Thursday, September 10, 2015

Skeletons, Skulls, and Bones in the Art of Chichén Itzá

The Chicago Archaeological Society is pleased to announce that its opening presentation of the 2015 – 2016 Lecture Season at 3:00 p.m., September 27 at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue will be Dr. Virginia Miller. Dr. Miller is along-time friend and favorite of the CAS, her last visit was January 25, 2006.

The UNESCO heritage site of Chichén Itzá is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations. Its proximity to busy Cancun International Airport, and as a Caribbean cruise destination off Isla Cozumel are partial explanations for its popularity. But beyond location its overwhelming size and the fact that it is an amalgam of Maya architectural styles and its history make it a treasure trove of Maya antiquity.

Chichén Itzá is perhaps the largest, most famous and most accessible Mayan site, about 125 kilometers west of Cancun and Cozumel. With its soaring pyramids, massive temples and the largest Maya ballpark Chichén is a compelling attraction. But there is more— literally hundreds of carved columns as well as enigmatic platforms— one decorated with countless skulls.
For more than a century Chichén has challenged hordes of visitors. John Lloyd Stephens, Desire Charney, Edward Herbert Thompson, and Sylvanus Gris-wold Morley are some who have been seduced by Chichén's charms and there were many others and the list is growing!. For the reader unfamiliar with Chichén’s attractions take a tour! At your fingertips is this link to a virtual visit into the past:

Left : El Castello 1925 (Photo taken by Desire Charney, 1863, reveals the triumph of nature over the Maya.) Right: El Castillo 2014 During Equinox.
Dr. Miller, UIC, teaches courses in Pre-Columbian and Native American art, in addition to currently she is exploring 20th-century Maya revival architec-ture and monuments, particularly those built in post-revolutionary Mérida, Mexico.
Her publications include The Frieze of the Palace of the Stuccoes, Acanceh, Yuca-tan, Mexico (1991), a pioneer-ing edited volume, The Role of Gender in Pre-Columbian Art and Architecture (1988), and numerous articles on Pre-Columbian art and architecture.
Her CAS presentation, Skele-tons, Skulls, and Bones in the Art of Chichén Itzá, re-veals a determination to better understand the Maya through interpretation of their art and the message transmitted from the past to the present.

As a focal point of the region it is an amalgam of an older Maya city and newer Toltec influences. Within its confines is the towering El Castillo pyramid, aka The Temple of Kukulcan, which is fraught with cosmological symbolism. Its four sides contain 365 steps (depicting the solar year), 52 panels (for each year in the Mayan century as well as each week in the solar year) and 18 terraces (for the 18 months in the religious year).

Within the Castillo is an earlier pyramid and temple that includes a jade —studded jaguar throne and a ceremonial Chac Mool, believed to have served as an altar.

The throne and Chac Mool were once accessible for the trav-eler viewing via an enclosed pas-sage within El Castillo. Access is now closed to the public. Dur-ing the fall and spring equinox-es, the sun’s shadow forms an enormous snake’s body, which lines up with the carved stone snake head at the bottom of the Castillo pyramid.

Most recently a group of re-searchers of the National Autonomous University of Mexi-(UNAM) have discovered a cenote and subterranean river be-neath El Castillo perhaps indicating a sacred nature of the precinct.

Mayan sports included a game with a soccer-sized ball that had its own intricate rules and provided exciting competition for huge crowds of spectators. The enormous Chichén Itzá court where this game was played is the largest ever found and is lined with fascinating carvings that display the rules and details of the sacred game (often in bloody detail).

One carving even shows the captain of the losing game being beheaded.
The site also contains a sacred well, the astronomical Observatory, the imposing Temple of Warriors with an altar for sacrifices, and the Nunnery.

The premier season presentation will be a highlight of the 2015-16 season.

The CAS welcomes you back from the summer. Come early and enjoy the refreshments and, by all means after the meeting, join us at Dave’s Italian Kitchen for dinner, talk and good fun.

>By Robert Stelton  

The Palimpsest

Welcome back to the new, 2015 – 2016, program series of archaeological adventures and discovery a presentation of the Chicago Archaeological Society.

The Officers and Board hope you had a refreshing change of season and hope you enjoy the new CAS season.

2015 Summer Safaris

The Safaris have been part of CAS out-reach to provide information of the organization to the public and to offer an activity to engage members. One goal of the 2015 Safaris was creation of an activity directly accessible to its membership
The CAS experiment of two Summer Safaris were thumping successes. The First: An exploration of Chicago’s Hellenic Museum and a sampling of Greek culture with afternoon luncheon at Roditys Restaurant.

The Acropolis exhibition at the Hellenic was enhanced by Deb Stelton’s comments. The feature presentation was an exhibition of the art work of renowned actor Anthony Quinn. Quinn’s accomplishments go far beyond his role of Alexis Zorba in Zorba the Greek.
The hospitality of Roditys was exceptional.

While individuals ordered from the menu, MexiMayan Travel served wine and desserts.

Roditys’ provided an opportunity for Bob Stelton to premier his Greece DVD. Deb made a presentation that elaborated on earlier comments about the Acropolis and the Parthenon made in the Hellenic Museum.

