San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 7th, 2009
Mayan documentary, workshop to be at Texas State

Mayan stone carving.


The award winning documentary “Breaking the Maya Code” will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday in room 157 of Centennial Hall at Texas State. The screening is free and open to the public.

The movie depicts the deciphering of ancient Mayan script. It is sponsored by the Center for the Arts and Symbolism of Ancient America in the Department of Anthropology. The documentary runs nearly twice as long as the PBS version aired earlier this year on KLRU.

The documentary is being shown as the opening salvo for the Texas State Workshop on Mayan Hieroglyphics which is being held Saturday and Sunday.

The two day workshop, to be held in Centennial Hall, will focus on the meanings of the inscriptions on stone monuments from Quiriguá, Guatemala. It will be led by Matthew S. Looper, epigrapher and art historian at California State University-Chico.

The workshop includes an introduction to the Maya calendar and how dates were recorded on public monuments. Looper will explain the visual, phonetic and linguistic complexity of the Maya writing system in which a single value may be represented in several different ways.

“Quiriguá is an excellent study site for the novice epigrapher, since the texts are in good condition and relatively complete,” Looper said. “In addition, the texts are quite repetitious, so that we are able to easily distinguish between stylistic and semantic variation.”

The archaeological site of Quirigua contains the largest stelae ever discovered in the Mayan world. Stelae are carved or inscribed stone slabs or pillars. Despite its relatively small population, Quirigua’s stone carvings from the Late Classic Period (600-900 CE) are complex and beautiful. They tell a tale of life in the Mayan world.

Quirigua was probably founded under the overlordship, or suzerainity, of Copán, Honduras. Its greatest ruler, K’ak Tiliw Chan Yopaat, reigned for 60 years and made a bit of a mess when he sacrificed the King of Copán by cutting off his head. Understandably, Quirigua was no longer associated with Copán and seems to have ruled itself independently under two more rulers before it was abandoned.

Mysteriously, many major centers throughout the Mayan world contain extraordinary ruins and no answers as to why they were vacated.

Registration for the workshop is $75 for Texas State students and $85 for faculty and public. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday and the workshop will conclude at 4 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, contact Kent Reilly via email at or visit

Email Email | Print Print


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *