May 13, 2017 at the Penn Museum: Rob Fergus, PhD, Geography and Environmental Studies: "Muut Questions: Exploring Modern and Ancient Mayan Connections to Birds"

Which bird eggs have magical powers among the Chontal Maya of Tabasco, Mexico?  What bird warns Lacandon Maya farmers if a dangerous snake may be nearby? What messages do owls bring to modern Chol, Ch’orti’, Mopan, and other Mayan speakers? Ancient and Modern Maya communities have over 2000 years of extensive cultural interactions with birds.  This presentation explored these interactions as well as bird names and folklore in ancient and contemporary Mayan languages.

Rob Fergus studies human-bird interactions and received his Ph.D. in geography from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008.  Since 2006 he has been working with linguist Kerry Hull (BYU) and native Mayan speakers to document and studying bird names and folklore among nine Mayan language communities in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize.  In addition to Mesoamerican bird studies, Dr. Fergus works on urban bird conservation issues around the world, and has taught geography and environmental studies courses at UT-Austin, Rowan University, Rosemont College, East Stroudsburg University, and Northampton Community College.  He recently moved from Hunterdon County, NJ to Wallingford, PA with his wife and three children.

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