional archaeological pursuits of excavations, mapping, and survey has revealed many worlds of knowledge and history at PM that had been lost for quite awhile. This concerted critical comparison and self corrective feedback between historical record and the archaeological evidence is one that Steve has mastered to an extraordinary degree. Most recently, he's been putting those skills to work at the ruins of El Zotz in the Peten region of Guatemala. He's trained some superb students and co-directors of many nationalities over the years, so his contributions will live on through the work of younger scholars for decades to come. With Dan Finamore of the Peabody Essex Museum-- not this Peabody, the Peabody Essex-- he conceived and crafted the superb catalog and installation on the "Fiery Pool: Maritime Worlds of Ancient Maya."
[00:07:48.20] For all these contributions, and others too numerous to mention, Steve was rightly awarded a MacArthur Prize Fellowship in 2008, which he's put to great good use in his many ongoing research projects. In 2011, he was awarded the Order of the Quetzal in Guatemala, the highest honor bestowed by that country. And he's won a half dozen prestigious fellowships over the years, including a Guggenheim, an NEH, Dumbarton Oaks, and most recently a Clark fellowship at Clark University right down the road at Worcester.
[00:08:22.39] In closing, it should be said that one of the most compelling things about Steve's work is that it provides us with insight on the ways the Maya viewed and experienced their world. Two of my own favorite titles of his in this regard are "Veiled Brightness: A History of Ancient Maya Color" and "An Archaeology of the Senses: Perception and Cultural Expression in Ancient Mesoamerica." Tonight's talk promises to be some of the very same kind of work. It's always an honor and a pleasure-- great pleasure-- to have him speak here at the Peabody, so please welcome our favorite Swedish epigrapher and archaeologist, Steve Houston.
[00:09:14.78] Well, thanks so much for that introduction. And it is truly an honor to be here in celebration of Tatiana Proskouriakoff's memory and her long record of accomplishment and also to be among the best colleagues I have in my studies and also in pre-Columbian studies. Many of you are here in the audience tonight.
[00:09:31.97] Now, my connection with Tatiana Proskouriakoff is not necessarily a personal one.
[00:09:37.60] This does not seem to be advancing at all. Techy help? Techy people? Yeah. Where is our guy? The guy who does that thing. There went my momentum. OK. OK, it's not advancing. Thank you. So I can continue now? OK, great.
[00:10:08.50] My connection with Proskouriakoff is not a personal one. I never met her. I've heard lots of stories about her. I have visited the office that she frequented up in the very corner of this building. And she was, of course, we all know, a formidable intellect who had focused much of her career or at least some of it-- the crucial parts, I think, many of us feel-- at Piedas Negras, and you can see here her extraordinary rendering and watercolor of the Acropolis at that site.
[00:10:34.28] It's not working again. OK. OK, apparently, I have to click the mouse first and then advance, is that it? OK, we're going to go with it and do this thing, get through this.
[00:10:48.94] Now, Proskouriakoff is depicted here in the Acropolis at Piedas Negras, and you can see that she's busy measuring. And that happens to be a place where I am now standing, approximately 60 years later, pawing the stone, doing god knows what here during my own project in the late '90s. Proskouriakoff was, as you know, someone who saw architecture through the vision of a trained architect, which she surely was, and was able to reconstruct the shape, the form, to some extent the experience of entering, for instance, in the Royal Sweat Bath here, structure P7, at Piedas Negras. This also happened to be a building that I helped to reconstruct and consolidate with colleagues, and you can see it here in 2000. I'm afraid it doesn't quite look like that anymore. It's completely enveloped in jungle.
[00:11:39.22] And then this is probably something that cannot be said by any other Proskouriakoff laureates. They probably did not bury her, as I did. You see me here in 1998. I'd been asked by Ian Graham of this institution to take her ashes to the site, and there, we had a very moving ceremony, a secular one, in a sense. We weren't invoking Chaac or the gods of the Maya world, but we did inter her in the highest point of the Acropolis, where she had focused her attentions before. And I also had commissioned a plaque out of marble. The first version had hieroglyphs upside down, which bothered us no end. It was set back with a scolding note to the grave cutter in Guatemala City. They got it right.
[00:12:19.40] Now, at this juncture, I'm going to give you a little feeling for why I'm focusing on the topic that I am. I'm going to be looking in particular at what I call formal movement. What better instance of this, what better illustration, than the great Jagannath, otherwise known as the juggernaut, a word many of us have, perhaps, used in conversation, that is connected with important Hindu centers in southern India. It involves great carriages that move around. Apparently if you're particularly pious, you'll throw yourself under its wheels. And here you could see another view of this, a watercolor done in the 19th century, of this immensely spectacular ceremony of Hindu faith.
[00:13:01.87] Now formal movement, to bring this conversation a little bit closer to home, is one that we're all aware of. For instance, here, you're looking at Charles Lindbergh-- Lindy himself, probably thinking Nazi thoughts or whatever he was up to at the time-- isolationism-- and he is on his way down, I believe, probably Fifth Avenue in a ticker tape parade. Now, for another kind of view of formal movement, there is-- what else?-- Lenin's tomb and these goosestepping, of course, Russian soldiers who were guarding it there in the Red Square.
[00:13:34.42] If we bring this theme even closer back to home, many of us have, of course, been to Antigua, particularly during Semana Santa, and we've seen the extraordinary ceremonies that go on there. It is not, though, only a Ladino concern, one only of people in the most Catholic of all Catholic cities in the New World. It is also intensely a Maya concern. And here, we're looking at [INAUDIBLE] Maya, who are in the middle of a ceremony that is ostensibly Christian and Catholic, but in many ways has different properties.
