Lecture: Other UCB Archaeology | December 15 | 11 a.m.-12 p.m. | 100 Genetics & Plant Biology Building
Rosemary Joyce, UC Berkeley
The Maya of Mexico and Central America are much in the news, as we draw closer to December 21, 2012-- a date projected more than 1200 years into the future in their extraordinary calendar system. In this talk, we will look at how the Maya developed and used their calendars, using observational astronomy made possible through the use of written records employing one of the only two scripts in the world to develop a sign for zero. We will go further than simply appreciating their astronomy, math, and calendars: in order to understand the people who made these inventions, and whose descendants still occupy large areas of Mexico and Central America, we will explore the role of science and technology in everyday life in what archaeologists call the Maya Classic and Postclassic periods. From farming and water control, to medical use of plants, to knowledge of the behavior of ceramics, fibers, stone and metal, everyday life in Maya society was facilitated through thorough understandings of the properties of the materials available to people living in these tropical lowland environments. Far from predicting the end of the world, their recording of dates in the distant future was an expression of the pragmatic control that the Maya exercised over their world through their technologies.
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