May 8, 2010 Gabrielle Vail, PhD :  "Re-Interpreting Balankanche:  Ritual Use of Sacred Space in Cave Contexts"
            An analysis of iconographic and textual depictions of cave and cenote rituals from Postclassic Maya codices and murals suggests the presence of ritual specialists of both genders, or of male ritual participants who performed generative acts associated with both male and female deities.  The assemblage of artifacts recovered from the chambers of Balankanche Cave in Yucatán, believed to date to the same time period as nearby Chichen Itza, includes ceramic vessels in a variety of forms, including a number with modeled effigies of the Mexican rain god Tlaloc, miniature manos and metates, spindle whorls, and a variety of other objects that had both utilitarian and ritual functions.  Collaborative research with colleagues at Tulane University indicates that these artifacts may be linked specifically to two Yucatecan deities known for their associations with creation, fertility, and rain and water –the male god Chaak and the female deity Chak Chel.  This presentation examined scenes from the Maya codices and Postclassic mural art to propose a scenario by which the Balankanche assemblage might have been created.

Special Intermediate Level Codex  Workshop: "Crocodilians and World Renewal Events in the Maya Codices"
            In addition to her talk, Dr. Vail also offered an intermediate level hieroglyphic workshop, with accompanying workbook.
            The workshop examined the depiction of Crocodilians in world renewal events, including period endings.  The group looked at texts from Palenque and the Books of Chilam Balam, in addition to the Maya codices.  Additional information about the codices' history, structure, and function can be found on, the website created by Dr. Vail and her colleague, Dr. Christine Hernández.

            Gabrielle Vail specializes in Pre-Columbian studies, with an emphasis on the iconography and hieroglyphic texts of the screenfold manuscripts, or codices, painted by the prehispanic Maya. She has also been involved in collaborative projects focusing on the Borgia group of codices from central Mexico, Postclassic murals from the Maya area, and ethnohistoric documents from the Maya region.  Her recent publications include The New Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs, Volume 2: The Codical Texts, with Martha Macri; The Madrid Codex: New Approaches to Understanding an Ancient Maya Manuscript, with Anthony Aveni; and Astronomers, Scribes, and Priests:  Intellectual Interchange between the Northern Maya Lowlands and Highland Mexico in the Late Postclassic Period, with Christine Hernández.  She and Dr. Hernández are currently completing the Maya Codices Database Project,, and a new commentary of the Maya screenfold manuscripts.  Dr. Vail received her Ph.D from Tulane University and holds a research and teaching position at New College of Florida in Sarasota.

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