The following is an excerpt of the news article published by the Palm Coast Observer on Sept. 28, 2012.

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Mayan conference entices scholars to Flagler

Date: September 29, 2012
by: Megan Hoye | Staff Writer

Dr. Mark Van Stone has a mission: To make the ancient world of the Mayan civilization come alive to middle- and high-school students.

To do this, he’s released a virtual book based on the Apple iBooks software, which allows developers to embed photos, videos and other applications into books for iPad tablets.

It’s called, “2012: Science & Prophecy of the Ancient Maya,” and it released about a month ago. The first public demonstration of the book was held in Palm Coast at the annual Maya at the Playa conference.

Of more than 2,000 books about the so-called Mayan prophecy foretelling the world’s end to come about at the end of this year, only four of them are written by scholars of the civilization, Van Stone said, and he is one of them. He wrote his book to help shed light on the truth behind the apocalyptic hype.

“Because we don’t know much about the Maya, people start to speculate,” Van Stone said. “We seem to hunger for the drama of the end of the world, and a lot of people want to know there’s some higher power that knows what’s going on in their lives.”

That desire considered, Van Stone said, the so-called prophecy of the world’s end in 2012 doesn’t exist. Explanations of how the prophecy hype arose and why this is a misinterpretation of hieroglyphs is included in his book.

“For scholars, that’s old news,” Van Stone said. “This has been done. Saying the prophecy was never made has been done. What’s new is the format of this book.”

With its small blocks of text on each page and its abundance of interactive features, the e-book is meant to be less daunting than a thick textbook full of dry language and condensed facts. It’s also meant to provide a more enjoyable way for people — students especially — to learn about Mayan culture.

Several videos are embedded throughout. It also features many “scrubbers” — interactive pieces that allow users to manipulate an image. This technology has limitless purposes, Stone said.

For example, in one chapter, a page features a photo of an artifact with glyphs on it. With the swipe of a finger, the artifact dissolves into a computer-generated overlay that allows the glyphs to be clearly examined.

Using the same technology, Van Stone was able to develop an interactive map that shows the changes in civilizations in Mesoamerica as time progressed. Users can slide their hand along the map to watch boundaries, names and cities change.

But what Van Stone is most excited about is the four virtual objects included in his book, which were generated by a program called AutoDesk Maya, the same technology used in the movie, “Avatar.”

Rather than just showing a photo of an artifact, the book generates a virtual copy of it in three dimensions, which can be spun and enlarged for thorough examination.

“You can’t handle objects, but you can handle virtual objects,” Van Stone said. “My hope is it will make kids more excited to learn this history.”

Van Stone’s goal is to speak with schools about implementing his book in the classroom. Because it includes games and short sections, he thinks it would be a strong tool for a young student because it would, ideally, include fun rather than just studying.

Van Stone said he finds Mayan culture to be rich and fascinating, and he hopes that by bringing some aspects of the civilization to life, others will as well.

“Everyone hates history because it’s dusty and old, right?” he said. “But when you touch it, when you come in contact with the people who lived somewhere, that’s what humanizes history and makes it worth studying.”

 

 

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