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.

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To Bee or Not to Bee: Exploring the Maya Literary Tradition from the Perspective of the George E. Stuart Collection by Gabrielle Vail, PhD

This meeting will be held in the Hurlbut Memorial Hall on the 3rd Floor of the Charles Sumner School, 17th & M Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C.

The format is:        6:30 pm   Refreshments

                              7:10 pm    Annual meeting & lecture

                              8:20 pm    Dessert, wine and cheese

Maya screenfold books, or codices, offer a fascinating glimpse of the daily life, rituals, and beliefs of prehispanic Maya cultures in the centuries leading up to the Spanish conquest of the Yucatán Peninsula in the early 16th century. Of special interest are almanacs focusing on the ceremonies and activities associated with beekeeping with the stingless bee native to Mexico; astronomical tables that integrate events from primordial time with those from the time period when they were written; and depictions of ceremonies inaugurating the new year. Using facsimiles and documents from the George E. Stuart collection (currently housed at UNC-Chapel Hill), this presentation brings the pre-Columbian past of the Yucatán Peninsula to life and explores the relevance of the almanacs and texts recorded in the screenfold manuscripts to the Yucatec Maya living there today.  

Our speaker Gabrielle Vail received her PhD in anthropology from Tulane University, with a specialization in Maya archaeology.  Her research emphasizes prehispanic Maya ritual and religion, as well as calendrical and astronomical texts, as documented in the Maya screenfold codices.  Her work is highlighted in over sixty publications, as well as the online Maya Codices Database (, a collaborative project undertaken with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Her publications include Códice de Madrid (Universidad Mesoamericana, 2013), Re-Creating Primordial Time: Foundation Rituals and Mythology in the Postclassic Maya Codices with Christine Hernández (University Press of Colorado, 2013), and a chapter in Cosmology, Calendars, and Horizon-Based Astronomy in Ancient Mesoamerica (University of Colorado Press, 2015).  Dr. Vail is Program Director for InHerit: Indigenous Heritage Passed and Present, based in the Research Labs of Archaeology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Anthropology. Her most recent project involved coordinating an exchange trip between high school students of Maya descent in western North Carolina and Yucatec Maya students at the Universidad de Oriente in Valladolid, Mexico.

Earlier Event: May 5
Later Event: July 7

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