The Second: An ultra-super personal introduction to the Field Museum.

Members may who have been to the muse-ums previously probably had never enjoyed the special opportunities arranged by Director of Docents, Ms. Mary Ann Bloom and Field Muse-um Docents Beth Spencer, Gary Drimmer and Victoria Grigelaitis (members of the CAS).

Deb Stelton’s planning sessions with Ms. Bloom at the Field included special parking in the reserved Museum Parking Lot.

>By Robert Stelton  

Spade, Trowel and the CT

A new health plan for antiquities, CTs should be made more applicable to antiquities
>By Robert Stelton  

Had a CT (CAT scan) lately? If not, not to worry. CTs are part of a growth industry. If not now, maybe later.

At the final meeting of the 2014-15 Program year CAS Guest Speaker, Dr. Michael Vannier introduced Meresamun (Beloved of Amun), and “Singer in the Interior of the Temple” to the Chicago Archaeological So-ciety by sharing with us a few of the results of submitting the Oriental Institute occupant, Meresamun to a CT.

It was Dr. Vannier’s considered opinion that one scan wasn’t enough. His CAT advise should be made applicable to more discoveries and probably will.

For the uninitiated, a CT scan, also called X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) or computerized axial tomography scan (CAT scan), makes use of computer-processed combinations of many X-ray images taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional (tomographic) images (virtual 'slices') of specific areas of a scanned object, allowing the user to see inside the object without cutting.

Meresamun, A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt was a priestess-musician in Egypt in about the year 800 BC. She probably lived in Thebes.

The Oriental Institute has been the home of Meresamun, the aforesaid “Singer in the Interior of the Temple.” However, be-yond attaching a name to the person enwrapped in the beautiful cartonnage, not much more was known.

Even taking in the vicissitudes of show biz, it had been a long journey for Meresamun. She was introduced to a Chicagoan, James Henry Breasted in 1920 by an Egyptian antiquities deal-er. Breasted made arrangement for her to travel, in an exquisitely decorated cartonnage.

Mersamum, “Singer in the Interior of the Temple” and admirers
While not languishing in Chicago, she met hundreds of people every day, she complained that life in Chicago lacked the glitter and gloss of Egypt. However she refused a changing of her gown.
Many of her personal possession ultimately caught up with her, a papyrus and her personal cestrum and menat. During summer days she enjoyed rattling her sistrum taking in the sun or shaking her menat. She hated Chicago winters.

In 2009 The Oriental Institute arranged a gala to celebrate her stay in America. She agreed to the arrangements but insisted that she would only appear in her traditional cartonnage. And nothing personal, despite her years in show biz she remained a very personal person. She never admitted to wearing one of those gossamer shifts so favored by fashion magazines and temple walls.
Age had been generous with the wrinkles, but the CT was equally generous with a face-lift.

There has been an ongoing scholarly debate whether women who held the title “Singer in the Interior of the Temple” were, on account of their temple duties, celibate. Emily Teeter, Oriental Institute, regarded the idea as nonsense. However one specific goal of the CT examination was to determine whether Meresamun had given birth through an examination of the pelvic symphysis. The question went unresolved because the results were inconclusive.

Meresamun mummy has re-turned to museum display. Her cartonnage in almost pris-tine condition and her mum-my undefiled. She is ready and waiting for newer technology to resume an old friendship.

Mersamum, “Singer in the Inte-rior of the Temple”
The romantic notion of the spade and the trowel is being challenge.
Dan Vergano, in National Geographic, January 03, 2014, Twitter reports that:
New England's woody hills and dales hide a secret—they weren't always forested. Instead, many were once covered with colonial roads and farm-steads.

This "lost" New England of the colonial era has started to emerge, thanks to archaeologists piercing the forests with the latest in high-tech scan-ners, called light detection and ranging (LiDAR).

In the images above, LiDAR re-veals farm walls, roads and homesteads hidden within Connecticut's Pachaug State Forest. Dating to the 18th Century, the farmsteads were abandoned in the 1950's.
This "lost" New England of the colonial era has started to emerge, thanks to archaeologists piercing the forests with the lat-est in high-tech scanners, called light detection and ranging (LiDAR). In the images above, LiDAR reveals farm walls, roads and homesteads hidden within Connecticut's Pachaug State Forest. Dating to the 18th Century, the farmsteads were abandoned in the 1950's.

What makes the New England LiDAR survey compelling information are the discernable similarities between it and any similar survey that might be carried out over the Yucatan.

R.I.P. Michael Robert Lisle

February 7, 1961 – July 1, 2015
It is with heavy heart that we report the passing of our friend and companion. The Chicago Archaeological Society has lost a stalwart friend as has the discipline. His sudden passing has yet to come to the attention of many of his friends. Long- time members of the CAS look back to the many hours shared with Mike at meetings and his company on Safaris and at other convivial gatherings. His immediate presence exuded a strong sense of comradery and well-being. Mike was a voracious reader whose knowledge of the ancient world spanned continents and regions as easily as his smile could span the breadth of a room. We shall miss him but shall never forget him.