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2 March 2021 - 2 March 2021

5:00PM - 6:00PM


  • Free

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2nd March 2021, 17:00, Lisa Lucero, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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2nd March 2021, 17:00, Lisa Lucero, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Lisa Lucero's video is now available via our Facebook page


The Classic Maya (c. 250-900 CE) subsisted as agriculturalists for over 4,000 years without destroying their environment. They accomplished this feat in large part because of their inclusive worldview where they were one with world rather than one with nature. This worldview impacted how the Maya engaged with the environment, including sacred places. Openings in the earth, such as caves and water bodies, are portals to the underworld where the Maya communed with gods and ancestors and pray for rain. Some portals demanded pilgrimages, either yearly or for specific reasons, such as during a severe drought. Cara Blanca, Belize, is one such pilgrimage destination. It has 25 water bodies and nearby fertile soils. At one particular cenote over 60m deep (a steep-sided sinkhole filled by groundwater), the Maya erected a water temple and other ceremonial buildings, but not houses. Nor did they plant crops. Consequently, there is a minimal human footprint, even though resources are plentiful, meaning that flora and fauna flourished—that is, a type of conservation.

Lisa J. Lucero (PhD, UCLA, 1994) is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her interests focus on the emergence and demise of political power, ritual, water management, the impact of climate change on society, sustainability, and the Classic Maya.

Suggested Readings

Lucero, L.J. 2018. A Cosmology of Conservation in the Ancient Maya World. Journal of Anthropological Research 74.3:327-359.

Lucero, L.J. & Kinkella, A. 2015. Pilgrimage to the Edge of the Watery Underworld: An Ancient Maya Water Temple at Cara Blanca, Belize. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 25.1: 163-185.

Lucero, L.J. & Gonzalez Cruz, J. 2020. Reconceptualizing Urbanism: Insights from Maya Cosmology. Frontiers in Sustainable Cities 2:1: 1-15.