Search for the truth. Is the Popol Vuh a "story" (merely a myth) or does the Popol Vuh describe actual facts?
First posted Nov. 30, 2012
For years we have been on a search for documentation of what in the Popol Vuh story is romanticized mythical creation (such as a faux Sun God with golden attributes) compared with animals which are are actually zoologically correctly described in the Popol Vuh.
Let's take leaf-cutting ants. Millions of leaf-cutting ants are known for all of tropical Mesoamerica. You can see these at Tikal, Seibal, El Mirador, Yaxha, Dos Pilas (all in El Peten, Guatemala), and Copan in Honduras. But the Popol Vuh clearly and specifically states that leaf-cutting ants steal flowers from the garden of the evil Xibalba deities.
So for the last four years we have gone out into the rain forests of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Guatemala, to search for the reality. Do leaf-cutting ants really harvest flowers?
The Popol Vuh even says that some ants climb high in trees to get flowers from the tree tops. And that other ants gather flowers already fallen onto the ground? But then the ants are not "cutting" the flowers if already on the ground. Yet their zoological designation is known around the world clearly as "leaf-CUTTING" ants.
We used a 21 megapixel Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III camera, 100mm macro lens, two different kinds of macro flash to record the zompopos. Recently the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis had an exhibit of about 20 of our high-res digital photographs of these ants.
Please return later this year and we will reveal what we found during months of field work over four years.
Additional animals to be covered on this Maya ethnozoology resource
First posted Nov. 27, 2012
We have abundant information on rabbits in Maya art. Mayanists are long familiar of the role of the male Rabbit Companion with the very female young Moon Goddess. But how many Maya iconographers or epigraphers or archaeologists have had a wild species of Maya rabbit in their hands?
The rabbit you see here is actually the first time in my 49 years in Guatemala that I have seen a native species of rabbit. We are now doing a DNA test on its fur to determine what species it is. It refused to eat carrots or bunny rabbit food, and definitely did not come from a pet store!
Since we are also working on owls, leaf-cutting ants, and felines, it may be a few weeks before we add a new page and new full-color PDF on the Maya Rabbit Companion, but we have plenty of interesting facts both on actual wild rabbits in Mesoamerica as well as on rabbits in stelae, altars, sculptures, ceramic vases, plates, and bowls.
We also have some surprise information on butterflies and their relationship with certain plants of importance to diet in Mayan villages.
Sacred animals and plants of the Maya of past and present
This new web site is dedicated to the photography and study of mammals, birds, fish, shellfish, insects, spiders, and scorpions which were revered, worshipped, eaten, or utilized by the Classic Maya of Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. This site is focused on Maya ethnozoology and zooarchaeology of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
The creatures of tropical pre-Columbian Mesoamerica which were the most commonly revered were jaguars, deer, turtles, toads, snakes, spider monkeys and various birds, especially macaws, vultures, hummingbird, and water birds. Fish, snails, conch and shellfish were important in rituals as well as diet.
Our discussion of Mayan ethnozoology is divided into several basic themes
I have been photographing the birds and insects of Guatemala since I lived in Tikal at age 19. But with the advent of digital photography it became even easier. Based on studying Maya murals, decorated pottery, and ethnographic folklore, we have drawn up a comprehensive list of all sacred, edible, and utilitarian creatures which were of special interest to the Preclassic or Classic Maya of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The pages of this web site will devote our efforts to include the following Maya ethnozoological themes. The complete list is in a separate PDF.
- Insects and arachnids
- Snakes, iguanas, and lizards
- Crocodiles and caimans (alligators; Guatemala has both)
- Shellfish: freshwater and marine
- Fish: freshwater (especially catfish) and marine (especially sharks)
- Amphibians (frogs and toads) and amphibious creatures (turtles)
- Water birds
- Mythical birds
We are bravely launching this Maya ethnozoology web site with a photographic coverage of an initial 5 species. There are another 200 species we need to cover to be complete, but due to costs of field trips to remote jungle locations, we can realistically aspire to accomplish about 10 species per year. If we had adequate funding we could track down, and photography, and publish all 200 species in less than three years.
Another reason for going slowly is because we have thousands of photographs to process (from the last several years of intensive photography), and also we are occupied simultaneously opening a separate FLAAR web site on Mayan ethnobotany. Our goal is to do additional photography of additional species now that we have better digital camera equipment.
So the five species that we are starting this web site with, I hope these images reveal the potential of what can result if funding becomes available to photograph and discuss the remaining circa 200 species.
How this Maya ethnozoology web site will cover the diversity of creatures of Mesoamerica
The long range goal of this Maya ethnozoology web site is to have one complete page on every pertinent species of creature (that was relevant to the Classic Maya of Mesoamerica).
In the middle of a recession, until a generous corporation or considerate individual provides funding, we will start with pages on theme-groups: so a group of related creatures on a single page.
Then, as funds become available, we will expand and build one complete page for each species. So here are the pages for the groups.
If the link is not a hot link this means the page is still being worked on. As soon as a page is finished we will have a hot link to it.
Which is correct,
Maya ethnozoology or Mayan ethnozoology?
Having been at universities for decades, I am fully aware of the difference in meaning between Maya and Mayan. But to assist the reader understand the differences, and the deep emotions that the difference between Maya and Mayan is to the scholar, we have a separate page that discusses whether it is Maya ethnozoology, or Mayan ethnozoology.
Audience of this web site on Maya ethnozoology is all interested individuals
Posted Nov 2, 2011
With our academic background logically our initial audience are students and scholars. But in reality the full audience also includes the thousands of enthusiastic bird watchers and animal lovers around the world.
I believe this is the first web site on Mayan ethnozoology which is available in 36 languages. Yes, obviously this is a computer translation. But we believe it is significantly faster than earlier Babel-style translators.
To achive such fast translations requires having computer coding specialists in-house on-staff. But since our goal is to help students as well as faculty and the general public around the world, we decided it was worth the investment to make our material available in languages for China, Japan, Korea, India, Africa, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
Every year I travel about 414,000 kilometers, to lecture around the world, but also to learn about advanced digital imaging technologies so we at FLAAR can provide museums as well as zoological, botanical, archaeological, geological, and ethnographic institutes, departments, and field projects with assistance in how to improve their digital photography and printing for exhibits. As I am in all the foreign countries where I visit every year, I notice how enthusiastic people are about learning about the Maya cultures of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras.
So we wish our material to be in at least 36 languages to start with. I thank our capable staff of web masters for their hard work in programming the FLAAR web sites to be readable in so many languages.
Our other older web sites, such as www.maya-archaeology.org, were written in HTML and PHP, so we have to re-write them from scratch into newer computer code. So it will take us a while to make our legacy web sites translatable.