April 20, 2016 - Maya Textiles

eventb ph3April 20, 2016 - 8pm, Presentation

From the Ceremonial to the Everyday:  Maya Textiles as Cultural Texts

with Dr. Gabrielle Vail

Florida Institute for Hieroglyphic Research

When weaving a textile using traditional techniques such as a backstrap loom, Maya women encode information that is clearly visible to others, as well as that which remains hidden except by close scrutiny and analysis.  The former includes the striking colors and designs, as well as the materials used, whereas the latter involves how the textile is structured:  the type of weave, the spin and ply of the threads, and similar details.


We know from Maya weavers themselves that dreams as well as stories of culture heroes and celestial beings are woven into textiles in ways that can be interpreted by the weaver and those who share the same language and stories.  Examples of some of these narrative textiles will be discussed, in particular examples from the Alta Verapaz and Ixil regions of Guatemala dating to the early 20th century.  Their technical attributes will also be considered for what they can tell us.  More recent examples of textiles from the Chiapas highlands will also be discussed, as will suggestions that they can help inform us in interpreting textiles represented in pottery and sculpture from Classic period contexts.






(Left) Master weaver Concepción Poou Coy Tharin weaves in the traditional manner, using a backstrap loom. The white-on-white style of textile from her village in the Alta Verapaz of Guatemala is known as pikb'il.





Also from the Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala, these two colorful textiles were woven in the community of Tactic, meaning “land of the deer”. They feature a variety of motifs, including the hummingbird and tobacco motif (left), and the ancestors, deer, and the diamond motif (both examples). The textile on the left was made around 2008 and uses rayon as the principal material, whereas that on the right dates to the 1980s or early 1990s and uses cotton. In the early 20th century, silk was commonly used for brocaded designs. All photos submitted by Gabrielle Vail.

Maya Tetiles 



Msya Tetiles













The Institute of Maya Studies is now a community partner with Miami Dade College – Kendall Campus, Miami, FL. This program will take place in K-413 (in Building K-4, Room 13). Check out the campus map for the location of Building K-4 on mdc.edu or, call the Maya Hotline (305-279-8110) for directions.


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