[00:14:02.49] Taking it very far, indeed, from a Christian matrix, we can come to the ceremony of Maximon in Santiago Atitlan, in which this booze guzzling and stogie smoking being is taking a walk here with his supporters. A lot of fascinating things going on.
[00:14:20.03] Now, how are we to conceptualize this intellectually, this idea of movement and of the invocations of the supernatural? The way I think we might do it is to bring it into a more familiar context, which would be to look, of course, here at the passion of Christ. He's on the via crucis. He's on his way here in this painting from the late medieval period.
[00:14:38.83] And I think the way to understand it is in terms of a very similar kind of movement that still takes place on a yearly basis in Palestine and Israel and the Holy Land in Jerusalem, in which people bear the same cross supported by Christ. However, something is going on here that's really quite intriguing. Clearly, the people in the lower right hand corner, as opposed to the upper left, are at a very different time. Clearly, they're very different sorts of personages, one being to Christian belief and instantiation of God. The other, simply, those are the faithful, who, in this passionate act, are going to be bearing the same burden as their Lord.
[00:15:17.70] But at same time, they're sharing a similar kind of procession. They're going over the same spaces. So inherently, we are creating here a kind of paradox of things that are like, things that are unlike, of people that are like one another and yet fundamentally, essentially, you might say ontologically, entirely distinct.
[00:15:37.29] But what is the exemplar? What is the priority here? It's not the person doing this on a yearly basis in Jerusalem. It's Christ himself. That's right. We've got a little trick here to do. In other words, the priority here is the original model. It's what I will call the exemplar. It's Christ's movement. That is the formal procession.
[00:15:56.51] Now, another way of understanding these kinds of linkages between the sacred and the secular, so to speak, is to look at the work of someone that many of you have probably read, Mircea Eliade, the great Romanian scholar who worked for years at the University of Chicago. And he felt that, in some ways, we all live in a world that's infused with a kind of, as he described it, a transcendent reality, in which we exist in two different planes simultaneously, of being both in this world but also in a different time, both within a quotidian or daily life and within a sacred framework, as well.
[00:16:28.15] There are many people, too, that I think rightly criticize Eliade. His books could be exhilarating, typically in the 1950s when they were first perused with ardor, but there's no doubt at all that he engaged in generalization in which-- over generalization, you might say, in which very, very complex, historically rooted ideas, embedded in local situations, are, in fact, of a very different sort. We now know that some of the myths and themes that he described might be broadly held to exist among the Maya, particularly in this linkage and fusion of divine and you might say everyday existence. But there's also always local practice. There's local meaning, and, ultimately, there's the play. There's a kind of witticism going on.
[00:17:11.38] The setting for all of my talk to come is, of course, this area. It's the Yucatan Peninsula, where many of us have spent a good deal of our years, and on the area in particular that we call the southern lowlands and adjacent areas where illiterate civilization that was studied by Tatiana Proskouriakoff so brilliantly is now letting us know a great deal about what they thought.
[00:17:32.74] Let me bring me back to these-- let's bring all of us back to these related concepts, the touch on Eliade, the touch on the via crucis of Christ. And the related concepts I wish to discuss are ones that I've labeled concurrence. And it's a particularly salient, important theme for the classic Maya, because it involves the same fusion of identity, the same set of paradoxes, in which you could have a ruler who might also concurrently impersonate a god. He might take on the guise of the god. He might act the role of the god.
[00:18:04.86] He might become the god, a vessel for its spiritual essence. We see this laid out explicitly in this particular slab. We don't know exactly where it's from, but the close up of the text nearby reads ubaah ahn ahn, according to one particular rendering of the glyphs. And what this means, quite literally, is probably that that individual is impersonating the being of a deity. What is the name of that deity? He was called anciently bolon yokte' k'uh And the Maya are spelling this out for us.
[00:18:34.30] But think again of what I was saying to you before about this notion of an exemplar, the divine sort, and then replications of it that would be brought to physical and material form through the body of an individual. There is never and absolute parity between the exemplar and what comes afterwards, always the exemplar, the first divine example, you might say. The first divine template or model has the priority. It is greater than.
[00:19:01.00] Now, this does not only apply to dance or the way in which it was celebrated in these sculptures that I've just showed you. It also applies to objects that occupied the courtly world of the classic Maya. We might also call this concurrent possession. This is a roll out by the great photographer Justin Kerr, which shows a pot. It's describing the owner of the pot. The name of that owner is shown here. He's an historical person, probably from the southern part of the Maya lowlands.
[00:19:31.00] And then, intriguingly, the glyphs also provide us with a second owner, and this owner is not a flesh and blood being, as we would understand it. It is none other than the sun god. In other words, there's a concurrence, both of dance, of people dressed in certain kinds of costumes and regalia, but also it is in literally the possession of the material world.
[00:19:53.55] And so again, the sun god is not going to be equivalent to this princeling of a royal house. There's going to be a lack of parity. The sun god is going to be more important. He is given relevance.
[00:20:04.00] Now, let's get to the subject of movement, which is the main theme of this Proskouriakoff lecture. We can think of movement in two different ways. There would be the movement of humans, who are shown here schematically within that red circle. Then there'd be the movement of a god. That's within the yellow circle. I'm designating these respectively A and B.
[00:20:25.63] Now, imagine, if you will, not only dance or the possession of a pot, but movement itself of a formal sort in which the fusion of those two identities has come together and been affected in a consummate way. And then they move across while in that fused state across the landscape. And it's a movement that not only involves the moving of feet, the shuffling of feet, dancing. It also involves weigh stations. It involves a beginning. It involves an end, what might be described as termini. This is how I would distinguish the kinds of movements I'll be discussing tonight from dance itself.
