As I compose my last blog and prepare to pass the presidential mantle of MAM, you will forgive me if I wax a little personal.
In 1968, I read that the “Maya Race” was descended from the lost continent of Atlantis, and I believed it. In 1973, I read of extraterrestrial visitations to Mesoamerica in The Chariots of the Gods, and I believed it. While rough-necking on oil platforms in the North Sea, I visited the British Museum and bought Eric Thompson’s Maya Hieroglyphs Without Tears and Michael Coe’s The Maya and dreamed of visiting the ancient cities, so I did.
In 1974, my wife and I and our two-year-old son left California in a four-wheel-drive with diving gear to search for Atlantis and we spent six months in Yucatan and Belize, visiting Guatemala and Oaxaca and many other points in between. I didn’t find Atlantis but I did find Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Tikal and so much more, and so in 1975, back in California, I went back to school as an undergrad at UCLA, majored in Anthropology, and began my academic career where they educated all that Atlantis and extra-terrestrial stuff out of me (for the most part).
In 1975, I was on my first dig at Rio Amarillo in Honduras. Glyphs have always been my focus, but happily my work includes ethnography and history. I recall quite vividly receiving a very powerful intuitional message while working on my dissertation, I think in 1984, “bring the glyphs back to the Mayas.” It rocked me.
I couldn’t wait to tell Linda Schele about my idea, which I did in 1986 at the Palenque Mesa Redonda. Her reply? “We’re already doing that,” but it wasn’t until Friends of the Maya, Inc. was founded in 2005 that I personally found a way to participate, and then we created MAM in 2012.
This year, 2016, forty-two years after my first trip, I left California on April 12 in a four-wheel-drive for three-and-a-half months in Guatemala, Belize, and Yucatan, for my last intensive period of epigraphic and ethnographic field work, during which I will attend the Third International Congress of Maya Epigraphers and pass the jade celt to Michael Grofe, my successor.
I turn 71 in a week from this writing and I look forward to many happy years in my home office in Juniper Hills producing long-delayed publications on Mesoamerica, which I sincerely hope will move the field forward; and I will be turning my attention more and more to the anthropology and history of my own neighborhood, working with local historical societies and Native American groups. All that I do will be better for having spent so much time in the field with the living descendants of the great civilizations of the past.
Words cannot possibly express my gratitude to the MAM Executive Committee–Beth Spencer, Al Meador, and Elaine Schele–who will continue under our new leader Michael Grofe. To all of you, our readers, please know that Maya epigraphy is securely in the hands (and hearts and souls) of the Maya themselves, while we at MAM, and you our supporters, are here only to help where and when we can.
Thank you for letting me be of service.