6 Ajaw 3 Yax (October 1, 2016): Report from Chichicastenango

5 Ajaw 3 Yax. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

3 Ajaw 3 Yax. Drawing by Jorge Pérez de Lara.

We have just begun to hear back from some of the recipients of this year’s Mini-grants, and we feature below the report received from Iyaxel Ixkan Cojti Ren and the Sak Chuwen Group in Chichicastenango, who, together with archaeology student Leonardo Garcia, held an introductory epigraphy workshop for K’iche’ and Q’anjob’al speakers at the Rossbach Museum in Chichicastenango, Guatemala on September 17-18. Iyaxel has provided some wonderful photos of the event, along with a detailed report and helpful feedback about future events. Congratulations to Iyaxel, and thank you for the wonderful work you are doing in your community!

We also wanted to congratulate Daniela Esther Cano Chan from Maní, Yucatan for being awarded the very last Mini-grant of the season! We were not able to include this award at the time of the publication of the last blog.

In addition, this week Alfonso Escobedo, Sue Glenn, Nick Hopkins, Al Meador, Beth Spencer and Karon Winzenz from MAM will be present at the 10th Annual Maya at the Playa Conference in Palm Coast, Florida, held from September 29 to October 2. The organizers have generously allowed for MAM to have a table at the event, along with posters and descriptions of our work. For more information, please see: http://www.mayaattheplaya.com/

We look forward to posting more updates as we hear back from this year’s grantees and the many workshops being held throughout the remainder of the year. Stay tuned, and as we plan our fundraising strategy, we hope to be able to fund additional workshops in the near future!

Sincerely,
Michael Grofe, President
MAM

INTRODUCTORY LEVEL EPIGRAPHY WORKSHOP REPORT
SEPTEMBER 17-18, CHICHICASTENANGO

Summary
Location: Rossbach Museum, Chichicastenango
Date: September 17 and 18
Participants: 22 people
Hours: 8 am to 4 pm
Responsible: Iyaxel Cojti, Sak Group Chuwen and Leonardo Garcia, a student of archeology.

Introduction
Chichicastenango is a municipality in the department of Quiché, where residents are mostly K’iche’. This town has a cultural and archaeological richness recognized both nationally and internationally. It is also home to the Rossbach archaeological museum. Despite having these resources, very little is known about its pre-Columbian history, either Postclassic or Classic Maya civilization, and its connection with the current Maya population. For this reason we took the initiative to develop an introductory level epigraphy workshop in this municipality, since epigraphy is a tool for learning about the science, history and culture of the ancient Maya.

Description of activities
The planning of the workshop was organized in conjunction with the Ixno’j Library, who helped with the logistics of the workshop, including the identification of the classroom where it took place, its promotion, meals, and some motivational activities.

The introductory workshop addressed three main themes:
1. Principles of Maya writing
2. Logograms, syllables, and phonetic complements
3. Maya Calendars
Long Count
Haab’
Cholq’ij
Calendar Round

The principal methodology used in this workshop was the screening of documentaries concerning Maya epigraphy, PowerPoint presentations on each topic, and the development of individual and group exercises using the workbook. The most discussed topics during the workshop were the Maya calendars, as there are still many questions about the change of the Bak’tun cycle, the correction of the Haab’ for the leap year, and the past and present use of the Cholq’ij. Furthermore, some students raised the question of how to write in contemporary Mayan languages when there are no Maya glyphs for certain sounds of the K’iche ‘and Q’anjob’al alphabets. Some possible solutions were put forward, but questions remain.

There were four Ajq’ijab’, or spiritual guides, in the group. They contributed to the discussion from their experience on these topics. The people in the workshop were mostly K’iche’, not only from Chichicastenango, but also from El Quiché, from San Cristobal Totonicapan, Zunil, and from Quetzaltenango. They came from such far away places because these workshops are not taught in their communities. Also present was a Q’anjobal participant who came from Santa Eulalia Huehuetenango to learn about Maya epigraphy. Having visitors from other towns was very enriching, as it allowed sharing different perspectives, opinions and experiences regarding the different topics, especially on Maya calendars.

Recomendations
These are some of recommendations that emerged from the workshop:

  • Maya epigraphy workshops should be a continuous process, since a single workshop becomes an isolated effort and the lessons learned can be quickly lost in the absence of continuity. If a community has at least one person who can drive the teaching of Mayan epigraphy on a permanent basis, such person should perhaps be considered for receiving further support.
  • An advanced workshop should be planned, perhaps by MAM, where we can discuss the most suitable alternatives to better update the syllabaries, so they can be adapted to contemporary Mayan languages.
  • Keeping track of areas of Guatemala and Mexico where there have been workshops, and where no epigraphy workshops have been held, can help to visualize the geographic growth or reduction of the teaching of Maya epigraphy.

Acknowledgments
We wish to give our special thanks to the chairman and members of MAM for supporting the Introductory Level Maya epigraphy workshop that took place in Chichicastenango on September 17-18. The financial support provided enabled us to copy the workbook material for students, buy office supplies, and to offer meals to its attendants during the two days of the workshop. We would like to thank especially the members of the Ixno’j Library for the support with the logistics of the workshop, the Indigenous Municipality of Chichicastenango for allowing us to conduct the workshop in the hall of the Rossbach museum, archaeology student Leonardo García for sharing in the responsibility of teaching the different workshop topics, and mainly to the students for their interest and motivation in learning about the writing of our ancestors.

Workshop photos

Activities to better get to know the members of the group and to give comments on the workshop

Activities to better get to know the members of the group and to give comments on the workshop

Identifying the components of a glyph

Identifying the components of a glyph

Writing his name with the help of the syllabary

Writing his name with the help of the syllabary

Drawing some logograms

Drawing some logograms

Drawing that records the birthday and full name

Drawing that records birthday and full name

Classroom in the Rossbach Museum where the workshop was held

Classroom in the Rossbach Museum where the workshop was held

Group photo

Group photo

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