[00:21:01.53] Let's look at a Maya example of this. This is, of course, from the highlands of Guatemala, for those who know this sculpture. It's now in the National Museum in Guatemala City. It's from the site of Kaminaljuyu where I excavated over several years. I helped fund the dig there and helped direct an excavation. And we see here a royal figure who appears to be in the act of movement. But if you look very, very carefully, too, at the mask, you'll see embedded within what is very clearly the head of a god, a human face with lips and eyes. In other words, it is a monument that is not just extolling the identity of this god or this ruler. It is celebrating the fusion between those two. And it also shows them in the act of movement.
[00:21:49.85] How do we go about understanding formal movement among the classic Maya? As you see here in another roll out by Justin Kerr, formal movement could be somewhat informal in the sense of this lady taking a walk along the banks, the shores of Lake Atitlan in the Highlands. It's a daily act. It's something that would go on all the time. But I think it necessarily has to be distinguished from what might be described as a more formal kind of motion or locomotion, as in these fire walking Chamulans who are Tzotzil speakers in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico.
[00:22:24.44] This emphasis in the art and in the representation and in the glyphs on formal movement goes way back, well beyond the Maya, in fact, to what many of us call, I think rightly, the mother civilization of middle America. It's one that's very complex in complexion. It has a lot of uncertainty about what sorts of governance might be actually involved, what sorts of interactions constituted this grouping. But we do know that they had a consistent art style.
[00:22:52.18] And this has been pointed out to me by Karl Taube, a good friend of mine, as we were discussing this matter. Many of the greatest Olmec sculptures actually show walking, such as this example from La Venta such as in this example recently excavated at the sight of Ojo de Agua. It's a miniature stela. These are both gods and also humans.
[00:23:10.49] There's an example, too, known from Edwin Shook They often occur incidentally at zones well beyond the Olmec heartland, at zones where there might be more general movement from one area to the other. Something is being stated by these means.
[00:23:22.74] And there's the final example, which is an early stele that comes from Guererro in Mexico, which similarly shows a person walking, perhaps impersonating, a deity, but certainly in the act of motion. Formal movement is also rooted in the origins of all things and in ethnic origins, as well, the genesis of groups such as the Aztec, who were thought and are recorded here in the Codex Boturini dating to just a few short years after the Spanish conquest of central Mexico, which describes the emergence of the Aztec forebearers around a place called Aztlan from seven caves. They eventually move on with their god in tow and beyond.
[00:24:00.40] Now, the first way, I think, of understanding and of examining formal movement in the Maya is with our eyes, eyes that will eventually be informed and conditioned by our epigraphic or glyphic understanding. And this was Proskouriakoff's brilliance, I think, in bringing together the two. And what I'm going to do at this point is simply show you, demonstrate a number of examples of what were clearly instances of formal movement among the Maya.
[00:24:25.94] Some of the most revealing instances of all come from graffiti because they tend to be rather spontaneous productions in which someone has simply sat there, not under official authority. They've doubtless not been encouraged to do this, and sometimes the scenes themselves have an immediacy and a freshness that give us a-- dare I say it-- a snapshot quality what this movement might have been like.
[00:24:45.26] In this complex scene from Nakum in northern Guatemala, you can see the ground line, which helps to situate people in two dimensional space, in this case. And on it are a variety of figures. There is a warrior. There are captives. And there are people down below that seem to be involved in all sorts of other kinds of formal performances. But the ground line is what establishes the sense of movement, the sense of termini, moving across with the palaces and, in this instance, this case, the pyramids in the background.
[00:25:16.93] Now, we turn to another example graffiti now from Yaxha. What you will see is something that is also equally striking in this respect, because what it designates, what it shows for us are a series of parasols down on the bottom here, but also people moving alongside of them. The parasols, incidentally, probably correlate with a particular Maya title, called the lakam, for those who care about these glyphic minutiae.
[00:25:42.59] Now, what is going on here, too, is a setting that is courtly. I would insist-- Bill would insist through his own lengthy and superb researches with Barb Fash in Copan-- that the center of this world, at least in this urban context, were royal courts that would be centrally located centripetally around the person of a king and then his family and his courtiers, which could include presumably slaves, but also dwarves and a variety of other sorts of people.
[00:26:11.51] In this, there'd be many kinds of courtly accomplishments. There could be dance, but there could also be music. The music itself is laid out in yet another of these graffiti that I'm looking at now, also from Yaxha, in which we have a kind of fixed procession. And I do believe that these are probably laid out explicitly by the Maya, just as Mary Miller and others have found that Maya orchestras had the same kind of deliberate positioning as you might see in a modern orchestra. They thought these things very carefully. They were clearly aware of acoustics and the play of such things.
[00:26:42.07] Again, there's the ground line, but also now it's divided through a series of figures who are moving along it. In the front are smaller people, much smaller. It's almost observing that Egyptian convention of individuals whose size is proportional to their social status. And behind it is another figure, perhaps holding up a book, perhaps holding a conch. It's a little unclear. We certainly don't observe the formal conventions of canonical Maya art. And then you have someone holding a large staff. And then finally, in his full plumage, is clearly a Maya king, perhaps impersonating a god. And then other beings come behind them, including the parasol bearers, who have clutched these things from the surface in which they're found. And then at the very end, you have the trumpeter. It's all laid out. It's probably specified by protocol at the court, and they're all, of course, moving in one direction, going from one place to another in termini that cannot be easily reconstructed. But we do know it was a sonorous movement. It was full of sound. We know that it was organized. We know that it ultimately was propulsive. It moved in one direction.
