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"
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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