Heart of Creation
The Mesoamerican World and the Legacy of Linda Schele
Publication Year: 2002
This accessible, state-of-the-art review of Mayan hieroglyphics and cosmology also serves as a tribute to one of the field's most noted pioneers.
The core of this book focuses on the current study of Mayan hieroglyphics as inspired by the recently deceased Mayanist Linda Schele. As author or coauthor of more than 200 books or articles on the Maya, Schele served as the chief disseminator of knowledge to the general public about this ancient Mesoamerican culture, similar to the way in which Margaret Mead introduced anthropology and the people of Borneo to the English-speaking world.
Twenty-five contributors offer scholarly writings on subjects ranging from the ritual function of public space at the Olmec site and the gardens of the Great Goddess at Teotihuacan to the understanding of Jupiter in Maya astronomy and the meaning of the water throne of Quirigua Zoomorph P. The workshops on Maya history and writing that Schele conducted in Guatemala and Mexico for the highland people, modern descendants of the Mayan civilization, are thoroughly addressed as is the phenomenon termed "Maya mania"—the explosive growth of interest in Maya epigraphy, iconography, astronomy, and cosmology that Schele stimulated. An appendix provides a bibliography of Schele's publications and a collection of Scheleana, written memories of "the Rabbit Woman" by some of her colleagues and students.
Of interest to professionals as well as generalists, this collection will stand as a marker of the state of Mayan studies at the turn of the 21st century and as a tribute to the remarkable personality who guided a large part of that archaeological research for more than two decades.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
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List of Illustrations
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Many individuals generously contributed their time and energy to this “labor of love” for a great Mayanist who left us all too soon at the height of her creative energy, intellectual powers, and leadership role in the arena of Maya studies. For assisting this tribute to Linda Schele, I would like to thank the director and staff of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, which hosted me for a fellowship...
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The last time I saw Linda Schele was in January of 1998. She had been battling pancreatic cancer since the previous summer, and her friends, gathering around her during this moment of crisis, held a symposium in her honor in Austin. The emotionally charged weekend culminated in a banquet, where I had the unexpected pleasure of sitting next to Linda. That evening we had a heart-to-heart...
2. Reaching for the Stars: Linda Schele’s Contributions to Maya Astronomy
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Nineteenth-century explorer John Lloyd Stephens wrote that statement when he first stood agog amid Copan’s stelae. He would move on to Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Palenque—all the great sites we know so well. Linda and I came to Palenque, too. We arrived separately in the same year, 1970, for our first awe-inspiring encounters with Mesoamerica’s monuments. She came...
3. Creation and the Ritual of the Bacabs
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The Ritual of the Bacabs is a collection of curing chants for the treatment of disease. Since the publication of its translation by Roys (1965), the Ritual of the Bacabs has received sporadic attention from scholars studying Classic Maya cultural traditions (Freidel and Schele 1988a), perhaps because the reference system in the Bacabs is so obscure as to appear unintelligible...
4. The Landscape of Creation: Architecture, Tomb, and Monument Placement at the Olmec Site of La Venta
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I discovered my fascination for the art and symbols of Olmec culture, as well as the archaeological site of La Venta, by attending Linda Schele’s Maya and Mesoamerican seminars at the University of Texas. Through Linda’s lectures and stimulating class discussions, I quickly became aware that the origin of much of the Classic period Maya elite imagery could be traced to the earlier Olmec. It...
5. Carved in Stone: The Cosmological Narratives of Late Preclassic Izapan-Style Monuments from the Pacific Slope
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This chapter focuses on the themes of rulership and creation that were featured on Late Preclassic (300 B.C.E.–C.E. 200) Izapan-style monuments from the Pacific slope region, specifically from the sites of Izapa in Chiapas, Mexico, and Abaj Takalik, Guatemala. The monuments from these sites share a vocabulary of forms, a stylistic sensibility, and a variety of themes that were manipulated by...