[00:27:44.46] Now, that is one way of looking at it. That's the first approach, which is iconographic. The second approach, which I'm going to be focusing on, is that of the glyphs that so interested Proskouriakoff. And we're so blessed that she was able to make her breakthroughs, because we would not simply be here today and doing the kinds of things we're doing without her.
[00:28:02.73] The glyphs have a lot to say about formal movement. And what they do, also, is emphasize that tension, that paradox, but ultimately the marriage of this linkage between divine presences and those of lords, between the dynastic and the non-human or the inhuman. The way to understand this, in my opinion, is in terms of directionality. And I'm simply not imposing here on the evidence. I believe this precipitates out of the data themselves.
[00:28:33.37] Some movement is horizontal. The other movement, which they seem categorically to distinguish from that horizontal movement, is vertical. Now, along a gradient-- again, in terms of termini, where you begin and where you end-- the Maya speak first about leaving. In the glyphs, then, they speak about going and then resting and then arriving. We all want to arrive, don't we? And then eventually, they return. They go, and they come, hither and yon and back again. We're not going to be discussing returning tonight because we don't have time, nor do you probably have the patience. I could go on for hours and hours about this subject, as my wife knows through utter fatigue.
[00:29:14.81] Now, moving up. Let's talk about that first. We're not going to talk about moving down, as you recall. Perhaps another time, perhaps over a beer. First a horizontality. The first glyph to examine is that of tali, which means to come from a place. You're not just coming. You're coming from a terminus. As you move forward, there is an expression of going away. This is the quintessence of movement, bixiin probably in Maya. Some controversy about how to pronounce the very end of that word, which I don't need to get into today. And there's alongside of it another notion of movement, which is one that I've studied and deciphered, ahni, which means to run, to hurry, perhaps even to arrive, ultimately, with dispatch.
[00:30:00.49] You can rest along the way. You rest your weary dogs, your tz'i' as the Maya would put it. And then ultimately, hopefully, at the end, you huli, you arrive at a location after coming from it.
[00:30:11.80] Now, let's look at the first test case. Let's examine each one of these in details as we pass through horizontal movement. The first, as I indicated before, is going to address the subject of tali, of coming from. And this is a great drawing from Alex Tokovinine, an old friend and-- I could call him a mentee, I suppose, sort of. And he is now here at Harvard, teaching very important classes that I hope many of you are taking.
[00:30:38.09] Now, what occurs in the context in connection with the tali expression has to be understood actually through a different kind of prism, which would be looking at royal names. Now, Dave Stuart and I discovered, back in the 1990s, that most Maya royal names are, in fact, describing particular moments of movement, of transformation, of flux, of fluxion, of dynamism within the identity of a particular deity.
[00:31:04.70] And then the lord as his principle regnal name, as a name he would take on exceeding the throne, will adopt that aspect of the god. But again, it's almost a paradoxical kind of concept because it's a deity in fluxion It's not the full totality of a god. It's simply one part of it.
[00:31:22.21] Now, tali happens to be employed as a theonym, or a godly , name, in a number of different cases. This is one in particular is on a pot at Dumbarton Oaks. And what it does is it reads, tali ha' k'in chahk. It probably has another element in there. Alex and I had this discussion before, but we're not entirely sure what's going on. While is it to be translated, this name of the king. When you would talk to him in formal address, you would say, he is the rain god who comes from the watery sun, or the water sun, or the rain god who comes from the water sun. What is that location? It probably is the Caribbean. It's probably a term that they employed for this, because, as you well know, that is where the sun will rise and where the classic Maya knew the sun would rise on the eastern horizon, as you see here at dawn in Belize.
[00:32:15.37] Now, let's talk about more dynastic settings for tali, for coming from a place. This is a well known monument, not studied directly by me, but I'm reporting on insightful work by others, such as Dave Stuart and the like and Linda Schele. There seems to be good reason to think that the first lord of Copan-- he might come from a site like Caracol as some people are arguing, but it was singuarly important for him to seek validation for his accession, his ascension at the office by going to yet a more important capital called Teotihuacan in Mexico, which he did, apparently, in AD 428.
[00:32:52.61] He leaves from that place, and then he doesn't so much rest, but probably at a god effigy he's taking along, very similar to the god effigies brought along with them by the Aztecs in the original movement, will take a rest. They're going to rest their dogs as they did in 427. It's a long, long trip from there, over 1,000 kilometers. And eventually what happens is he arrives back at the place where he began, at Copan itself.
[00:33:19.35] So what has happened here? Something distant has become validating. Something exotic has become a kind of warrant for the undergirding of royal authority at this site. And this is not a new observation, but I'm simply repeating it because it's relevant. I do find it interesting that when you scrape through Mayan language today-- hopefully you can do it in context, sometimes not-- this idea of tal or coming from a place, actually becomes central to the notion of identity of who you are, of what your character might be. What your density might be is framed in terms of movement and in terms of that particular kind of movement.
[00:33:53.19] The second test case I wanted to examine tonight is of going away or moving in active, active propulsion. bixiin possibly. This begins, too, in a rather exotic and non-daily fashion in that the expression where we first deciphered this-- Dave Stuart did many years ago when he was, I don't know, 11, 12 years of age, barely out of diapers-- wonderful guy-- and he read this particular glyph which I'd been officially reading in a different way. I'm embarrassed to say it. And he understood that it meant-- and it meant to indicate that five days have passed. So it would be jo' bixiiy
[00:34:36.33] And what is referring to this concept of bix of movement, is actually in terms of a celestial framework. It's of diurnal passage of the sun. Now, this is where it gets dynastic, where one frame begins to fuse with another, because we've also discovered, particularly on this panel at the site of Altar de Sacrificios, a site that I've long been interested in, that, when they refer here to the death of a particular king, in a separate context, they say that he simply went. It's a kind of euphemism, perhaps, but it does indicate that death is a journey and that the death of a human being-- in this case, the king-- is likened to the diurnal passage of the sun.
