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 study.
            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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