Vanderbilt archaeologist to discuss adventures, discoveries in Guatemala

Uncovering ancient treasures, helping police catch dangerous looters and working with the Maya citizens to protect their resources…these are typical activities in the life of Vanderbilt archaeologist Arthur Demarest, who will give a free public lecture Tuesday, Oct. 28, on the Vanderbilt campus.

Demarest will address “Searching for the Lost Cities of the Ancient Maya: The Vanderbilt Archaeological Expeditions, Adventures and Discoveries.” His talk will be at 7 p.m. in Wilson Hall, Room 103, with a pre-lecture reception at 6:30 p.m. Video of the lecture will be available at a later date at VUCast (, the website of Vanderbilt News Service.

Demarest, the Ingram Professor of Anthropology, will discuss the Cancuen project, which has discovered sprawling royal palaces, hieroglyphic monuments, royal tombs and caverns rich in jade and other precious goods. Some of the research reveals the unusual nature of the eighth century Classic Maya kingdom of Cancuen and its control of wealth and power through trade and alliance. He will also talk about the sudden, violent collapse and royal mass assassination in 800 A.D.

In addition, Demarest, who directs the Vanderbilt Institute of Mesoamerican Archaeology, will discuss the Cancuen Indigenous Community Development Project. This long-term program of humanitarian work and development has engaged archaeologists in the lives of the Q’eqchi’ Maya of today as they battle looting, drug-trafficking and political oppression.

Professor Demarest is the author or senior co-author of over 200 articles or chapters and of many books on Pre-Columbian archaeology, anthropology and religion, most recently Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization.

Demarest recently completed his 28th season of archaeological field excavations in the jungles, highlands and coasts of Central America. His many honors include Vanderbilt’s Madison-Sarratt Teaching award and Guatemala’s University Career Leadership Award.

Vanderbilt’s Jean and Alexander Heard Library and the Department of Special Collections are co-sponsoring Demarest’s talk. Parking is available at the Terrace Place Garage. Those who plan to attend the lecture are encouraged to RSVP to Carrie Pichler at 615-322-4205.

The Mayan Artifacts Exhibit, which includes replicas of the hieroglyphic monuments, altars and panels that were made by the Maya people, are on public display in Special Collections through Jan. 31, 2009. Special Collections, open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., is located at 419 21st Ave. S. For more information, call 615-322-2807.

Media Contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, (615) 322-NEWS

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