Students learn about ancient Mayan art

Carla Adelmann

Teasing the audience with a clue about how millions of people think the world will come to an end on Dec. 21, Thomas Germano, professor of art and art history at Farmingdale State College, State University of NY, said he would give the answer to that question near the end of his lecture.

The Whitsett Room, SH 451, was packed to capacity with the doors open and people listening from the hall, Monday, as Germano shared how Mayan art holds many clues to what kind of people they were and how they lived.

Germano said one of the greatest adventure stories of all time was portrayed in pictures on a Mayan piece of art, where the artist depicted a bird being killed with an arrow.

The art Germano showed on the slides were from the Mayan Classic Era, 250-900 AD, and have many colorful drawings of the Mayan maize god, or corn god. The Mayans worshiped deity that was responsible for their corn, and many of the statues have corn “hats” that define important people or gods.

One vase has paintings of a deity raining water from his bowels onto the corn. The Mayan would have “blood-letting” and rituals such as women piercing their tongues, and the men making their body bleed, in order to ensure that the continuation of the earth and planets was not stopped from day to day, as shown in the paintings on the artworks.

The paint has been preserved sometimes very vividly, and some artifacts are faded. The cups and plates have images of rabbits, deities and lords that tell of the class differences. For example, a man was shown wearing royal garb, with long fingernails and a large belly sitting, as a shirtless servant waits on him.

Germano told the audience that the Mayans kept their art safe in the rounded ceramic A-frame buildings that are preserved to this day as flat works of art, many in the Princeton Museum, in New Jersey.

Germano said Dec. 21 is just the date the ancient Mayan calendar ends and does not necessarily mean the end of the world or an apocalypse.