6. Gardening with the Great Goddess at Teotihuacan
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In the January of Linda Schele’s last year of life, many of her students and colleagues came again to Austin, Texas, for an impromptu conference to celebrate Linda as a teacher, scholar, and friend. During a dinner at this event, Linda called me aside and spoke of an idea she had about the city of Teotihuacan. Her eyes told me that she did not have enough time to research and develop her idea fully...
7. Terminal Classic Sacred Place and Factional Politics at El Tajin, Veracruz
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The most exciting times of my professional life were spent in Linda’s seminars on Mesoamerican art, epigraphy, and civilization. Here the exchange of ideas was intense, the level of debate was never modulated to suit others’ levels (much to the chagrin of the entering graduate students), and the respect for the complexity and beauty of the achievements of Mesoamerican civilization was a...
8. The Planet of Kings: Jupiter in Maya Cosmology
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In a 1986 symposium at the Kimbell Art Museum, host to the Blood of Kings exhibition, Linda Schele (1986) presented an important new study that linked visual imagery and dates recorded on monuments to specific positions of the planets. Her analysis of these date patterns was later published in A Forest of Kings, coauthored with David Freidel. In what has to be one of the longest footnotes...
9. Ritual Circuits as Key Elements in Maya Civic Center Design
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In his study Chamulas in the World of the Sun, Gossen (1974) recognized the inherent relationship between public performances and spatial arrangement of civic centers. Specifically, he identified the importance of ritual cycles within the landscape of the Chamula township by noting that large sections of town were associated with particular times during the course of a day, various ages during...
10. The Toponyms of El Cayo, Piedras Negras, and La Mar
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Some forty years ago, three major epigraphic revolutions drastically altered the prevailing understanding of the ancient Maya landscape. Proskouriakoff’s (1960) demonstration that the content of the Maya script was largely historical (rather than solely religious or chronological) in nature, Knorosov’s (1953, 1958, 1965) “phonetic” approach, and Berlin’s (1958) discovery of “emblem glyphs” would...
11. Quirigua Zoomorph P: A Water Throne and Mountain of Creation
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About ten years ago, when I took my first undergraduate course in Precolumbian art, I recall seeing for the first time Alfred P. Maudslay’s photographs of Quirigua sculpture that were reprinted in Michael Coe’s (1987) textbook The Maya. Like many before me, I was impressed by the grandeur of the monuments as well as by their rich iconography and wondered whether there might be some way to...
12. New Dance, Old Xius: The “Xiu Family Tree” and Maya Cultural
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The page known as the “Xiu Family Tree” (Figure 12.1) is the only extant illustrated genealogical tree from colonial Yucatan. Created between 1558 and 1560,1 the “Xiu Family Tree” is part of the Xiu Family Chronicle,2 a series of documents called probanzas de hidalguía,3 or “proofs of nobility.” These petitions were written on behalf of the Xiu family, one of the most powerful Maya families controlling...
13. The Workshops on Maya History and Writing in Guatemala and Mexico
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It is not widely known the extent to which Linda Schele became engaged in the Maya Revitalization Movement in Guatemala. Her passion for the Maya was more than an academic interest in a field of research. Linda felt deep love and respect for the Maya, not only for the ancient people who populated famous cities, such as Palenque, but more and more the actual, living Maya of Guatemala...
14. The Schele Icon and Maya Mania: The Growth of Public Interest in Maya Epigraphy
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The field of Maya studies has gone through many stages on the road from unfettered exploration and adventure (Brunhouse 1973, 1975; Stephens 1841, 1843; Waldeck 1838) through early professionalization (Mason 1937; Morley 1943; Spinden 1913) to the current academic and scientific stance of the discipline (Coe 1990; Fry 1980; Peregrine and Feinman 1996). Concomitantly, public fascination...
Appendix 1. Bibliography of Linda Schele’s Publications
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Appendix 2. Schele-ana: Memories of Linda Schele
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Publication Year: 2002