Time Among the Maya

Friday, 5 April 2002 - 4:00pm5:30pm

Rainey Auditorium, University Museum, 33rd and Spruce Streets

Time Among the Maya

Stephen Houston

Jesse Knight University Professor at Brigham Young University

Matthew Restall

Associate Professor of Latin American History at Pennsylvania State University

Charles Golden

Doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania

The Precolumbian Maya conceived of time as a series of embedded cycles, defined by phenomena such as the movements of celestial bodies, the changing seasons, and the human life cycle. These temporal cycles made it possible to link the present moment with moments that to the modern Western perspective would appear to be hundreds, and in some cases millions, of years distant in the past and future. Thus, the expression of continuity in the face of change - the emphasis of cyclicity over linearity - was always a cultural possibility. In fact, much has been made of the distinction between those societies, such as our own, that emphasize the linear aspects of time, and those - such as the Maya, Vedic India, or Bali - that emphasize the cyclical. What, though, is the reality of this distinction? Drawing upon a fast growing body of knowledge drawn from hieroglyphic inscriptions, colonial history, and archaeological evidence Stephen Houston, Matthew Restall and Charles Golden explore the nature of time among the Maya.

Stephen Houstonis Jesse Knight University Professor at Brigham Young University. A leading epigrapher, and prolific author, Houston has been involved in excavations at the sites of Caracol, Belize, and Dos Pilas, Guatemala. Most recently, from 1997 - 2000 he has directed the Piedras Negras Archaeological Project, helping to shed new light on this Precolumbian capital.

Matthew Restall is Associate Professor of Latin American History at Pennsylvania State University and the author of numerous publications concerning the Colonial Period Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula, most recently Maya Conquistador. His work with native texts have significantly revised our understanding of Maya social organization, political thought, and world view.

Charles Golden is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and has recently completed excavations in the royal palace of the ancient Maya site of Piedras Negras, Guatemala. His research focuses on the construction and manipulation of time, and the place of people in it, in the architectural programs of the Maya palace.

The Penn Humanities Forum is pleased to cosponsor this event with the Maya Weekend of the University Museum. To register for other Maya Weekend Events, including a reception to follow the Forum's program, contact the Museum's Special Events office at 215-898-4890, or events@museum.upenn.edu

Classic Period (AD 250 - 900) Long Count from Quirigua, Guatemala

Event Synopsis

Suggested Readings:

Matthew Restall, Maya Conquistador, Beacon Press, Boston, 1998.

Stephen Houston (editor) "Function and Meaning in Classic Maya Architecture," Dumbarton Oaks, 1998.

The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, translated by Ralph L. Roys. University of Oklahoma Press, 1967.

Time and the highland Maya, Barbara Tedlock, Univ of New Mexico Press, 1992