For Immediate Release

Gordon R. Willey Lecture

Maya and the Idea of Empire: A View from the Field

(Cambridge, January 23, 2012) El Mirador, the uniquely massive ancient city in the heart of Maya country, may have inspired the idea of empire among Classic Maya kingdoms that followed.

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology presents the Gordon R. Willey lecture, "Maya and the Idea of Empire: A View from the Field" at 6:00 PM on Thursday, February 23, 2012 at Harvard's Geological Lecture Hall (24 Oxford St.), followed by a reception at the Peabody Museum (11 Divinity Ave.). The speaker is David Freidel, Professor of Archaeology, Washington University in St.  Louis.

Centuries before the construction of pyramids at Teotihuacan, El Mirador and many other large lowland Maya cities exemplified civilized society in Mesoamerica. It is likely that the pre-Classic Mirador state with its far-reaching networks and alliances established the idea of empire in the Maya lowlands. The later Classic Maya era witnessed an epic contest between great powers vying to establish their own empires: the Snake kings to the north of El Mirador vs. the kings of Tikal and their allies to the south. Dr. Freidel illustrates the struggles between these two groups through the mirror of empire.

About Gordon R. Willey
Gordon R. Willey was one of the foremost archaeologists of pre-Colombian America. He was distinguished by his meticulous research of Maya archaeological sites in Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, and noted for his pioneering work in settlement pattern studies. Gordon Willey taught at Harvard for 36 years until his retirement in 1984. He served as emeritus senior professor of anthropology until his death in 2002.

About the Peabody Museum
The Peabody Museum is among the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world with one of the finest collections of human cultural history found anywhere. It is home to superb materials from Africa, ancient Europe, North America, Mesoamerica, Oceania, and South America in particular. In addition to its archaeological and ethnographic holdings, the Museum’s photographic archives, one of the largest of its kind, hold more than 500,000 historical photographs, dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and chronicling anthropology, archaeology, and world culture.

Hours and location: 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., seven days a week. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, $6 for children, 3–18. Free with Harvard ID or Museum membership. The Museum is free to Massachusetts residents Sundays, 9 A.M. to noon, year round, and Wednesdays from 3 P.M. to 5 P.M. (September to May). Admission includes admission to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. For more information call 617-496-1027 or go online to: The Peabody Museum is located at 11 Divinity Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Museum is a short walk from the Harvard Square MBTA station.

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Ceramic lid, fourth century AD offering vessel found buried with two young women in the stairway of a pyramid at the site of El Peru-Waka' in northwestern Peten, Guatemala. The three images are masks of a supernatural bird which was spirit companion to the creator god and a source of divine power for the Maya kingship and its founder, the Maize God. The bird mask was used as one kind of royal crown by divine kings. Photo courtesy Sarah Sage and Waka Archaeological Research Project.

High resolution image available on request.
Gordon R. Willey Lecture: "Maya and the Idea of Empire: A View from the Field"
Speaker: David Freidel, Professor of Archaeology, Washington University in St.  Louis
Where: Geological Lecture Hall (24 Oxford St., Cambridge) with a reception to follow at the Peabody Museum (11 Divinity Ave.)
When: 6:00 PM  Thursday, February 23, 2012
Public Information: 617-496-1027 or