[00:35:17.48] Another example that's equally dynastic is in a pot that's actually never been published before. I'm not sure I'm going to be the first person to do it because it's in a collection, but I'm among friends. I'll show it here. No one will rat me out. This is a pot that shows a king, and he's surrounded by all sorts of other marching warriors. This, by the way, is by the same artist that did, probably, the pot that we were looking at before that Alex had so nicely drawn.
[00:35:42.03] All of the warriors are moving along. Now, how are they describing this? In the text, which I am now focusing on attentively, they describe this movement as ti bixni, which means, it is in a figure in the act of going. So this might describe simply the movement of warriors across the landscape about their bloody business, but what is fascinating is that if you go further down in that text, they are explicitly invoking this idea of an impersonation, which the king is not only moving as himself. He's moving as, apparently, a vehicle for another kind of being that is not human. Probably the same as the leaving and the going of warriors, which really hasn't been studied much, if at all, in classic Maya studies, is related to this concept. So even though there's no glyphic tag here, most likely, it's referring to this action.
[00:36:31.63] The third test case, as we move here along the horizontal course, is ahni, to run, to hurry, perhaps partly to arrive, depending on the range of meanings. Now, where does it occur? It occurs often first in very special context. This is a drawing, actually by Dave Stuart, of the Jolja cave, which is up in Chiapas. The date of it is very clearly from the early classic period, so it's at the beginnings of the time in which the inscriptions become much more copious.
[00:36:59.16] And what does it talk about? Well, uses this verb that I would read as ahni, which means to run, someone who, in this case, ran, since this is in what I regard as the past tense. But someone who is moving with urgent dispatch, who is moving along with a certain degree of, you might say, energy.
[00:37:19.57] And this idea of movement and of searches and of going into caves for a particular purpose, I think, makes particular sense, because even in a cave such as the great example of Naj Tunich, lamentably partly destroyed by a guard who got disgruntled with his a government employers. But in there is what appears to be a couplet, a kind of phrasing of someone that has gone into the dark recess of this cave. You can imagine they would have been carrying small pine torches with them. But what it does, it describes both an external journey to go to this cave, but possibly an internal one, because what he's doing here is it says, il biih il wahy He sees the road, and he also sees potentially a part of a spirit or kind of spirit, perhaps one of a malevolent variety.
[00:37:59.99] Now, I believe this idea comes from Alfonso Lacadena, ultimately, but it could be that there's a word sign, a logo graph, we call it, which corresponds to this phonetic or syllabic rendering, which I've just given you that particular sign combination. To find this, to detect this, we'll go to Altar 5 at Tikal. And on this very enigmatic monument, it describes a lot of things having to do with a queen, probably a foreign royal house. And one of the expressions at the very beginning of the text uses what I think is the most adorable Maya glyph ever, which is not a little rabbit, or maybe it depends on your druthers. This is a little dwarf who's got a pudgy little body, seems to be moving around. Or, as I think Karl Taube very insightfully puts it, we're looking here at baby's first steps, potentially. Or it's a small, runtish, stunted looking person.
[00:38:47.96] Now, this glyph is actually found a number of other contexts. I've found it particularly here at the Resbalon. It's a hieroglyphic staircase that is truly a rompecabeza. Hieroglyphic staircases that are puzzles are basically well known here at the Copan-oriented Peabody Museum, no doubt about it, as in the hieroglyphic staircase that I've been studying with Barb and Bill. But here you see our little fellow. I suspect Karl's correct, and it is actually a young-- very young person taking his first steps.
[00:39:17.42] However, we now get phonetic clues. It has an 'a in front, an a -. There's a ne afterwards. It has a la afterwards. It's probably spelling '(ah)neel, which means to walk or to run, and it's a well tested word in some of the descendant language used by the Maya. To ahneel is to arrive somewhere, but more importantly, more tellingly here, it is to go to someplace habitually, to attend. And there are many other ranges of words that I think are relevant to the target meaning. You can see here from different languages, to attend but also to run, to race, to go quickly, to go urgently, to be in a hurry. And this may be, in fact, a description of the religious passion itself, the religious urge, which is being here, mediated by physical movement.
[00:40:02.14] Now, there are indigenous analogies to these that take us somewhat far afield, but not, I think, frivolously so. We can get to the Hopi of southwestern United States. And there's a wonderful book by Peter Nabokov, describes Indian racing today in the American Southwest, of races which involve prodigious feats of skill and of stamina, and which are often centered on religious performance.
[00:40:25.59] If we go a little bit more recently in time, and many of you have heard about obsessions among marathon runners for this particular part of northern Mexico, we get to the Raramuri or the Tarahumara, who also are known famously for their long distance running, sometimes in not exactly New Balance shoes. In fact, they're running along barefoot.
[00:40:45.05] And one of these colossal kinds of professions or movements which are important to them also involves the game of rarajipari, which involves kicking a ball and other kinds of tokens and sticks are known for this kind of activity in the American Southwest, both among the Pueblos and among the Navajo.
[00:41:02.69] So how would I explain this? How would I link all of this together? When the Maya described this kind of movement as they go from one terminus to another, it's an urgent movement. It's one that has an internal motivation.
[00:41:13.12] Now, let's go to our fourth test case, to huli, to arrive at. Now, this, too, begins, I believe, with a celestial theme, a trope, we might call it. It begins with a crescent moon, as you see here to the side. And these two glyphs are some of the earliest known examples in which this particular verb happened to be attested. They have numbers, because they're probably referring to the new moon and the days after its first appearance when that new moon appeared. Huli.
