Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Good Society: Sustainability and the Ancient Maya Farmers of Chan

Dr. Robin will address the ways in which her research provides us with lessons about world issues today

Why does archaeology matter? How can studying the distant past in faraway places be relevant to understanding and improving modern communities and perhaps, entire societies? It is a common response of people to say that they are taking an introductory anthropology course, attending an archaeological talk, or reading an archaeology book, be-cause the subject sounds interesting. Indeed, the material often turns out to be nothing short of fascinating, but an even greater outcome is when archaeologists inform us of how their findings can be used to make a difference in the modern world!

So get ready for this February’s CAS talk when guest speaker, Dr. Cynthia Robin, discusses her re-cent research on the 2000-year history (ca. 800 B.C. – A.D. 1200) of the ancient Maya farming com-munity of Chan, in Belize. Dr. Robin will address the ways in which her research provides us with lessons about world issues today, particularly those related to social and environmental sustainability.

Dr. Robin’s primary re-search interests in the ancient Maya world reach far beyond the scope of elite writing systems and super structures. She has instead chosen to study how seemingly ordinary people in a small farming community resiliently thrived in their tropical rain-forest environment over an exceptionally long period of time and in a surprisingly consistent manner. And amazingly, how this small community phenomenon occurred vis-à-vis with a few large neighboring Maya ceremonial centers whose wealth and power not only fluctuated, but also ended in early collapse.

Thus, this February we have an opportunity to learn about the archaeological evidence that demonstrates how a community, distant to us in time and space, had established a fairly equitable distribution of goods, relative consistency in good health, and an inclusive community focus on rituals and politics that involved its everyday residents.
Dr. Cynthia Robin is professor of anthropology at Northwestern University and an assistant curator at the Field Museum in Chicago.

She has recently published two insightful books about her Chan re-search: “Everyday Life Matters: Maya Farmers at Chan” (2013) and “Chan: An Ancient Maya Farming Community” (2012). Robin is the author of five books and over thirty articles. Among several other awards, major grant funding institutions such as the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Geographic Society have supported her scholarly research.

The CAS warmly welcomes Dr. Cynthia Robin to our next meeting, which is to be held at the Evanston Public Library on February 23rd. And we warmly welcome you! Come join us for coffee, churros, and an exciting discussion. And tell a friend about this free event!

By Jeanne Jesernik

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