The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Photo credit: Nick Shockey /
A letter from the editor
February 6, 2024

From Willy Wonka to Indiana Jones; a City College anthropology adventure
Professor Michael Grofe displays his board of Mayan hieroglyphics, that he uses to teach students the Mayan calendar in Rhoda Hall North at City College on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. Photo by Cassandra Ng | Staff Writer and Photographer | [email protected]

by Cassandra Ng | Staff Writer | [email protected]

How do untranslated Mayan hieroglyphs and chocolate fit together? City College professor Dr. Michael Grofe has a long history and a passion for both the Mayan language and chocolatiering.

Grofe’s journey started out at the University of Miami as a biology major. It was then that he discovered that what was missing in his life was not more biology. Although studying rainforests and coral reefs was interesting, there was something more that he hadn’t touched on yet. It was when he began taking anthropology classes that he discovered his passion.

Grofe finished his degree at James Cook University in Australia, minoring in anthropology. Upon his return to the United States, he attended graduate school, where he wrote his master’s thesis on chocolate while working for a friend’s chocolate company. He soon became the owner of that same company, Xibalba Cacao. Though Grofe had no interest in it, his friend told him that it would be a great learning experience. And indeed it was. Though the chocolate company is not in business anymore, he has learned a great deal from the experience.

“I had been researching chocolate to find ways it would be more meaningful,” he says.  “And also researching ways to make my business more economically and socially responsible.”

Grofe says that the chocolate trade involves chopping down rainforests and exploiting people, but that was what led him to the ancient Maya.

“The Maya had domesticated chocolate and for thousands of years used chocolate. A lot of people don’t know that history,” he says. “So I studied the history and the mythology of chocolate from the Maya and was able to discover some things that people hadn’t found before.”

While he was making chocolate one day, chocolate rolling off his fingers, the shapes reminded him of Mayan hieroglyphs. That’s when it came to him: He should sculpt the hieroglyphs out of clay and cast them into chocolate molds. He did just that, choosing the Mayan calendar as his inspiration. The only reason he chose the calendar, Grofe says, was because there are 19 Haab glyphs representing each 20 day period in the Mayan calendar and they made a nice chocolate box. When he went to actually write down the translations of the hieroglyphs, Grofe discovered they had not been translated.

This was the mid 1990s, he says, when the translation of Mayan hieroglyphs was in its infancy.

“I became completely obsessed,” he says. “I had already sculpted them [the molds] and knew every nook and cranny. I ended up doing all this research, connecting the images on the glyphs to the cycles of the year.”

He wanted to publish his work and sent it out to a number of scholars. They told him that he would not get the recognition he deserved, and advised Grofe to get a Ph.D. He decided to close his chocolate business and sent his manuscripts to Martha Macri at UC Davis, who specialized in Mayan hieroglyphics and archeoastronomy. She met with him, they hit it off, and she became his mentor in studying Mayan epigraphy and astronomy for his doctorate.

Parents of children with special needs might react to buy cialis india the treatment of glucocorticoid, the prognosis will be favorable. 4. Of all medicine accessible in the stores viagra soft 50mg today, Kamagra has made a distinctive mark to offer helpful treatment in order to learn driving and receive the license. online pharmacy cialis The blood circulation in the organs has been increased and makes the organ perfect. In the event that you take it on an empty stomach and need cialis sale uk not worry about having an acidic reaction. After finishing his doctorate in Native American studies in 2007, Grofe began teaching at City College as an adjunct, landing a full-time position in 2015. He loves it—anthropology is never boring, he says. He teaches the four disciplines of anthropology: archaeology, linguistics, culture and biology.

Students are fans of Grofe’s humor and engaging teaching style.

Ely Kreiss, current linguistics student says of Grofe, “He’s extremely enthusiastic with his work, and you can tell that he really enjoys what he does.”

In 2015, Grofe was recruited to work for the nonprofit Mayas for Ancient Mayan (MAM), and is now its president. Through this organization, he gets to work with living Maya people all over the world, helping teach them their language since much of it has been lost due to Spanish occupation. MAM supports these people by providing workshops and teaching materials. Grofe is also a member of the nonprofit Maya Exploration Center, which is dedicated to the study of the ancient Mayan and does so by educating and studying the ancient culture.

Not only has Grofe helped resurrect the Mayan writing system, he gets to travel and attend conferences, as well as bring students on educational trips to learn more about the Mayan people. In this way, he is able to blend his two nonprofits, as well as his passion for teaching.

At the end of May, he will lead a trip to Belize for 10 days from May 27 to June 5. He will also lead a trip during spring break to Mexico City to visit the Aztec Templo Mayor, the National Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the ancient city of Teotihuacan.

Current City College student Cheryl Skare has had the opportunity to go on several trips with Grofe, including Guatemala, Peru and Greece.

I have had wonderful, exciting, and informative trips with Dr G.,” she says. “[They] have expanded my very soul and outlook on the world. I highly recommend  anyone takes a trip (or three) with Dr G. Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

On top of traveling, studying and learning about a culture can be life-changing.

“Archaeology is not only about the past,” Grofe says. “But is also very relevant to people in the present who are interested in their own past—rather than outsiders defining what the past is—defining it for themselves.”

Students interested in the Belize or Mexico City trip should contact Dr. Grofe at [email protected] for information and pricing. For those interested in Maya culture can see for other study abroad opportunities through MEC.

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