[00:41:44.26] We used to think that that little moon sign afterwards had some sort of syllabic or grammatical content. It became clear to me years ago, decades ago, that it's clearly referring to the moon itself. It is fundamentally a lunar trope, a lunar theme. But it is nonetheless absorbed into dynastic rhetoric, because when they describe arrival of kings, they use exactly the same expression. They use exactly the same lunar sign. One case has, obligingly a little moon goddess within it.
[00:42:16.89] And then we get syllabic spellings, of which people, dressed apparently as gods, in this case, also huli. They arrive at. And just to indicate that this arrival is not necessarily one that involves a journey to take you much further, there also is an example on this sculpture from the area of Tonina, which shows someone arriving at their very own tomb.
[00:42:41.16] Let's get back to the Jolja text, which I showed you before, because it, too, happens to invoke exactly the same expression. But now, too, it links this expression to a royal woman, and, as we will see, it seems to link ultimately back to the moon itself. Here, it describes a woman who is huli tu ch' e' n meaning she is arriving in her cave. Down below, it describes a woman, without question, and even though they expressions are somewhat opaque, it is also describing it in terms of her being a spouse to someone.
[00:43:17.07] Now, where does this wrap together? The dynastic and the lunar and impersonation. It wraps up on this particular monument, which comes from a site of Naranjo, in which we have an instance of arrival, which employs exactly the same expression of the moon and a hand, probably pointing at the first crescent. Involves a royal lady who is coming here to revive a local dynasty. And then further on in that text, it could not be clearer. It describes her impersonation of-- what else?-- the moon goddess.
[00:43:46.40] I think this is probably a linkage that goes throughout Maya concepts of the moon, which, not surprisingly, is linked to menstruation. Hula is the regla de mujer. It's the menstruation of the woman. Or there's the sakal ixik, either described as the moon goddess, but also as menstruation itself.
[00:44:06.50] Now, let's get to that second theme. We've dealt with horizontality as you go from one terminus to the together. Let's now discuss verticality. We will go respectively from lok'oyi, to leave, but in the sense of going up, I insist and believe. And then the act of rising up, t'abayi Long ago, t'abayi in particular, was noted by Peter Mathews when he was still here as a student, probably shows a stylized foot. And we'll get back to that expression in a second.
[00:44:35.03] Let's disentangle these cases right now as we move into the subject of verticality. Leaving. Now, first, there is the mythic. There's the use of this expression in a cave text not well studied, not well illustrated or documented at the Santo Domingo cave, not far, in fact, from the great cave system Naj Tunich What do we see there? We see lok' oy Someone is leaving or going up, not arriving at a cave, but apparently issuing from it. And for many years, what has stymied us is who this might be. It is, to me, very clearly the jaguar god of the underworld. He's apparently issuing from this particular location, which I would suspect was closely tied in Maya thought to that particular cave. And what is coming out of that cave is someone transformed, an impersonation, and it might be the deity itself or herself or itself.
[00:45:26.02] We see a kind of template for the mythic past, also, played out in some of these pots, also employing this term of lok' oy. This is a pot, a ceramic, that is in the collection of the Popol Vuh Museum in Guatemala City. And it shows a series of women, probably different ones. I'm sure of it, in fact. One is actually being carried around by a man. Must've been a rather heavy burden for him. But what is important is that they're coming to a court where gods are waiting for them, and the text helps us to reveal something of what might be going on here. Because what does it do?
[00:45:59.98] It also refers to lok' oy, someone who is leaving or leaving from a place. They leave an enigmatic location. There seems, also, in an equally enigmatic way, to involve some notion of return, maybe to a cave in the middle. There are ladies invoked. Those are probably the ones referred to in the scene, the ones depicted there, one of whom is known delicately-- and I would never describe a lady in these terms-- as Lady Crocodile Foot. We don't talk about women's feet. I learned this years ago from my mother. And then, ultimately, they describe it, as they do in the cave, of a yatan, of someone who's the wife of someone else.
[00:46:35.38] What is the template here? It could be a template in which we're describing the movement of women into foreign courts, but seen here in a different way. This is now brought into an historical vantage point, into a dynastic setting, where we have here, in examples from Dos Pilas, a site I know and love, in which lok' oy is described as moving up or leaving, I should say, and, eventually, going up in this kind of movement from low to high into, ironically and rather sadly, a place of exile for these particular lords. There's a long story here we don't need to go into, but what they do suggest is that someone, either by an act of emergency or being forced out or simply fleeing to save their skin, have departed. They've come out of a location. That's the metaphor of going up. And then when they achieve exile, which, after all, is a kind of safe place, it's a redoubt, it's a fortress. The metaphor, the expression, is that of going up into a foreign location.
[00:47:35.48] This idea of issuance, of coming out, of bringing out, probably, again, folds back in the Maya concepts of personal identity, because even today, in words from the Tzotzil Mayan language, when they describe something as slok'omba, they describe what comes out of oneself. It issues from an internal state, and it happens, also, to be an expression that describes an image, an effigy.
[00:47:59.20] Now, the second test case, as I get to the end here, is a t'abayi, to rise. To lok' oy is to come out of, but fundamentally, I think, to go up in a vertical movement. Eventually, you get to a location, just as you go from tali to huli in the vertical or horizontal dimension, rather, and this, I think, helps to explain a number of different cases.
