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About Pat Urban

Pat says, "I am, by training, a 'dirt' archaeologist specializing in the prehistory of Mesoamerica (a culture area beginning in northern Mexico and including Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and parts of Nicaragua). For over 20 years I have worked in Honduras, investigating the relationship of the prehistoric cultures of western Honduras to their better-known neighbors, the Maya. Some of the topics I have worked on include settlement patterns, site planning, ceramic production and other aspects of political economy, and the expression of identity through material culture.
"One of the most exciting ways that I have used to teach archaeology is the Honduras Semester, located in the Naco Valley, a program I direct with Ed Schortman. During the spring semester roughly every other year, we take students to Cofradia, in the Department of Cortes, northwestern Honduras, give them a basic grounding in field methods, and help them develop field projects of their own. Back home, students write up their excavations, trying to place their sites within a larger context of valley prehistory and Mesoamerican studies in general. Several students have gone on to use their materials in graduate work, usually for masters degrees; in addition, two people are doing PhD dissertations on Naco Valley materials. Those who do not continue in archaeology or anthropology at least take away from the program a much deeper understanding of Latin America than they would get in a purely classroom setting in the US.
"In 1996-97 we expanded The Honduras Program to include research in cultural topics, such as attitudes towards childbirth, women and their inclusion in the factory labor force, conservation education, NGO programs, quinceanos (15th birthday) parties and their cultural significance, and the appeal of Protestant religious groups in a predominantly Catholic area. We hope to continue both the archaeological and cultural programs in the year 2000.
"About 8 years ago I decided that I needed to know more about Maya hieroglyphs, so I have been studying at the University of Texas Maya workshops. These studies are the basis for my courses on reading hieroglyphs, and using the study of glyphs as an entree into ancient Maya culture. While I will never be a real epigrapher (expert on ancient writing), I do enjoy this work, and hope the pleasure I take in it is shared with my students.
"By a strange twist of fate, responding to both personal interests and the concerns of Kenyon students, I have come to teach more classes on the contemporary cultures of Mesoamerica than on the ancient ones! Learning about traditional groups and their places in modern nation-states has proved to be fascinating; I plan to continue with this in the future, though I really would like to get back to teaching more archaeology.
"Finally, Ed and I have two children, Aeleka and Hayden Schortman, one cat, two dogs -- the (in)famous Wallace Catherwood Pug, Wally the Wonderpug to this friends and "your other really cute dog" - one house, two cars - in short, we're pretty normal for a pair-a-docs. The kids and I study American Kenpo Karate: my daughter and I have purple belts and are almost ready to test for blue, while Hayden has his orange belt. Other hobbies/ interests include making toys, especially stuffed dinosaurs, reading science fiction, gardening, and music (opera; Latin pop; vintage Rolling Stones; assorted classical).
"Most of my writing has been done with Ed Schortman. Together we have edited a volume of the Quirigua Reports, a collection of essays on Southeastern Mesoamerica, and, most recently, Resources, Power, and Interregional Interaction(Plenum Press), a volume of essays addressing how ancient societies, and in particular their elite strata, used access to material and intellectual resources to enhance their positions in their own societies and control interactions with their neighbors. We have published articles inThe Journal of Field Archaeology, and articles and commentaries in Current Anthropology, as well as chapters in others' collections. Alone I have done a number of book chapters and a couple of encyclopedia entries on ceramics and sites in southern Mesoamerica."

Positions

Present J. Kenneth Smail Professor of Anthropology Emerita, Kenyon College
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Contact Information

P: (740) 427-5814
Palme House 207

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