Belizean Archaeologist Explores the Ancient Roots of Maya Creation Story
March 18, 2013
Contact: Rehanna E. Olson
Jaime Awe, Director of the Institute of Archaeology in Belize, Central America, has been investigating ancient Mayan archaeological sites for over two decades. He will share his findings and interpretations of the Maya Origin Myth based on extensive excavations at the monumental site of Cahal Pech, Belize, at 7:00 pm, Wednesday, March 20 in The University of Montana’s University Center Rooms 332-333 (UC 3rd floor).
In his talk, “Archaeological Evidence for the Preclassic Origins of the Maya Creation Story and the Myth of the Hero Twins at Cahal Pech, Belize,” Awe will interpret archaeological findings in light of Mayan religious ideology. This Mayan story of creation is best known from a European transcription in the eighteenth century, while its ancient roots remain a mystery. Integrating imagery from murals, ceramics, and figurines from across the Mayan region with very early archaeological evidence from Cahal Pech, this lecture will explore the Mayan Creation Story and the Hero Twin Myth. Employing archaeological data and ideological concepts, Awe breathes life into this ancient society weaving a rich and vibrant history for a prehistoric people.
Awe’s ground-breaking research into the ancient Maya has overturned numerous long-held beliefs about this society’s development and decline. His early research demonstrated the deep Preclassic roots of the cultural fluorescence of the Classic period, including the Mayan calendar, political systems, writing, monumental architecture, complex trade systems, and religious beliefs that we associate with the Mayan culture today. More recently, he has tackled the famous “collapse” of Mayan Civilization in the southern lowlands, marked by a staggering loss of elite culture, abandonment of ceremonial centers, and general depopulation, occurring over two centuries, A.D. 800-1000. As featured in the November 2012 issue of the journal Science, he was part of a team that conducted climatic reconstruction for the Mayan lowlands over the last 2,000 years based on cave deposits from Belize. This study indicates that high levels of rainfall during the Classic Period ended with a drought destabilizing an already stressed system, one that had lost resiliency to environmental change. Jaime Awe continues ambitious, large-scale field archaeology program in Belize, providing important insights into the Maya culture of Belize that engages people from around the world.
The lecture is sponsored by the Montana Anthropology Student Association and UM’s Department of Anthropology and is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.