March 10, 2012, Richard M. Leventhal,PhD: "Preserving Maya
Heritage: Examples from the Ancient and Historic Past"
The Maya past is looked upon with great interest as the evidence and
remains of a once great civilization lost in the jungles of Central
America. Both Mexican and American cultures have tied
themselves back to this ancient culture – either as the basis for an
indigenous past or as the basis for a culture of exploration and
At the same time, the Maya people today see continuities and
connections to the ancient Maya cities and civilization as well as a
direct connection to a more recent history. The Caste War rebellion
in the Yucatan of the mid 19th century is a critical historical
moment for the modern Maya of the region and is reflected in the
more recent Zapatista movement of Chiapas. These continuities and
changes in the representation of the Maya past are the focal point
for this talk. In addition, a new community project by Leventhal in
this region highlights both the ancient and modern past of the Maya
living today within the Yucatan.
Richard M. Leventhal is the Director of the Penn Cultural Heritage
Center, Professor in the University of Pennsylvania Department of
Anthropology, and Curator in the American Section of the Penn
Museum. In addition, he is the former Williams Director of the
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
He received his BA in 1974 and his PhD in Anthropology in 1979, both
from Harvard. He has done extensive archaeological field research in
Belize, Mexico, and other parts of Central America for over thirty
years. This fieldwork has resulted in several monographs and books
on the ancient Maya.
Dr. Leventhal lectures and writes extensively on the preservation of
cultural heritage and cultural sites, on the need to prevent the
looting of global heritage resources, on the acquisition policies of
museums, and the relationship within communities between heritage
and economic development. He has worked extensively with law
enforcement agencies both in the United States and internationally
to stop the illegal movement of antiquities. He has also directed
major training programs for ICE and CPB agents.
Dr. Leventhal has initiated a heritage preservation and economic
development project within a community in Mexico’s Yucatan peinsula.
This work is focused upon the 19th century rebellion of the Maya
against Mexico, which continues to resonate within this region in
modern times. He is also working in association with Belize’s
National Institute of Culure and History on the development of a
masterplan for a new Belize National Museum. Previously, in Belize,
he directed the detailed excavation, preservation, and development
of the ancient Maya site, Xunantunich. In addition, Dr. Leventhal
has been an advisor to several indigenous groups in Belize related
to the preservation of archaeological sites and current land-claims
of the Maya.
Dr. Leventhal’s previous positions include President and CEO at the
School of American Research in Santa Fe; Director of the Cotsen
Institute of Archaeology at UCLA; Associate Professor, Department of
Anthropology, UCLA; and Director of the Institute for Mesoamerican
Studies at SUNY-Albany
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