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Symposium, Exhibits Will Examine New Maya Perspectives in 2012

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The end of the Maya Long Count calendar cycle on Dec. 21, 2012, is the inspiration for a free public symposium at UNC on Oct. 25 and 26. “13 Bak’tun: New Maya Perspectives in 2012” will place the 2012 date within a larger historical and cultural context that includes the voices of Maya people.

The events for the symposium are free and open to the public. The website contains complete schedule information. Registration is recommended but not required.

The Maya word bak’tun signifies a calendar cycle of 400 years of 360 days. Ancient inscriptions indicate that once the 13th bak’tun is reached, the cycle starts over.


The symposium will include two exhibits. Ancient and Living Maya in the 19th and 20th Centuries: Archaeological Discovery, Literary Voice, and Political Struggle will open Oct. 8 in the Wilson Special Collections Library and will be on view in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room through Jan. 27, 2013. The exhibit features Maya materials from the Rare Book Collection’s George E. and Melinda Y. Stuart Collection.

Ancient and Living Maya Through the Photographic Lens will be on view from Sept. 18 through Dec. 14 in the FedEx Global Education Center. The exhibit will feature twenty large images of Maya people and sites, as well as a display of Maya garments and textiles. National Geographic staff members took the photographs while on assignment from the 1950s onward.

Symposium keynote and highlights

  • A keynote address by Victor Montejo, a Maya Pop’ti novelist, poet, and scholar from Guatemala. Montejo, Professor Emeritus of Native American Studies at UC Davis, will open the symposium Oct. 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the Wilson Special Collections Library. Beginning at 5 p.m., attendees can view the exhibit Ancient and Living Maya in the 19th and 20th Centuries: Archaeological Discovery, Literary Voice, and Political Struggle.
  • A curator’s talk by former National Geographic archaeologist George E. Stuart, Ph.D. ’75, at the FedEx Global Education Center at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26.
  • Contemporary Maya poetry readings on Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the FedEx Global Education Center. Poets Briceida Cuevas Cob (Maya Yucatec) of Mexico and Rosa Chávez (Maya K’iche’-Kaqchikel) of Guatemala will read in Spanish and their native Maya languages. Translation will be provided.

Lectures and learning

Lectures and open classes by UNC professors and Maya scholars will take place on Oct. 26.

  • 11 a.m, Wilson Library – Emilio del Valle Escalante (Romance Languages and Literatures) will lead an open class on how contemporary Maya conceive the end of the Maya Long Count calendar and represent it in current literature.
  • 12 p.m, UNC School of Law (Van Hecke-Wettach Hall) – Maya activist Cristina Coc will discuss indigenous land rights in Belize.
  • 2 p.m., Wilson Library – Patricia A. McAnany (Anthropology) will lead an open class on classic Maya use of the Long Count calendar at major capitals that supported strong scribal traditions between AD 275 and 919.
  • 3:30 p.m., Morehead Planetarium and Science Center – David Mora Marín (Linguistics) will give a lecture about Mayan hieroglyphic writing.

The symposium is hosted by the Douglass Hunt Lecture of Carolina Seminars, the Friends of the Library, the Institute for the Study of the Americas, the Rare Book Collection at Wilson Library, and UNC Global, with additional support from the American Indian Center, the Carolina Digital Library and Archives, the departments of Anthropology, Linguistics, Romance Languages and Literatures, Latin American and Iberian Resources at the University Library, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, the Research Laboratories of Archaeology, and the School of Law.

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