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Keeping the Days

gemeinsames Projekt der Abteilung für Altamerikanistik und Ethnologie (Bonn) und der Fakultät für Archäologie (Universität Leiden)


The ancient Mesoamerican calendar was not only the dominant framework for historiography and astronomical observations, but also for divination, medical treatment, ritual performance, community organisation and moral codes. It appears as an important structuring principle in ancient visual art, inscriptions and books, which to a large extent still elude full interpretation. A wealth of additional and very relevant information is to be found in the on-going use of this calendar by day-keepers (specialists in traditional healing and other rituals) in present-day indigenous communities in Southern Mexico and Guatemala.

This research programme aims at expanding the empirical data through ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork, while comparing this information to the archaeology, in particular the pre-colonial inscriptions and manuscripts, and to early colonial chronicles. It will reconstruct the calendar as a cognitive system and examine how it was, and to some extent still is, embodied, socially embedded, and ritually performed.

As well as mapping the linguistic, narrative, ritual and intercultural dimensions of the surviving calendar, this programme will contribute to the theoretical reflection on the role of perceptions and conceptualisations of time in the construction of individual and collective identities, and how this role is affected by (and, in turn, influences) a situation of intense cultural interaction. The project will last four years and is funded by a Grant from NWO.



Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube
Tel. +49 (0)228 73-4412
Fax +49 (0)228 73-4385
E-mail: ngrube (at)

Prof. Dr. Maarten Jansen
E-mail: m.e.r.g.n.jansen (at)