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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2010 Mayan Birds Research Trip to Mexico

After working with Ch'orti', Mopan, Kekchi, and Tzutujil Mayan speakers in Guatemala and Belize, Kerry Hull and I decided this year to head over to Mexico to work with the Chontal Mayan speakers in the state of Tabasco. We also spent some time up in the Chiapas Highlands to work with some Chol Mayan speakers, and started working with a few Tzeltal Mayan speakers as well.

We talked to dozens of native speakers and spent time in the field looking for birds, as well as reviewing drawings of birds in field guides and recordings of birds on my iPod. This allowed us to determine the identification of dozens of birds in each language. We also routinely asked about the beliefs involved with each bird, and if they bring messages, since in Mayan communities there are always some birds that foretell good or bad events, or even just periods of rain or drought.

So after two weeks in Mexico, we now have bird data from 7 of the 31 Mayan language groups, including the Ch'orti', Chontal, and Chol languages which are the closest to the language used in writing the Classic Mayan glyphic texts. Our research is showing how important birds are within traditional Mayan cultures, as well as illuminating the meaning of birds appearing in the Classic Mayan texts. We are also making friends in Mayan communities and working with them to preserve the language and lore involving birds. It is an ongoing adventure. You can read about our past adventures in 2006 (scroll down) and 2008, as well as our current adventures in the posts below:

Prehispanic Birding at Uxmal
Birding Camellones Chontales
Chontal Mayan Birds in Tucta
Olmecs and Birds at La Venta Museum
Chol Birds
Tzeltal Mayan Hummingbird Remedy
Granja de Tortugas (Turtle Farm)
Why there aren't more birders in Mexico?
In Search of...the Chontal Crow

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