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On December 15 our talk was given by Prof. Rosemary Joyce and was entitled "Everyday Life and Everyday Science in the Precolumbian Maya World".
The Maya of Mexico and Central America are much in the news, as we draw closer to December 21, 2012-- a date projected more than 1200 years into the future in their extraordinary calendar system. In this talk, we will look at how the Maya developed and used their calendars, using observational astronomy made possible through the use of written records employing one of the only two scripts in the world to develop a sign for zero. We will go further than simply appreciating their astronomy, math, and calendars: in order to understand the people who made these inventions, and whose descendants still occupy large areas of Mexico and Central America, we will explore the role of science and technology in everyday life in what archaeologists call the Maya Classic and Postclassic periods. From farming and water control, to medical use of plants, to knowledge of the behavior of ceramics, fibers, stone and metal, everyday life in Maya society was facilitated through thorough understandings of the properties of the materials available to people living in these tropical lowland environments. Far from predicting the end of the world, their recording of dates in the distant future was an expression of the pragmatic control that the Maya exercised over their world through their technologies.
Rosemary A. Joyce is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Social Sciences, and Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. She has engaged in archaeological fieldwork in Honduras since 1977, specializing in understanding social organization through the distribution of settlements across the landscape, and the examination of the tools used in everyday life, especially those made from ceramic materials. She received the PhD from the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1985. At Harvard University from 1985 to 1994, she served as Assistant Director and Curator at the Peabody Museum and Assistant and Associate Professor of Anthropology. She moved to Berkeley in 1994 as Associate Professor of Anthropology and was Director of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology from 1994 to 1999. Her recent books include Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica; The Languages of Archaeology; and Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives.
You can watch the video of her talk by clicking below.
Rosemary Joyce images courtesy Russell Sheptak
Maya images public domain and Wikimedia Commons user Strongilocentrotus (CC-BY-SA)