Tulane University Maya Symposium and Workshops
Its been a long day. I got on the road around 7:30 and got to the airport. Funny enough, I ran into a student from ECU that had just arrived as well. We had breakfast together and talked for a bit. She is also going to be going to the university in Germany that I have applied to, Tubingen.
So I landed in New Orleans a little early. I rushed through the terminal and got my bag and hailed a cab. e got me to Tulane as fast as he could. The traffic was AWFUL! The NBA All Star game is going on in New Orleans right now so there are "TONS of people here that shouldn't be here" to quote the cabbie.
I arrived at Tulane a little late. My workshop started at 1:30. I walked in at 1:45. I grabbed a seat in the back of the room, as the lecture had already started. This particular workshop examined the cave paintings and glyphs in the cave called Naj Tunich.
As I walked to the back, Dr George Stuart was sitting back there and just smiled as I walked towards him. We both greeted each other. The class was about 15 strong maybe.
The series of glyphs we looked at were examined first by Dr Stuart in late 1980. He published his findings in the Aug 1981 issue of National Geographic. The year and month that I was born. IRONIC!
Here are a few of the drawings we looked at. One of the more interesting is the one on the bottom. This was on the front cover of the Aug 1981. I was always curious as to what the figure was doing. Funny enough, the round object to his left was never really pictured before, so I didn't know it was there until today.
The round object is a ball. So the figure is thought to be a ballplayer. For anyone that doesn't know, the Maya played a ball game of life and death. Kinda like soccer, but a bit more intense. The figure also has knee pads on.
Above ball is a bar, and 4 dots. This, in Mayan number system, is the number 9. The bar equals 5 and the dots equal one each. We talked about what the numbers would mean, until finally the lecturer told us what he thought they probably where. He said they were the dimensions of the ball. 9 hand lengths in dimension. That is the tip of your pinky finger to the end of your thumb. Whether it was the diameter or radius, we never figured out. The only ball that I know of that has been found was brought up from the cenote near Chichen Itza, and it was in pretty bad shape.
The pictures continue through the cave system for a long ways. Dr Stuart shared with us that he found a foot print from the Post Classic Period (around 700 AD) in the back of the cave and he had one of those moments where you realize that you are the first person in that place for over 1000 years. I really long for that feeling. Must be pretty awesome. He said he actually started crying when he discovered some of the cave glyphs. They are very beautiful. The artist made no mistakes. They couldn't erase anything. Everything had to be perfect from start to finish. Pretty cool to think about it like that.
Later on today Dr Stuart presented a lecture on his 50 years in Mayan archaeology. It was a very impressive lecture. At the end of his lecture, he showed the picture from the cave that I have on this page. One this time, the glyphs were scratched up, smeared, and chiseled off. I gasped when I saw them. He had told me once that someone vandalized the glyphs in Naj Tunich, but I didn't think they had done anything like that. After the crowd groaned about the vandalism, Dr Stuart reminded us all that archaeology isn't just about finding neat stuff. Its about recording data. He said that every time we find something, we must record it. After the National Geographic published his story on the Cave Naj Tunich, the cave was on the map for looters and vandals.
Concluding his lecture, Dr Stuart said something that stuck with me. He said what we are doing is not just archaeology. Its recording data as perfectly as we can. Do not leave one detail out. If you do, it may be erased forever. When an archaeologist discovers something, that discovery is automatically in trouble. I often feel like archaeologist don't deserve to find these things so that they are never in danger. But then I think.......better us than someone who doesn't care or know what they have found. Click on the picture of Dr Stuart if you'd like to read more about him.