Penn Museum's 26th Annual Maya Weekend to Focus on "The Future of the Maya World"

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Media Contact:Pam Kosty | pkosty@sas.upenn.edu | 215-898-4045
Media Contact:Jordan Reese | jreese@upenn.edu | 215-573-6604March 20, 2008

PHILADELPHIA -– The preservation of ancient Maya sites, efforts to sustain modern Maya cultural traditions and the need to conserve vanishing tropical forests and coastal environments are all are on the agenda April 11-13 when the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology collaborates with the Nature Conservancy to present its 26th annual Maya Weekend. This year’s theme is “The Future of the Maya World.”

Highlight speakers for this year’s include keynote speaker Marie Claire Paiz, director of the Nature Conservancy’s Southern Mexico Program, and Maya banquet speaker Robert K. Whitman, special agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and senior investigator for the National Arts Crime Team.

Penn Museum’s Maya Weekend is one of the largest and oldest meetings in the United States devoted to Maya studies. This year brings together international scholars, speakers of Mayan descent, conservationists and others actively involved with traditional Maya communities in Mexico and Central America for a look at the future of the Maya World.

Included in this year's events are leading archaeologists and Maya scholars offering a variety of illustrated lectures, such as a Saturday talk, “Landmark Victory for the Maya in Belize,” by Cristina Coc, director of the Julian Cho Society in Belize. A champion of indigenous Maya issues in southern Belize, Coc helped push through the recent decision by the Supreme Court there to uphold the land-tenure rights of traditional villages.

Barbara Knoke de Arathoon, curator and exhibits director for the Museo Ixchel del Traje IndĂ­gena in Guatemala City, speaks Sunday. She has been documenting the changing weaving and costume traditions of modern highland Maya communities. Her research with the Museo Ixchel on preserving the history of this textile tradition was recently awarded Spain's Queen Sofia Prize for cultural heritage.

Throughout the weekend, guests can participate in hands-on workshops on Maya glyph-reading for beginners and more advanced glyph readers alike, led by epigraphers Simon Martin and Marc Zender.

The program begins Friday evening with an opening welcome by Richard Hodges, director of Penn Museum. Marie Claire Paiz of the Nature Conservancy will discuss “nature-culture” with her talk, “Trees and Temples –- Conservation in the Maya Forest.” Her presentation focuses on the Nature Conservancy’s efforts to protect the cultural environment through archaeological preservation, understanding nature–centered indigenous customs and protecting cultural landscapes. Her talk is followed by a reception in the Museum’s Lower Egyptian Gallery.

Saturday offers seven lectures by scholars from across the nation and abroad, with topics ranging from the preservation of Mayan culture to current archaeological work at Mayan sites. At the optional Maya Banquet Saturday night, guests will hear from F.B.I. Special Agent Robert K. Whitman discussing “U.S. vs. Art Thieves: Tales of the FBI’s Real Indiana Jones.”

On Sunday there will be morning talks and workshops, winding down Sunday afternoon with the Despedida, or farewell, reception in the Lower Egyptian Gallery.

Two authors provide book signing opportunities: Jeremy Sabloff, former Penn Museum director, Maya expert and Penn Museum Curator of American Archaeology, will sign his new book, “Why Archaeology Matters.” Author and photographer Bruce T. Martin will sign copies of his book, “Look Close/See Far: A Cultural Portrait of the Maya.”

Attendees to the Maya Weekend can visit Penn Museum’s Mesoamerican gallery, which draws upon the Museum’s strong collection and research fieldwork to offer a thematic look at the Maya and other ancient peoples of the region. World famous grand stone monuments and monumental circular altars from the Museum’s early Maya excavations at Piedras Negras, Guatemala, and Caracol, Belize, dominate the gallery.

The Annual Maya Weekend is supported in part by a contribution from Far Horizons Archaeological and Cultural Trips and by MesoWeb.

General information is available by calling 215-898-4000 or by visting the Museum's Web site, www.museum.upenn.edu.

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