Lastnight I went to a "Meet the Professor Series" at Harvard. David Carrasco, a professor in the Divinity School was speaking on his research with the Cuauhtinchan No. 2 Map, from Mexico. My knowledge of Mexico and specifically Aztec culture is extremely limited (okay non-existant). Anyway, I found the whole thing totally fascinating.
The history of the No 2 Map of Cuauhtinchan is that it was created by the Aztecs 20 years after the Spanish landed in Central America. Part historical narrative, part legal document and part traditional map - the 500-year-old document was closely gaurded by a small Aztec community (the Cuauhtinchan) until the 1920s, when the donated it to the Mexican Museum. In the 1960s the map disappeared, only to resurface in a prominant Mexican families lounge room in early 2000. David Carrasco and a team of experts have spent the last five or so years conserving and interpreting the story it tells.
The story of the map itself is fascinating. Some academics cite its use in disputes between the Spanish and Atzec over landrights. But it also describes the history of the Atzec people, their rich culture and knowledge of the land. In many ways it reminded me of the traditional paintings and maps for which Australia's indigenous people are famous. There were also parrallels to the French Bailleu tapestries and probably many other "cultural" sagas from around the world.
The discussion which followed revolved around the concepts of sacred space, land rights and the assimilation of culture. It was a great night, and again I was reminded of how lucky I am to be at Harvard. This seminar was free, brought an amazing array of students and professors from different backgrounds and the discussion that eminated was truly humbling. Perhaps not the "coolest" way to spend a Monday evening, but stimulating all the same!