For Immediate Release

2011 Tatiana Proskouriakoff Award Lecture:

New Research on the Aztec Script: A True Writing System

Cambridge, September 13, 2011 -- Aztec writing was among the last of the Mesoamerican writing systems to emerge.  For a long time it has been considered an imperfect or defective system that was not tied to language. However, new data strongly indicate that Aztec writing was a fully developed script of the type similar to other Mesoamerican writing systems such as Maya hieroglyphs.

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology presents the free Tatiana Proskouriakoff Award Lecture, "New Research on the Aztec Script: A True Writing System" on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at Harvard's Geological Lecture Hall (24 Oxford St.) at 5:30 PM. A public reception will follow at the Peabody Museum.

Aztec writing belongs to the group of early Mexican writing systems derived from Teotihuacan script. Nahua speakers used Aztec writing throughout Central Mexico and across political boundaries, including the cities of Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Tetzcoco, Tlaxcalla, Huexotzingo, and Cuauhtinchan. The writing also came to be used by some non Nahua-speaking peoples under the political control of the Aztec Triple Alliance in the Late Postclassic period. The demise of Aztec writing took more than a century after the Spanish conquest with the gradual disappearance of the cultural milieu that supported and justified it.

This illustrated lecture will focus on the history of the research on the Aztec script, and a description of the Aztec writing system as it is understood now, including its repertory of signs and writing conventions  from both pre-Columbian and Colonial times.

About Alfonso Lacadena Garcia-Gallo, Speaker

Alfonso Lacadena García-Gallo graduated from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid, Spain (1990), where earned his Ph.D. in history (1995). He has been professor of Mesoamerican writing systems at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán (Merida, Mexico) and research fellow at the Instituto de Filología at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Madrid, Spain). He is currently professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. His research focuses on grammatology and Mesoamerican writing systems, and he has published on Maya hieroglyphic writing (paleography, grammar, and literature). As a field researcher, he has studied and published hieroglyphic inscriptions from Oxkintok, Río Bec, Ek’ Balam (Mexico), and Machaquilá (Guatemala), and has conducted linguistic fieldwork on Ch’orti’ Maya. He has also focused on the systematization and decipherment of Nahuatl hieroglyphic writing, and is the author of "Regional Scribal Traditions: Methodological Implications for the Decipherment of Nahuatl Writing" (2008), "The wa1 and wa2 Phonetic Signs and the Logogram for WA in Nahuatl Writing" (2008), and "Longitud vocálica y glotalización en la escritura náhuatl" (2008); co-authored with S. Wichmann).

About the Tatiana Proskouriakoff Award

A nationally respected scholar, Tatiana Proskourikoff came to the Peabody Museum in 1958 as an expert in Maya art, architecture, and hieroglyphic writing. Her research became the foundation for the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphics, and her studies of Maya art are considered classics among archaeologists.

The Proskouriakoff Award was established by a gift from Landon T. Clay to recognize the artistic achievements of non-European cultures of the New World along with outstanding contributions in the field of New World Indian Studies.

About the Peabody Museum
The Peabody Museum is among the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world with one of the finest collections of human cultural history found anywhere. It is home to superb materials from Africa, ancient Europe, North America, Mesoamerica, Oceania, and South America in particular. In addition to its archaeological and ethnographic holdings, the Museum’s photographic archives, one of the largest of its kind, hold more than 500,000 historical photographs, dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and chronicling anthropology, archaeology, and world culture.

Hours and location: 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., seven days a week. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, $6 for children, 3–18. Free with Harvard ID or Museum membership. The Museum is free to Massachusetts residents Sundays, 9 A.M. to noon, year round, and Wednesdays from 3 P.M. to 5 P.M. (September to May). Admission includes admission to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. For more information call 617-496-1027 or go online to: The Peabody Museum is located at 11 Divinity Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Museum is a short walk from the Harvard Square MBTA station.

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Peabody Museum
Tel: 617-495-3397





Detail of the calendar glyph "2 Reed" designating the completion of Aztec time cycle of 52 years on the day 2 Reed. From a cast of a cylindrical stone carved as a xuimolpilli or a bundle of years. PM 92-50-20/C1127.

High resolution image available on request.

Tatiana Proskouriakoff Award Lecture: Thursday, October 13, 2011, "New Research on the Aztec Script: A True Writing System"

5:30 PM Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge, followed by a public reception at the Peabody Museum, 11 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Information: 617-496-1027 


Speaker: Alfonso Lacadena García-Gallo

Research Professor in the Department of History II, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Related topic: See the Visible Language series lectures