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Texas State hosts workshop on Mayan hieroglyphics

By Brett Fails
University News Service
September 17, 2009

Mayan carvings

Scholars will delve into the world of ancient Maya hieroglyphs as they meet for a two-day workshop Oct. 10-11 at Texas State University-San Marcos.

Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, the workshop will focus on the meanings of the inscriptions on stone monuments from Quiriguá, Guatemala, where some of the tallest stele in the ancient New World were erected. The workshop will be led by Matthew S. Looper, epigrapher and art historian at California State University-Chico.

The workshop will include 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," said Looper. "In addition, the texts are quite repetitious, so that we are able to easily distinguish between stylistic and semantic variation.”

Despite a relatively small population, the carvings on Quirigua’s monuments from the Late Classic Period are beautiful and complex. Quirguá, in southeastern Guatemala, was likely founded under the suzerainty of Copán, Honduras. It was situated ideally for trade in jadeite and obsidian among its overlord and the lowland Maya centers such as Tikal in the Petén, and Calakmul in the Yucatán. Under its 14th and greatest ruler, K’ak Tiliw Chan Yopaat, who reigned for 60 years in late 8th century CE, Quiriguá broke away from Copán when he captured and sacrificed the king of Copán by beheading. Quirguá seems to have ruled itself independently under two more rulers before it was abandoned, as major centers were throughout the Maya world.

All events will be held in Centennial Hall 157. Registration is $75 for Texas State students and $85 for faculty and public. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. Oct. 10 and the workshop will conclude at 4 p.m. Oct. 11.

For more information contact Kent Reilly via email at or visit