March 12, 2011 Marc Zender, PhD: "Reading Maya Art"
Art is a rare and complex combination of linear elegance and
naturalism, blended with a densely-coded, language-based symbolism.
Decorated objects, ranging from painted vases and carved ornaments to
towering stone monuments and building façades, bear the traces
of a symbol system that, while fascinating, can make an understanding
of these images elusive to the uninitiated. In this talk, Marc
drew on the fruits of his recent book, co-written with Andrea Stone,
presenting several hieroglyphs that are also the building blocks of
much of Maya art. These symbols touch on key facets of the Maya world,
from the natural environment -- animals, plants, geography, and the
heavens -- to the mental landscape of gods, myths, and ritual.
Attendees learned how to identify these signs, to "read" their
linguistic and symbolic meaning, and to appreciate the novel and
inventive ways they appear in art. As well as providing an introduction
to Maya art, the presentation also explored the entwined nature of
writing and art, and offered some new and exciting interpretations.
Zender received his Ph.D. in Archaeology from the University of Calgary
in 2004. He is presently associate curator and lecturer at the
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. Marc
is also associate editor of The PARI Journal and co-maintainer of
Mesoweb, with Joel Skidmore, a major internet resource for the study of
Mesoamerican cultures. Marc's research interests include
anthropological/historical linguistics and comparative writing systems,
particularly Mayan and Aztec writing, and he is project epigrapher for
the Proyecto Arqueológico de Comalcalco, directed by Ricardo
Armijo Torres. Additionally, Marc has undertaken linguistic,
epigraphic and archaeological fieldwork in much of the Maya area, most
recently in Copan, Honduras, where he assists Dr. William Fash in
teaching the Harvard Field School. Marc has published numerous
articles on Maya decipherment, and his new book Reading Maya Art: A
Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Maya Painting and Sculpture , co-written
with Andrea Stone, is available from Thames &
can order Marc's book here:
http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Maya-Art-Hieroglyphic-Sculpture/dp/0500051682 and at other websites.
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