[00:48:21.73] This is a roll out, again, by Justin Kerr of a Maya pot. And we do use a lot of this evidence. It's problematic for all sorts of reasons. But it, nonetheless, is crucial to understanding Maya epigraphy and iconography. Here, we see probably a mythic iteration of this idea of lok' oy of going up, but handled, I think, in a wonderfully, deliciously, capricious, whimsical way by a guy-- and this is probably a deity-- who is accompanied by the word, I believe, for orchestral music, which is chak ik'. It's the great wind, the great music being played here by maracas and other kinds of orchestra ensembles that are issuing from a mythic cave.
[00:49:07.13] Now, let's get back to this fellow. If you look very carefully, you'll see that he is not exactly altitudinally challenged. He's not another dwarf who's gotten up here, but he's definitely a guy who's a stilt walker. And this is something that clearly existed among the Maya, and I don't think simply as buffoonery but something that is indicated here for a particular reason, because if we look at the text itself over the side, it really couldn't be clear, I think, again. It says that on a particular date, the day 5 Imix, which has associations with origins. It has associations with crocodiles, and that's probably a reference to the cave nearby. T'abayi has occurred. He has gone up. And what have gone up? The ik 'il ook namely, the windy, musical feet. This is their way of probably describing the stilts themselves.
[00:49:58.59] I think this is actually useful in interpreting more broadly many of the expressions, many of the examples, of t'abai in the corpus of my inscriptions. Now, some of you probably know this story from my mentor and dear friend Mike Coe's book, "Breaking the Maya Code," which describes the work by Dave and by Karl and by me in understanding the pots-- in particular, Dave Stuart, I should say-- the pots as possessions that contained important liquids that have been studied by a number of different people. We know most of them are chocolate, but others occur, as well. For many years, the principal text which t'abayi occurs has been labeled by some as a dedicatory text. It's about somehow vaguely alluding to the offering of this particular pot in a generic way to a group of people. I think actually the t'abayi specifically and tangibly and very precisely helps to explain what this verb has to tell us.
[00:50:54.50] We know, as I said before, that most of these are about possessors of drinking vessels, here, shown on a roll out. We know, too, that many of these pots use this expression, the t'abayi expression. But I actually think it's much simpler than people think. I think-- in fact, this is my predisposition in looking at glyphs. Don't get fancy with the interpretation. If you go for the most basic, the most obvious, the most logical meaning of a sign, it's more likely, ultimately, to pay off, and it has, for me, done so over the course of my career.
[00:51:26.33] I believe t'abayi is simply toasting. I believe it's simply the raising of the pot, because, remember, it's about this process of elevating or levitating an object. And here you see, obligingly, dwarves. These are dwarves. These are the real dwarves, not runtish little babies with underdeveloped genitalia. And here you can see a dwarf who is impishly drinking from the lord's bowl. There's a lord depicted over to the side. And down below are other kinds of scenes of people simply raising these vessels. I think that's the activity that's being described here. I believe most of these dedicatory tracks are basically describing toasts. I believe that's what they're all about, at least in this instance.
[00:52:07.82] T'abayi also occurs in bringing up lentils and the like. I think it's this idea of raising monuments into a higher position, as well. But it's not only imps and figures at court that do this. It's also critters, beasts, of the field and the farm nearby, which would include, for instance, deer on this Terminal Classic pot, which include peccaries or jabali, all of whom are raising up, t'abayi the vessels.
[00:52:34.40] And just to let you know that drinking has long been going on here, yes, even here at Harvard and at points nearby, there is this wonderful scene in the Saint Louis Museum of Art it's showing Newport sea captains in Suriname. I've actually looked at this object, this painting, which was painted, rendered, in 1750. And you could see that all these fellows are busily doing t'abayi although they don't know it.
[00:52:57.40] So in conclusion, as we go over this variety of topics, I think it's important to rehearse, again, the kinds of points I made about this notion of formal movement. You will notice again the emphasis on horizontality, of the tali, coming from. Of the ahni to run, to go urgently. Bixiin, to be in that process of movement.
[00:53:18.99] Hili possibly to rest, usually associated with gods, by the way, almost exclusively. And then huli, which is this idea of arriving at. And then similarly, we have this idea of, in this instance, going from bottom up to top with the similarly corresponding set of terms. Lok' oyi, up to t'abayi.
[00:53:42.21] Now, ultimately, this is about configuring movement, isn't it? Notionally, internally, telling you somehow at an early age how it is to move, how it is to formally move, and what that is meant to accomplish. But I also think, of course, it describes a lot of the internal configuration of Maya cities. Many of you probably been to a place like Tikal. These also occur at Copan and a number of other cities in which we have formal causeways that show how people should and are intended to move around these landscapes.
[00:54:12.15] And there you can see a movement of the same, as they might have been part of a royal procession at the city of Tikal. And over there is that same image that I showed you before of a procession moving urgently from an ending and ultimately to a conclusion. Probably, these kinds of features, which I've described as fortifications or fish farms-- please, please-- at the site of Edzna are probably-- for me, it's painfully obvious-- they're basically watery sak biih They're watery Maya roads of a causewayed sort, but in this case, wholly liquid.
[00:54:45.47] Now, this idea of movement is, I think, essentially close to Maya concepts of what it is to be good, to do right, to do the right thing, because, inevitably, when they describe morality in the languages today throughout the Maya world, they describe what is right as being something that is straight, tall. It also becomes a word literally for payment and for debt cleansing, for release of debt obligations, is you've gone straight, toj. Not quite in the sense that we have that. It's about truth. It's about virtue. It's about a cleansing. It's about prophecy. It's about payment. All of that comes bundled together.
[00:55:22.63] So, yes, it could be a dynamic and dynastic expression, as I said before, something that would occur in a royal court. But ultimately, we have to dig and scrape away a little bit further, and we'll see that tandem parallel world of mythic invocation, a templar-- of a temple, you might say, of an exemplar, which would be fundamentally supernatural, with which the royalty sought to connect themselves.
