May 8, 2010 Gabrielle Vail, PhD : "Re-Interpreting
Balankanche: Ritual Use of Sacred Space in Cave
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"
addition to her talk, Dr. Vail also offered an intermediate level
hieroglyphic workshop, with accompanying workbook.
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
history, structure, and function can be found on www.mayacodices.org, 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, www.mayacodices.org, 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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