September 16 – November 3, 2017

Anthony Aveni

Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy, Anthropology and Native American Studies, Colgate University

Anthony F. Aveni is the Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy, Anthropology and Native American Studies, serving appointments in both the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Colgate University, where he has taught since 1963. He helped develop the field of archaeoastronomy and now is considered one of the founders of Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy, in particular for his research in the astronomical history of the Maya Indians of ancient Mexico. He is a lecturer, speaker, and editor/author of three dozen books on ancient astronomy. He has also lectured on astronomy related subjects on the Cunard & Crystal cruise lines.


ICE Fellows Lecture: Sublime Eclipse Science for the Humanist
October 10, 2017, 4:30-5:30 p.m., Filene Auditorium, Moore Hall

In the aftermath of the great American eclipse of 2017, we explore the history and culture surrounding solar eclipses, recounting how people from diverse cultures employed both word and picture to express their reactions to the sudden interruption of the usual day-night experience. We walk the narrow pathway between the objective observational science and the awe of the sublime in witnessing nature’s most mysterious phenomenon. We conclude by exploring the recent discovery of a thousand-year-old Maya microtext painted on the wall of an abandoned building in the city of Xultun in the Central American rainforest, once used by ancient Maya astronomers to predict eclipses.

Workshop on a Workshop: Viewing Maya Murals, Excavations, and Inscriptions through Interdisciplinary Eyes
October 14, 2017, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Class of 1930 Room, Rockefeller Center

We focus on the exploration of the contents of Structure 10K-2, a tiny room in an abandoned building made over into a workshop by calendar scribes who inscribed tiny hieroglyphic texts and numbers over an extant mural painting, at the ninth-century ruins of the Classic Maya city of Xultun, Guatemala. This event emanates from collaborative work with MacArthur awardee Heather Hurst, who will present and interactively analyze replicas of the mural and texts she restored, and Franco Rossi, who will discuss the nature of the human remains he excavated beneath the floor of 10K-2 (he joins us from Germany via Skype). My own contribution, in collaboration with others on the team, will deal with the way the occupants of 10K-2 used the writing on the wall to forecast eclipses using methods unanticipated by Western astronomers—a lesson in scientific cultural diversity.
See the program →

ICE Special Seminar: Ancient Maya Numbers and the Measure of Time: So Maybe Math IS the Universal Language?
October 24, 2017, 3:00-4:00 p.m., Wilder 111

Now that their books have finally been largely deciphered, we know that elites in this high culture, which flourished in Mexico and Central America during the first millennium, were obsessed with numeration and astronomy. Though the fruits of their labor were largely motivated by religious concerns, scientific attitudes, such as the quest for predictability and precision, are evident in the written record. And their way of quantitatively expressing celestial order bears a startling likeness to what we find in the Western tradition coming out of the Classical world.