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News Release

For immediate use

April 7, 2005 -- No. 160

Ancient Mayas’ murals
topic of April 13 talk

CHAPEL HILL — The Maya, an indigenous Indian group in Central America, have survived for more than 2,000 years, fascinating archaeologists who delve into their past.

An expert on the group, archaeologist Dr. George E. Stuart, will deliver a slide lecture about the Maya on Tuesday (April 13) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Stuart, a UNC alumnus who retired after nearly 40 years with the National Geographic Society, will give the free, public talk "Art, Writing and the New Maya Archaeology" at 8 p.m. in the Hanes Art Center Auditorium, off South Columbia Street and Porthole Alley.

Images displayed will include ancient painted tombs and murals in northeastern Guatemala, among the most significant finds in Maya archaeology in recent decades, said Dr. Arturo Escobar, a Kenan Distinguished professor of anthropology at UNC and director of the Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies of UNC and Duke University.

"The Maya are a very large indigenous group that cuts across countries: Guatemala, Honduras, the Yucatan (Peninsula of Mexico) and Southern Mexico," he said. "They are a very old set of cultures and communities that continue to be very important in contemporary social and political life."

Stuart will focus on ancient hieroglyphic texts and imagery in the archaeological reconstruction of Maya culture and civilization. He will display images of the murals, thought to have been painted around 100 or 200 A.D. – several centuries before previously discovered murals.

A native of Barnardsville, N.C., Stuart earned his doctorate in anthropology at Carolina in 1975. His seven books include "Lost Kingdoms of the Maya" and "The Mysterious Maya." He founded and directs a Center for Maya Research in the Yucatan and oversees the scholarly journals "Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing" and "Ancient America."

At National Geographic, Stuart oversaw grants of more than $4 million a year for scientific field work worldwide and was senior assistant editor for archaeology at National Geographic magazine.

He and his wife, Melinda, a historian and museum curator, built the Boundary End Archaeology Research Center in Barnardsville. It includes a library of some 12,000 volumes on American archaeology.

Stuart’s talk will be this year’s Robert R. Howren Lecture in Latin American Studies at UNC, honoring the late linguistics professor. Howren visited the Yucatan several times to study the Maya, once with the Yucatec Maya Language and Culture Program of the UNC-Duke consortium.

Each summer the program takes about 20 U.S. college students to the Yucatan for six weeks of immersion in the Yucatec Maya language. More than a million people speak Yucatec Maya.

When Howren died in 1997, contributions in his name were made to the UNC College of Arts and Sciences to further studies of the Maya language. Ongoing contributions to the Howren fund count toward the Carolina First campaign goal of $1.8 billion.

Stuart’s talk will be sponsored by the consortium and UNC’s anthropology department, Research Laboratories of Archaeology, and Academic Affairs Library. For more information, call 966-1484.

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Contact: Sharon Mujica, Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies of UNC and Duke University, 962-2414, smujica@email.unc.edu

News Services contact: L.J. Toler, 962-8589