Wow! I cannot believe that it is almost the end of October! Where has the time gone? I’ve had a ton of posts in draft that I just haven’t prettied up to get out there. Totally slacking at this blog thing. Over the past couple of months I’ve been listening to something I picked in a sale on Audible that isn’t a book but a lecture series: Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed. It is a lecture series about Mesoamerican history given by an archaeologist who works in Mayaland. I am a linguist that works in Mayaland (and, one of the things that has kept me from the blog this month has been a conference I attended on the indigenous languages of Latin America) but I have very little background in the history of the area; I work on a modern language and with modern speakers. Yes! there are still Mayans! There are a lot of them, actually, in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. There are a number of modern Mayan languages that are still spoken today. So, I was pretty excited to listen to this series and to learn more about the history of the area.
The lecture series starts in Pre-Maya Mesoamerica with the preclassic period and a couple of Olmec cities. There were a lot of different empires in Mesoamerica and the Pre-Columbian world. In the area that is now Mexico, Belize and Guatemala there were the Olmecs, the Toltecs, the Mayans, The Zapotec, the Mixtec, and the Tarascan. Within these empires there are other groups as well. The series discusses the archeology, what we know about the culture, the cosmology, the writing system and the calendar. Barnhart, the lecturer, also talks through some of his theories and the evidence he has supporting them. He also points out potential challenges.
The audio book also comes with a huge pdf that has materials for each of the lectures. The notes contain pictures of the sites or the pieces of art that are discussed. They also include questions to consider at the end of each lecture.
I learned a lot about historical Mesoamerica in this series. I thought it was a lot of fun! This is part of the Great Courses series on audible. So, I recommend checking this one and the whole series out if you want to get your nerd on!