Pre-Columbian Society of Washington DC

The Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. (PCSWDC), is an educational organization dedicated to furthering knowledge and understanding of the peoples of the Americas before the time of Columbus. Founded in 1993, the Society provides a forum for the exchange of information regarding these pre-Columbian cultures between academic professionals and interested members of the public.

November Membership Meeting

The Grolier Codex – An Authentic 13th-century Maya Divinatory Venus Almanac: New Revelations on the Oldest Surviving Book on Paper from the Ancient Americas by John B. Carlson, PhD

Meeting is located at The Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm and the lecture begins at 7:15 pm.  

The fourth known pre-Columbian Maya codex, the only one discovered in the 20th century, was found by looters in the mid-1960s. First exhibited in New York in 1971, what has come to be known as the Grolier Codex is half of a hybrid-style 20-page, 104-year Mesoamerican divinatory Venus Almanac. With new radiocarbon dates that place it in the 13th century CE, it is likely to be the oldest surviving book on paper from the Americas as well as being the only ancient Maya codex now residing in Mexico. Although most Mayanists have accepted it as authentic, based in part on the author’s forty years of research – see < umd.academia.edu/JohnBCarlson> – it remains an unacknowledged Mexican national treasure, as it has never been officially recognized except in the State of Chiapas. Mesoamerican Venus Almanacs were widely used in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica to regulate practices of sacred warfare and ritual sacrifice, the goal of which was to obtain captives whose blood was shed to invoke the personified forces of rain and fertility. The Grolier Codex offers unique images of ten of the twenty manifestations of Venus (named in the Maya Dresden Codex), greatly enriching our knowledge of these traditions documented in four other pre-Columbian codices as well as numerous archaeological and ethnohistoric sources. The present study offers a brief history of accounts of the discovery of the Codex and allegedly associated artifacts; presents a documented photographic history; outlines the author’s comprehensive program of research, including several new scientific discoveries leading to an interpretation of the Grolier Codex–based on the Dresden Codex and other sources–; and offers a new Latinized name that recognizes that the “Codex Mayano-Mexicanus” is an authentic ancient book deriving from the Maya culture and now properly residing in Mexico.

John B. Carlson, PhD, a physicist and radio and extragalactic astronomer by training, is the Director of the Center for Archaeoastronomy, a non-profit institute for research and education related to interdisciplinary studies of the astronomical practices, celestial lore, religions and world-views of ancient civilizations and the contemporary indigenous cultures of the world. In this capacity,  Dr. Carlson is an expert on Native American astronomy specializing in studies of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica (including the U.S. Southwest), and is the Editor of the ARCHAEOASTRONOMY journal, published by the University of Texas Press.  His photographic essay on “America’s Ancient Skywatchers” was published in the March 1990 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE. The art, iconography, calendar systems, and hieroglyphic writing of the Maya and Highland Mexican civilizations are particular interests, and he has published and lectured extensively in these fields. Dr. Carlson is Senior Lecturer in the University Honors College, University of Maryland - College Park - where he teaches courses in Astronomy, Anthropology, the History of Science and Religion, and Apocalypticism.

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