New York, April 28 IANS | 6 months ago

As we have moved over the Maya calendar that interpreted the world's end in 2012, it is time again to look back how people belonging to the Maya period may have had reacted to the virtual online world we are living in today.


A fascinating research by University of Cincinnati assistant professor Sarah Jackson has explored the Maya perspective on the material world and found distinct parallels with today's online culture.

Now, it is beginning to uncover some interesting parallels between ancient Maya and modern-day views on materiality.

"This relates to a lot of things that people are feeling out right now about virtual realities and dealing with computers and social lives online," said Jackson, an anthropological archaeologist.

These things start to occupy this uncomfortable space where we question, "Is it real, or is it not real?"

"I look at the Maya context and consider, 'How different is that from some of the concerns we have now?' There are some parallels in terms of preoccupation with roles that objects play and how attached we are to things," she added.

The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilisation established during the pre-classic period (2000 BC to AD 250). Millions of people speak Mayan languages today.

For her research, Jackson used hieroglyphic textual evidence to help her understand how the Maya might have viewed the material world.

Jackson found that the Maya applied property qualifiers in a broad manner, including some unexpected areas of divergence from literal interpretation.

The Maya believed that part of your identity could inhabit material objects, like a courtier's mirror or sculptor's carving tool.

Maya might even name these objects, talk to them or take them to special events. They considered these items to be alive.

For example, to the Maya, a temple might have "stony" qualities but so might a calendar or different things related to time.

The Maya people believed that objects have the power to act in their own right and that the identity can be split into sections which can live outside the body.

"Some of these things I am thinking about could really shift how we characterise objects, how we record them, what is our vision of what they look like," Jackson said during a presentation at the Society for American Archaeology's (SAA) annual meeting in Austin, Texas, recently.

(Posted on 28-04-2014)

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