|March 13, 2003
Volume 33 Number 12
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
Anthropologist Gets Inside Look at Ancient Maya Tomb
Mike Findlay, Anthropology, never expected to participate in the opening of a Maya tomb, complete with a decomposed skeleton, wall paintings, and murals. When he received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for the six-week summer 2002 institute, Maya World: Cultural Traditions in Continuity and Change, he knew he would visit the important Maya sites of Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, but he was unaware of the exciting bonus awaiting him at Palenque, in the southeast Mexican state of Chiapas.
The Palenque ruins are the ceremonial center of a once-large fifth-century
city of 800 structures, in the foothills of the Sierra de Palenque. Findlay’s
group of 24 university and college professors from all over the United
States, led by Michael Coe of Yale University, the “dean of Maya
studies,” was invited to an “insider’s tour” of
current archeological work at Palenque. “We had special passes to
go places tourists aren’t allowed,” said Findlay.
At Temple XXII, a newly opened tomb near the Temple of the Cross area
(see photo), their guides from the National Institute of Anthropology
and History dropped in a digital camera, then took the group to a lab
where they were able to reconstruct the interior of the tomb on computers.
They identified a skeleton, jade beads, wall paintings, and murals. “We
were able to zoom in and out, and just play around, checking out the tomb,”
Findlay exclaimed. “We even recognized chocolate in bowls, set out
to accompany the deceased.”
Findlay is a Chico State alum, obtaining his M.A. in anthropology in
1984. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Oregon.
A lecturer at Chico State since 1986, he now teaches Language and Culture,
an upper-division core class for majors, which explores the emergence
of writing systems in the ancient world, including the Maya writing system.
He found the summer institute’s intensive collaborative study helpful
in developing both that course and the Mesoamerican class he teaches at
Butte College. His book, Language and Communication: A Cross-Cultural
Encyclopedia, was published in 1998.
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