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: Eclipse Science for the Humanist
October 10, 2017, 4:00-5:00 p.m., Wilder 104

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.

ICE Special Workshop: Workshop on a Workshop: Viewing Maya Mural Paintings and Inscriptions Through the Eyes of Astronomer, Archaeologist, and Art Restorer/Anthropologist
October 14, 2017, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Haldeman 41

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.

Luncheon Seminar: How the Spanish Changed the Shape of Time in Mesoamerica
October 24, 2017, Time and Location TBD

Since antiquity, time in the West, though conceived as linear, has been represented in circular form, its gear wheels churning out duration in endless years. At the time of the Spanish conquest of the New World, dials on round clock faces looked down from town hall facades, their tones chiming out the hours, even as the Copernican doctrine of heliocentric circular orbits replaced Ptolemy’s earth-centered model. To judge from the way Spanish chroniclers describe it, the circle was, likewise, the principal mode of temporal expression among the native people they sought to Catholicize. In this presentation/discussion, we examine a series of pre- and post-Conquest pictorial documents, as I argue that this was decidedly not the case. We also explore the tension between Mesoamerican scribes forced to confront radically different ways of knowing, between the imposed requirement to change the way they thought about time and the innate desire to preserve their heritage and their dignity.