Clayton B. Ofstad Lecture to Feature Maya Hieroglyphics


Scott Johnson, author of “Translating Maya Hieroglyphs,” will present a Clayton B. Ofstad lecture entitled “Egos and Epigraphy: Deciphering Maya Hieroglyphs” at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 in Baldwin Hall Little Theater.

The talk will include the perspective of dozens of scholars, priests and characters in the history of the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphics. The story starts shortly after European colonization of Yucatan, Mexico, travels through Berlin at the end of World War II and culminates during the Cold War when scholars attacked each other’s ideologies instead of assessing the merits of their ideas. Today, Maya hieroglyphics are a complex writing system that is still not fully understood.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, will conclude with the discussion of debated controversies in the field.

Johnson is an archeologist with broad interests including experimental archeology, writing systems, ethnoarchaeology, linguistics and field methods. Since receiving his Ph.D. from Tulane in 2012, he has continued to do fieldwork in the Yucatan, directing the Emal Archaeological Project for several years, and has taught courses at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the director of the non-profit Low Technology Institute, which seeks to revive and adapt ancient technologies to solve problems today.

Due to the generosity and vision of Odessa Ofstad in creating the Clayton B. Ofstad Endowed Chair in English and Linguistics, the Department of English and Linguistics is able to offer a range of intensive seminars, masterclasses and workshops in creative writing, English and linguistics led by guest writers and scholars. Along with these classes, the Clayton B. Ofstad Reading Series, which features these guests, has become a centerpiece of departmental and campus culture.
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