Online Conferences & Documentaries about the Maya

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Maya Dynasty and Kingship in the Temple of the Night Sun

Cambridge Archaeology (2016)

Conference by Prof. Stephen Houston
Duration: 70 min

Excavations at the Maya site of El Zotz, Guatemala, found “wonderful things”: the untouched tomb and treasure of a dynastic founder. That person lived amid disorder.

For a generation or more, Tikal and other major settlements had responded to incursions from the imperial city of Teotihuacan, far away in what is now Mexico. The drama and dramatic contents of the tomb reflect that time.

Covered by a temple with rich sculpture, Burial 9 exemplifies the range of kingly roles. The ruler takes life, assembles wealth, dances and dines with gusto. He may die but, like the sun, will rise to live again, charting unending order to come.


The Origins of Maya Civilization: New Insights from Ceibal

Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology (2015)

Conference by Dr. Daniela Triadan & Dr. Takeshi Inomata
Duration: 75 min

In the 1960s, Gordon Willey and a team of Harvard archaeologists led the investigation of Ceibal, a Maya site in Guatemala. Their research revealed that Ceibal was a very early settlement, one that predated the cities constructed in the heyday of Maya civilization.

Recent excavations in Ceibal, directed by Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan, have produced exciting new findings, including the discovery of what is considered the earliest ceremonial complex in the Maya lowlands, dating to 950 BCE.

Inomata and Triadan discuss the new discoveries and what they reveal about the origins of Maya culture and society.


Inside Emblem Glyphs: Tracking Royal Identies at Calakmul & Dzibanche

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (2013)

Conference by Dr Simon Martin
Duration: 80 min

Recalling the Ancestors: Maya Traditions across Time

For ancient and contemporary Maya alike, ancestors are ever-present and fundamental to the sense of identity, heritage, power and place. Join the Penn Museum as we celebrate Maya ancestors and the cultural traditions through which communities engage them.


The Splendid Maya Murals of Bonanpak, Mexico

Yale University (2013)

Conference by Prof. Mary Miller
Duration: 59 min

Painted in the last decade of the eighth century in the tropical rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico, and brought to modern attention in 1946, the wall paintings of Bonampak reveal the ancient Maya at the end of their splendor.

Using the most complex and luxurious palette of pigments known from prehispanic Mexico, a small group of trained artists rendered the rituals of court rituals, from human sacrifice to the receipt of foreign dignitaries.

Prof. Miller will discuss both newly commissioned and newly rediscovered photographs as well as recently completed reconstructions as she brings this ancient spectacle to life.


The True Maya Apocalypse

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (2013)

Conference by Dr Simon Martin
Duration: 30 min

It has taken many years to understand the culture that lies behind these fabulous, and sometimes perplexing, records and to gain some sense of an ancient mindset that is both very similar to and very different from our own.

The past two decades, in particular, have seen tremendous advances in the decipherment of the Maya script. Today we realize that the Maya did not worship time as such, but did conceive of a cosmos that was intrinsically ordered by numbers and chronology.

The lives of both humans and gods were entwined in the same interlocking cycles, differing only in scale: the vast expanse of the divine order contrasted with the minuscule spans of mortals.


The End of Time The Maya Mystery of 2012

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (2012)

Conference by Prof. Anthony Aveni
Duration: 70 min

Dr Anthony F. Aveni, author of the bestselling book, The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012, explores theories about the widely prophesized “end of the world” in December 2012 by measuring them objectively against the evidence of archaeology, iconography, and epigraphy.

Dr Aveni considers information from the earth sciences and astronomy about the likelihood of worldwide Armageddon. Finally, the prophesies are placed in the broader cultural and historical context of how other cultures, ancient and modern, thought about the “end of things” and why cataclysmic events enjoy widespread appeal in contemporary American pop culture.


The Maya and 2012: Fact, Fantasy, and Phenomenon

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (2012)

Conference by Dr Simon Martin
Duration: 59 min

Prior to 2012, there had been a gathering storm of publicity surrounding an “end of time” arriving in December 2012, based on the nearing conclusion of a Maya calendar.

What did the ancient Maya really believe would take place?

Dr Simon Martin, Research Specialist, Penn Museum, helps to form a more accurate picture of ancient Maya beliefs.


Maya Majesty: Kings and Queens of the Classic

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (2012)

Conference by Dr Simon Martin
Duration: 59 min

Simon Martin, Co-Curator, MAYA 2012: Lords of Time and co-author, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya, is the featured speaker in this program.

Between 300 and 900 CE, the ancient Maya developed an elaborate royal culture, imbuing men and women of appropriate birth with the conventions of authority and a quasi-divine status.

This talk explores the intricate ties between royalty and ritual, where the performance of religious rites not only advertised regal status, but was also the lifeblood that sustained legitimacy and power. The costuming, regalia, and ritual acts of Maya kings and queens represent a code that we can read to reveal their relationship to particular gods and mythic events, as well as to their own place within the Maya cosmos.


The Collapse of the Ancient Maya: Interpretations of the Past and Preserving the Future

Villanova University (2009)

Conference by Dr Richard M. Leventhal
Duration: 64 min

Around A.D. 800, the major cities of the Maya world were rapidly abandoned in one of the largest demographic shifts ever. Recent excavations at the ancient Maya city of Xunantunich in Belize shed new light on this collapse.

Dr Leventhal will discuss how the excavation and preservation of Maya cities as modern centres of economic development force a re-examination of the position of the ancient and modern Maya in todays world.


Cracking the Maya Code

NOVA / PBS (2008)

Documentary by David LeBrun, Written by Prof. Michael Coe
Duration: 55 min

The ancient Maya civilization of Central America left behind an intricate and mysterious hieroglyphic script, carved on monuments, painted on pottery, and drawn in handmade bark-paper books.

For centuries, scholars considered it too complex ever to understand—until recently, when an ingenious series of breakthroughs finally cracked the code and unleashed a torrent of new insights into the Mayas’ turbulent past.