[00:55:46.97] How did we explore this in the course of this talk? We looked at the birth of gods-- in this case, instance then a royal name. We looked at the concept of diurnal passage, in which the human and the unhuman or the non-human are brought together. There been instances of travel to ritual locales. There's, indeed, been resting of gods, again, mostly our divine activity. There's arrival of a heavenly body. What more salient one at night than, of course, the moon? And then rising up in celebration.
[00:56:14.90] So you might say here, ultimately, that there is a likening between humans and between the inhuman that allows rulers to exist in a kind of delicate tissue, a framework, in which they're both in two different kinds of states simultaneously, but ultimately, of course, for any human being who must and who will die, it is an unsustainable merger, as we run and don't walk, please, to the reception. Thank you.
[00:56:50.72] Oh, sure. If you have any questions, sure. Yeah, three or four questions, please. This gentleman in back?
[00:57:15.80] I don't doubt it. I don't doubt it at all. Very impressive.
[00:57:46.97] Well, yeah. It's widely known that there are many concepts in Asia that are eerily similar to those throughout the Americas and going down into the Maya area. The question, of course, is whether to treat those as instances or examples of diffusion, which is highly unlikely, at least enough in a modern sense, you might say, or something taking place only 1,000 or 2,000 years ago, or in terms simply of an idea, some ancient, ancient idea that's so firmly rooted in their concepts of existence, of who you are, that they are-- and I've said this to my students recently in class-- they're probably the earliest known human ideas that we can attest, because they're found over such a wide area, and yet they're so coherent. They're so systematic in the way they're put together that I think that they lay claim justifiably to that status of the oldest known human idea.
[00:58:36.47] Are there any other questions, please? Yes, Barb. Yes, please.
[00:58:57.30] I wish there were. There is-- yes, I will. Are there references to movement in canoes in the hieroglyphs? And there are no such references. We have possibly a phonetic spelling of a word for canoe at Piedas Negras. There's even a guy called the White Canoe. That's kind of strange name to give someone. Maybe he was a boatman who-- like a gondolier of the Maya. I don't know. But they don't really talk about that kind of movement that much.
[00:59:26.21] And Edzna] is, of course, an anomaly, having these roads shooting off that are essentially all liquid and watery, so I made the argument, of course, in the Fiery Pool catalog that, the Maya, when they speak about the sea, and they talk about that kind of movement, they do so in a very indirect fashion, because most probably never got or left Tikal. Most of them never got to Belize to actually see all these things were going on. But I would that we had that kind of evidence.
[00:59:55.60] Yeah, Tom. Yeah, good to see you, Tom.
[01:00:41.00] Oh, yes. Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely.
[01:01:09.00] Yeah, absolutely, Tom. And it's been pointed out by many people-- and I think justifiably-- that, as much as we like and, in fact, delight in Justin Kerr's rollouts because they make them so legible, it's not the experience of the pot, obviously, and that when you look at, therefore, scenes of movement, the movement is one in which you are complicit as the user of the object, because you're moving it around, and you're causing it almost like a primitive form of, I don't know, movie picture. Moving picture. You're literally moving the picture in order to create that kind of experience.
[01:01:38.11] Years ago-- I think it was in this volume on function and meaning at Dumbarton Oaks, which Bill was involved with, I actually describe the Copan hieroglyphic staircases a time machine, because what you're doing is, when you go up, and you're following and looking at the inscription, at least in parts of it, you're going back in time. And it's probably no coincidence that when you get to the top, it's drenched in old timey Teotihuacan iconography.
[01:02:03.57] So therefore, when you go up into a pyramid, I wouldn't even say it's the body itself simply moving in the same three dimensional space. You're actually perforating or punching into different time states, I think.
[01:02:17.35] Yes, sir. Yes.
[01:02:18.62] Actually, I have two questions. The first one is in regards to an illustration you had when they were toasting [INAUDIBLE]. And you referred to them as dwarves. And my question is, knowing that the Maya are generally smaller people--
[01:02:32.59] Repeat the question.
[01:02:33.61] I'll repeat it just a second. Yeah.
[01:02:34.99] Knowing that the Maya are generally smaller people, how are you able to distinguish in the illustration itself that they are dwarves?
[01:02:40.44] Why don't I deal with that question first, and then I'll repeat the other one once you get to it. How do you detect dwarves, basically, iconographically? The Maya have famously a kind of realism. It's a problematic term, but when they show human bodies, they show them in all sorts of different ways. The dwarves are notably different physiologically. they are often a chrondroplastic dwarf. They have pathologically identifiable conditions that lead us to know that that's the case.
[01:03:08.82] The glyph you were looking at, though, I do think that could be something different. I think that could be an infant, as Karl Taube pointed out. Now, you had a second question, sir.
[01:03:16.43] My second question is as you spoke about movement and [INAUDIBLE], the thing that popped into my head, oftentimes you go into church and they have either a stained glass, they have a station with the cross. And my question is, is that a comparable example?
[01:03:32.85] Absolutely it is. Absolutely is. Although there it's rather different from what you might call the via crucis, because you're not physically carrying the cross. You're almost there as an observer. You're Veronica waiting for the veil. You're there looking at the stations of the cross as someone who was basically along the route. But yes, it's very well put.
[01:03:52.72] The question was-- did everyone hear that, or do I need to repeat it? The idea was, if you go to the stations of the cross in a church, is this another example of what I'm describing? And I said yes.
[01:04:07.45] So I think that's it for the questions, and we'll be t'abayi something else later, I hope.
[01:04:20.12] Formal handshake. A bow. Thank you so much.