The Ancient Latin America Lectures Continue in Their Seventh Year, Highlighting the Ancient Civilizations of the Americas

February 15, 2024

Since 2017 the Ancient Latin America Lectures have featured recent scholars conducting archaeological, anthropological and art historical research on topics relating to the ancient civilizations of Latin America, set before the colonial period. These free public lectures allow researchers to answer questions directly from Yale undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty, as well as members of the greater community, promoting opportunities for collaboration with Yale researchers working in the same areas.

In the Spring of 2024, the series will host a diverse range of scholars working in the modern nations of Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. With the help of faculty sponsors, Dr. Oswaldo Chinchilla Mazariegos (photo left), and Dr. Richard L. Burger (photo right), the graduate student organizers for the series hope to continue achieving their goal of expanding the intellectual horizons of Yale students and researchers by highlighting new theoretical and methodological developments, and connecting Yale students and graduate students with influential scholars who are personally conducting cutting-edge research in Latin America.

A core group of graduate students form the organizing committee of the series and aspire to bring together scholars at various stages of their academic careers with diverse research areas, methodologies, and theoretical perspectives. These graduate students are Caitlin Davis, Adrian Everett, Corey Hermann, Michael Maddox, Carlos Flores Manzano, Sarah Martini, and Estanislao Pazmiño Tamayo.


Thus far in the 2023-2024 academic calendar, attendees of the series have heard from 5 speakers focusing upon a range of topics relating to the ancient civilizations of the Americas. Attendees have also enjoyed an informal reception where lunch and refreshments are served before and after each talk.

The inaugural lecture was given by Dr. Bernadette Cap, Assistant Professor in the Natural Sciences Department at San Antonio College. Dr. Cap discussed archaeological evidence for marketplaces among the ancient Maya, standardized weights and measurements, and wealth differences among ancient households in the Mopan Valley of Belize.

The following lecture was given by Dr. Keith Prufer, Fellow of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks and Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Prufer presented isotopic evidence for dietary changes among the earliest Maya farmers from work in the Maya Mountains of Belize.

The next lecture was by Dr. Catherine Lara, Associate Researcher with the University of Paris Nanterre and the Institut Français d’Études Andines (IFEA). Dr. Lara discussed archaeological and ethnographic work in southern Ecuador and Peru, and how the use of modern ceramics in these communities have helped researchers understand the Inca mitmaq program of resettlement.

After the winter break the series featured work by Dr. David Lentz, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Lentz discussed the cutting-edge technique of eDNA and how it can be used to identify cultivated and wild plants from ancient Maya households and urban spaces. Dr. Lentz shared examples from his work at Joya de Cerén in El Salvador, Tikal in Guatemala, and Calakmul in Mexican state of Campeche.

Finally, the most recent talk was by Dr. Ronald Lippi, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Honorary Anthropology Fellow at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Lippi summarized four decades of research including archaeological and linguistic evidence for the origins of the Yumbo people beginning at 800 C.E. around what is now Quito, and the territorial expansion of the Inca into modern Ecuador.

This spring the series will host three additional engaging scholars on the Yale’s campus. On February 23rd, Dr. Jeb Card, Associate Teaching Professor of Anthropology at Miami University, will give a talk on the topic of spooky archaeology and the cultic milieu, featuring his work in El Salvador. On March 29, Dr. Iván Ghezzi, researcher at La Universidad de Piura, will discuss his work on the Chankillo solar observatory and ceremonial center, as well as the Kuélap fortified settlement in Peru. The final lecture of the semester will be given on April 12th by Dr. Jeffrey Blomster, Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs at George Washington University. Dr. Blomster will discuss his work on the topic of early socio-political complexity in the Mixteca Alta of northeast Guerrero and western Oaxaca of Mexico.

The organizers of the Ancient Latin America Lectures hope to continue highlighting new theoretical and methodological developments by connecting Yale students and researchers with influential scholars who are conducting this important research in Latin America. Building upon the success of the series since 2017, Yale undergraduate students, graduate students, and members of the greater community are invited to attend these free public lectures. The series is generously supported by the Kempf Family Fund from The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale and the Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies at the MacMillan Center. All talks are held in 51 Hillhouse at 12 pm and a light lunch is provided. This year’s organizers hope to see you there!