February 9,  2008, Simon Martin, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology: Research Specialist in Maya Epigraphy
"Gods within Gods: Theosynthesis and the Making of Divine Identity among the Ancient Maya"
          
           Simon Martin shared his ongoing research on the  Mesoamerican practice of combining attributes of several divinities in one deity image.  He explained that the polytheistic scheme of Maya gods developed by Paul Schellhas at the end of the nineteenth-century has had a powerful and productive influence on our understanding of ancient Maya religion. The Schellhas designations of God A, God B, etc. have been modified and refined over the years, but the basic divisions hold true in most cases and conform with the wider iconographic and epigraphic evidence available to us today. However, Mr. Martin demonstrated that there are strong signs of the formation of divine identity for the Maya involving elements of hybridity and fusion that go beyond the Schellhas scheme.  Using examples such as the Principal Bird Deity and Old God N, Simon showed how Maya gods can form composite characters and combine symbolic motifs as integral parts of their identity and meaning. His talk led the group through recent developments in this field and offered revised interpretations of certain deities. Questions and lively discussion flew at the termination of the talk!
            Simon Martin is a Research Specialist in Maya Epigraphy in the American Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.  He was a scholarly consultant to the major exhibition Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya, held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and the Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, in 2004-2005. In addition, he was an advisory board member of Lords of Creation: The Origins of Maya Sacred Kingship held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2005-2006. His books published to date are: Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya, with Nikolai Grube, and Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya, with Mary Miller.

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