This morning, our SHSU study abroad group got an early start. After a wonderful breakfast at the Marriott, we carried our luggage out to the Volkswagen bus and our driver performed an act of magic to fit everything into the cargo hold.
We then drove down the coast to Tulum, a walled Maya city that served as a Caribbean port for the regional trading center, Coba, between the 12th and 16th centuries. By the time we arrived at Tulum, the sun was high in the sky and it was incredibly hot. We saw lemurs, iguanas, and one monkey as we made our way into the archeological area. The site offered many fascinating structures. My favorite was the Temple of the Paint, which featured a stela in honor of Ix Chel, the goddess of fertility. Dr. Heath told the group that women who wished to become pregnant in Maya times would make pilgrimages to Cozumel to make offerings and seek the interposition of Ix Chel. We then made our way by the principal pyramid and down to the water for a much-needed swim.
Sam Houston State University's first 2016 summer session began today, and our study abroad group arrived in Cancun, Mexico, to start a 24-day tour of Maya and Aztec sites. I'm teaching Public History and my colleague, Charles Heath, is teaching the History of Mesoamerica. We have 12 students in each class, and my mother, Patty, and son, Brant, are joining us for the adventure.
Today, we spent most of our time traveling. After a midday flight from Houston, we arrived at the Courtyard Marriott (which, although a dozen miles from Cancun's desirable Hotel Zone, is very nice). After finding our room and eating lunch, we talked with students and swam for an hour.
At 7:00 pm, we had our first class. The conference room at the hotel was lovely, and I had no problem setting up the computer and projector for the evening. I began with a 100-foot timeline of the world's 4.6 billion year history, which the teachers in the group seemed to appreciate. Then, as background, we all engaged in a discussi...
I'm getting ready to teach a month-long course in Mexico with my friend Charles Heath. During the planning process, I've been thinking a lot about the Maya exodus from cities like Palenque and Calakmul at the end of the classic period around 800 C.E. By the time the Spanish arrived in Mexico in 1519, most major Mayan cities had been abandoned for close to 700 years (give or take a few decades). That's roughly the same amount of time that separate us from the world of Christopher Columbus and Hernan Cortes.
Nature can take back a lot in 700 years. Whole cities can be engulfed by forests and rivers. In fact, the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster got me thinking about cities in the former Soviet Union that had been abandoned. An internet search produced this amazing video of Pripyat, a Ukrainian city of 50,000 residents that was abandoned on April 27, 1986 after Chernobyl. The film was shot from a drone because the city was so contaminated that the government deemed it un...