Mayan Astronomy and the IFPC

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Mayan Astronomy for Development.

A proposal for the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture.

Long term Goal

To share the results of academic research on Mayan Astronomy with the Guatemalan Population.


There is a remarkable and growing interest of the Mayan population to know more about Mayan Astronomy and Mathematics. Guatemalan population in general has been constantly presented with the idea that the ancient Mayans were great mathematicians and astronomers, but only a few experts really know why, and the information is totally missing in the state educational system.

This growing interest in Mayan Astronomy and Mathematics is much more than simple scientific curiosity, and it is an interesting component in the social and political processes of re generation of Mayan culture.

For hundreds of years the indigenous peoples have been participating in research, both answering questions from academics, as well as providing cheap labor in archaeology projects, and getting very little in exchange. The names of the informers wont even make it to the articles.

Ancient cultures are treated as free repositories of ideas and designs for everyone to use. But the situation is more complex when those ancient cultures are also living cultures. We believe there should be reciprocity in this relationship of exchanging knowledge.

We also think that teaching more Mayan culture to the Guatemalan population is a good way to diminish the gaps created by hundreds of years of racism. Ancient Mayan culture is something that both Mayans and non Mayans have to study in order to grasp. This provides some sort of neutral ground for all to approach and share a common interest.

The Means

A. Documentary

A video documentary explaining the contents of the surviving Mayan codices is a very useful material that many groups can adapt to their own ends. The format makes it more readily available than other materials, such as printed books. And its modular nature can be exploited to design different activities based on the same material.

Since the video is necessarily of limited duration, the more advanced topics will be made available to everybody online on a text version of the documentary that can be used to motivate multidisciplinary research in this area. This text version of the documentary contains articles of academic level that are a by product of the research done to create the documentary.

Mayan Astronomy in the Dresden Codex. Chapters Available online via YouTube and other platforms. Online Text Version of the Documentary, with additional advanced chapters, using Wiki software to motivate multidisciplinary contributions.

B. Traditional vectors of Mayan Culture:

The making of the documentary motivates the start up of several spin off projects that support each other to subsist in the early stages of their development. Even though the documentary is the central project, its main purpose is to help to activate the traditional vectors of Mayan culture: Spiritual Guides, the traditional textiles, and public performances of dance and theatre during special festivities.

Not only by being a teaching aid to convey the knowledge about Mayan Astronomy, but also because to re construct the scenes of the classic period, many objects will have to be re created, in a process of recovery of ancient cultural artefacts that did not survive the forest weather, but that can be seen in pottery, murals and monuments.

Therefore, by making a serious reconstruction of the scenes, the making of the documentary will effectively fund several Mayan artist who will engage in a research project, to re construct important art objects from the classic period. And in doing so, these objects and knowledge will become part of the family tradition of those artisans.

In particular the reconstruction of several important costumes, dress, accessories, makeups and hair styles will activate a small business around the making of this set of important ritual objects. Each object comes with a story and a teaching, in such a way that they will have an additional value for those who value the culture. Another important aspect is the making of gods and other supernatural beings, since those are very interesting sculptures and can be exhibited by themselves as art works.

However, besides being used in some scenes in the documentary, all those costumes and objects can be used in a theatre performance, and in this way use them several times. The subject of the plays themselves will relate to astronomy, and it will constitute another vector for the Mayan Astronomy lore.

Spinn off projects

The project is designed in such a way that the making of the documentary helps the startup of several spin off projects, related to the making of 3 types of scenes: Graphic animations of the codex illustrations themselves. Fictional re constructions of daily life scenes from the Mayan Classic period, as well as mythological scenes from the codices, decorated vases and pottery.

A walk trough exhibition of the codex with interactive explanations:

The graphic design necessary to make the animations of codex scenes, can be recycled to produce an art exhibition, printing the drawings on a mural scale, something that can´t be done with the available photographs due to poor resolution. So that the re making of the graphics of the codex to create the animation has this additional value: it allows to make a big print of the codex images.

Teaching Astronomy Trough Arts and Crafts

The Mayan textiles are the traditional vehicles for Mayan culture, the patterns and designs are reminders of oral traditions that grow around the making of those art works. We can see several designs in pottery, murals and monuments, that are not in use today. The recovery of some of those objects will engage several Mayan artists in a process of research and design that normally they would not have the time, money or motivation to pursue. The objects, textiles, crafts and designs have an additional cultural value that can be useful to bring some support to the artisans participating in this diffusion of knowledge.

Performing Arts

In order to re-create scenes from the codices, several objects, masks, and costumes have to be fabricated. Those objects can be used as materials for the production of Theatre pieces that can be used to teach Mayan Astronomy in a different way.

Counterparts of the project

San Carlos University. School of Physics and Mathematics.

Being the national University, it is appropriate to attend this demand from the population. For the school of Physics and Mathematics, the documentary will answer one of the frequently asked questions, and at the same time it may raise the interest in the Mayan population to study those sciences. This may contribute to balance the marked asymmetry in the distribution of student population. Where the Mayan students are more frequent in social sciences than in technology related areas.

Contributions: The school pays for the research and storyboard design made at the university. It will host the repository of information and the text version of the documentary.

Center for Scientific and Cultural Research. Sololá Guatemala.

The Centre located in San Pedro la Laguna focuses on Mayan culture research. They are working on their own project to teach Mayan Astronomy in schools, and the documentary will be very useful.

The spin off projects have to be carefully designed as pedagogical participative activities, in the proper context of contemporary Mayan Culture. With the documentary and the information, the task is to design the activities with artisans, in such away that the astronomical and mathematical knowledge can be transmitted trough the experience of making the art work. This focus group of artisans who make the costumes for the film, are at the same time the first subjects to experiment the process of teaching astronomy in the codices trough art activities.

Contributions: The centre of scientific and cultural research contributes with their installations and people to design the pedagogical activities with artisans and other participants.

Sotzil Jay Cultural Center

Contributions: They have several customs and objects that can be used in the film. The installations to create some of the objects for the film. Space and equipments for film.

Mayan League Guatemala

Mayan League has produced the printed versions of the codices in Guatemala. Contributions: Mayan League is bridge to connect with a community of Mayan intellectuals who can review the storyboard in order to "polish" it according to the principles of Mayan Cosmo-Vision.