3 Ajaw 8 Ch’en (September 17, 2015): Advanced Workshop by Nikolai Grube

3 Ajaw 8 Ch'en. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

3 Ajaw 8 Ch’en. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

MAM is always grateful when we are part of a team effort. Dr. Grube has been giving advanced workshops for Guatemalans ever since the early days of Linda Schele, and he continues to do so with the organizational support of the Sak Chuwen Group. MAM is happy to play a modest role in this annual event in which Maya epigraphers advance their knowledge.

Bruce Love, President

July 2015
By: The Sak Chuwen Group

Clases magistrales dictadas por el profesor Nikolai Grube (Foto de Negma Coy).

Lectures given by profesor Nikolai Grube (photo by Negma Coy).


From July 20 to 26, an advanced workshop in Maya epigraphy took place with great success in Guatemala City. The workshop titled “Hieroglyphic Texts and Iconography on Maya Ceramics” was led by Profesor Nikolai Grube from the University of Bonn. The workshop consisted of a series of activities that included lectures by Grube, group exercises, and a visit to various archaeological sites with the goal of reinforcing the knowledge gained during the classes.

The course was given to forty-five Mayan-speaking students from eight language communities. The following describes in more detail the various activities.


From Monday the 20th to Thursday the 23rd lectures were given on Maya ceramic pieces that included an introduction to the contributions of various scholars on the decipherment of inscriptions and the current problem of artifact smuggling. This introduction was followed by explanations about the structure of the dedicatory texts best known as the Primary Standard Sequence.

Knowledge about the structure of these texts allowed the students to decipher other texts and understand how they work. The main sources used during the workshop were projected images from hieroglyphic texts and two workbooks. One of the workbooks contained all the texts used during the lectures and was divided into different themes, including inscriptions on palace scenes, war and receiving tribute, the ball game, jaguar babies, wayoob’, dynastic texts, and more.

Also a second workbook was created that contained all the resources for reading the glyphs, such as the syllabary, dictionaries, information about the calendar and Maya numbers, etc. On the last day the students worked in groups with the goal of reading the various texts and interpreting them. This last exercise was accompanied by various presentations by the students showing the results of reading the texts.

Field trip to ancient Maya cities

From Friday the 24th to Sunday the 26th the students, together with the instructor and members of the Ministry of Culture and Sports, visited the ancient Maya cities of Quiriguá, Uaxactun, and Tikal. At each visit there was the chance to learn about the local history of that site and its interactions with other cities that were reconstructed based on the study of its monuments and inscriptions.

At Quirigua we had the help of a tour guide who explained the local history based on the works of the rulers and their relations with the city of Copan in Honduras.

In Uaxactun we toured the entire site and talked about the archaeological investigations done there in the past and their results. We also visited the local collection of painted ceramic vases that had been gathered from numerous looting activities in the area. Many of the vases had texts that were examined by the students and Professor Grube.

Due to the limited time, we made a brief tour of Tikal in which we visited the main structures and spoke about the principal rulers and their history.


The study of texts on ceramic vases is important in Maya epigraphy and offers information not found on texts on stone monuments. Some of the themes are related to cosmology and the world view of the makers, mentioning themes that would be difficult to understand from archaeological evidence, for example the wayoob’, the creation of the gods, the ball game, and others.

In addition, the dedicatory texts tell us how these vessels were used exclusively and how they reflected the status and prestige of their owners.

In this advanced workshop of 2015, a total of forty-five students participated who came from eight Maya linguistic communites being the following: Ch’orti’, Kaqchikel, K’iche’, Mam, Poqomchi’, Poqomam, Q’anjob’al, and Q’eqchi’.


This advanced workshop in Maya epigraphy was made possible thanks to the collaboration of various entities, including the Sak Chuwen Group, Dr. Nikolai Grube, and MAM, but principally the Ministry of Culture and Sports by way of the General Office of Cultural Development and Strengthening of Cultures. Thanks to this last one, the workshop could be made possible with meals and lodging for all the participants including the visit to the archaeological sites.

Also we thank the contribution from MAM whose kind support made possible the printing of the workbooks that were used during the workshop.


Dándole lectura a los textos cerámicos en forma conjunta.

Reading the ceramic texts as a group.

Clases magistrales por parte del Dr. Nikolai Grube

Lectures by Dr. Nikolai Grube.

Group exercises, reading the vases of Nebaj.

Group exercises, reading the vases of Nebaj.

Trabajando los textos de los vasos dinásticos (Foto Negma Coy).

Working with texts on dynastic vases (Photo by Negma Coy).

Entrega de diplomas con representantes del grupo Sak Chuwen y el Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes.

Giving diplomas by the Sak Chuwen Group and the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Foto grupal del Taller de Epigrafía Avanzado 2015.

Group photo of Advanced Epigraphy Workshop of 2015.

Visit to the city of Uaxactun.

Visit to the city of Uaxactun.

Visita a la colección cerámica de Uaxactun.

Visit to the ceramic collection of Uaxactun.

Visit to Tikal, on Temple IV.

Visit to Tikal, on Temple IV.

Portada del cuaderno de trabajo empleado durante el curso.

Cover of workbook used during the course.

2 thoughts on “3 Ajaw 8 Ch’en (September 17, 2015): Advanced Workshop by Nikolai Grube

  1. Very dear Bruce, Greetings from Guatemaya! I am so very happy for all these efforts!!! Thanks so much for sharing with me. I would like to participate whenever wherever possible.

    Please send me information on following workshops.

    Best wishes, Ana Urizar IxChel

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