WASHINGTON, USA -- Archaeologists, academics and tourism authorities from Guatemala on Tuesday gathered at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC, to explain the meaning and interpretation of the thirteenth Bak'tun, which according to Mayan tradition marks the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new era.
The event, part of the preparatory activities for the 43rd OAS General Assembly, to be held June 4 to 6, 2013, in Guatemala, highlighted the legacy of the Mayan civilization and its importance as a Cultural Heritage of the Americas, and provided the context to discuss its cosmology, relevance and interpretation of history.
Introducing the event, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza highlighted the importance of history in understanding the present, and remarked on the efforts made to deepen the understanding and interpretation of the Mayan culture.
"From the work of Yuri Knorozov, in the early fifties, until the recent discovery of a new calendar in Xultun, the Mayan culture gradually reveals its secrets and dazzles us with its rich civilization and science," he said.
Insulza noted that the process to decipher, understand and interpret the Mayan culture accelerated in recent years due to the development of the region.
"The peace agreements and democratic deepening in Mesoamerica gave us greater stability, which allowed a boom in the study of the Mayan civilization," he noted, and recalled that according to the Mayan calendar, the OAS General Assembly in Guatemala will be held during a "period of renewal."
The institution’s annual meeting “will help us to learn more about and get excited about the cultural richness that the Mayan world offers," he concluded.
The assistant director of the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism, Maruja Acevedo, opened the presentations with a discussion of the legacy of the Maya Civilization and its importance as cultural heritage. Acevedo stressed the relevance of the thirteenth Bak'tun for her country as well as the activities to commemorate it, as the year 2012 "represents an awakening of the world, a sunrise, a chance for humanity to understand, reflect and above all to live in peace and harmony.”
Francisco Estrada-Belli, Professor in the Department of Archaeology at Boston University, spoke about the beginnings of the Maya civilization, focusing on the archaeological discoveries and efforts to understand the culture, its symbolism, mythology, art, wealth and ritual forms.
"The calendar, despite being a development of Maya knowledge, was shared in many parts of Mesoamerica," he said, and added that it became a staple of the cosmological view of the world of the time.
"Continuity is the key of the Maya legacy, a culture as alive today as it was three thousand years ago," he added.
The director of the Department of Archaeology and Archaeological Research Center and Anthropology at the Universidad del Valle in Guatemala, Tomas Barrientos, analyzed the Mayan vision of the cosmos from the idea that we live “the end of an era,” as he clarified that the Mayan calendar is not prophetic, but represents a way of understanding the cosmos and its influence on the world.
Barrientos underscored the importance of key elements of that ancestral culture such as its writing and cosmology, with special emphasis on the Mayan concept of cycles, according to which every so often the conditions for certain activities are repeated, that influences the lives of human beings.