By Kailyn Fournier
On Wednesday, Jaime Sanchez, professor of English and Spanish at Volunteer State Community College, held a lecture in the Thigpen Library’s Rochelle Center on the Maya civilization. The lecture drew in a small crowd, including the president of Vol State, Jerry Faulkner, who, upon recognition stated, “I’m just a student today.”
One of the points addressed in the lecture was intelligence of the society. This included the infamous Mayan calendar, in which Sanchez referred to the winter solstice of 2012, and the people who believed it would turn out to be doomsday.
“I don’t know how they thought that…they just didn’t get to that point,” Sanchez said, which received a laugh from the audience.
In regard to the intelligence of their culture, their calculations about the Sun and Moon were extremely accurate. Although this was not the same with celestial masses further away, such as Venus, their calculations were near exact when it came to the Moon and the Sun with the help of the Mayan understanding of Geometry.
“Their view of our universe is complex, and I would like to understand it better,” said Sanchez, after the lecture.
Sanchez also commented on their knowledge when talking about the Mayan game of pitz, which is a sport that is similar to what would happen if someone mixed basketball and soccer.
The game is played like soccer, however the goal is a small stone circle, much like a donut shape, that is just large enough for the ball to go through, and it is attached high on the wall, or sides of the court.
This is not the part of the game that Sanchez commented on, however, as many aspects of the game are still largely unknown. What he did comment on was the knowledge of acoustics the Mayan people demonstrated through the structure of these game courts.
If a speaker were to stand on a platform, and a person stood on another platform a football field away from the speaker, and they were to talk in a low voice, the person could easily hear the speaker.
“It would be like the person was standing two feet in front of them,” said Sanchez.
Sanchez then addressed the diet of the people in the Maya culture, which was mostly corn, and how it correlated with their beliefs. The Mayas believed that mankind existed in 3 forms: the first people being made of clay, the second people being made of wood, and the third peoples, us, being made of the corn plant, an idea that brings a whole new meaning to “you are what you eat.”
Along with that, Sanchez also addressed one of the reasons the Maya diet contained little meat, which was because the species of turkey the Mayans were exposed to were larger, meaner, and had less meat on the breast of the bird than the turkey most Americans know.
In addition to that, “it was a pretty ugly bird,” said Sanchez.
He also went over the artistic side of the culture, showing the audience pictures of the clothing style and their paintings, but he also showed photos of K’inich Janaab’ Pakal’s tomb, and the jade mask that was found inside.
Sanchez told the audience that the mask was stolen, a feat that may not be surprising to many; however, “it is like if someone stole the Liberty Bell,” said Sanchez.
The mask, he continued, was not found until the bust of someone high up in the drug business and the police searched his mansion, and found the jade mask inside.
One of the audience members there, Patricia Highers, is an English Professor who although she missed the discussion of the Maya calendar and art, said she was glad she got to see him talk about the temples and pitz.
“I just think ancient structures and architecture are really interesting,” said Highers.
“For me it’s always about the person… [and] I thought it was fantastic,” said Michelle Vandiver-Lawrence, Associate Professor of Spanish. “It shows us how they developed and how that effects today’s cultures.”
By Kailyn Fournier