Adolfo Iván Batún Alpuche
2022

Adolfo Iván Batún Alpuche

Archeologist

Reclaiming Maya history through archaeology

meet adolfo

Dr. Iván Batún is a native Maya from Cozumel, México. He is an archaeology professor at Universidad de Oriente in Valladolid, Yucatan, and Associate Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His current research is with a team of archaeologists exploring the livelihood of the Maya living before and after the Spanish invasion. Large archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza, Coba, Ekbalam, and Culuba are areas where Batún has been exploring the relationship between contemporary Maya communities and their biocultural resources, archaeological sites, cenotes, animals, plants and changing patterns due to modern climate change.

Reclaiming Maya history through archaeology
Nominated by: Joe Rhode FN'10
Class of 2022 Location Mexico

As all children in México, I was educated within the ideology of Mexican nationals, with no identification of Mayan culture. I never visited an archaeological site or a museum. I visited Tulum, my first archaeological site, after high school graduation. The visit was important to me and made me think about the development of the society that built that site. My research in Maya archaeology has made me understand the great responsibility as a Maya descendant doing Maya archaeology, I interpret every artifact coming from archaeological excavations in the terms of our own culture and tell a story that allows my people to take pride to be Maya again.

“I interpret every artifact coming from archaeological excavations in the terms of our own culture and tell a story that allows my people to take pride to be Maya again.”

- Adolfo Iván Batún Alpuche

In the past, archaeological interpretation of ancient culture in the Maya area was conducted by archaeologists coming from foreign countries. My work as a university professor, where most of the students are Maya language speakers and descendants of ancient Maya civilization, has been to explore and teach new approaches to investigating the past and new approaches to looking on decolonizing previous interpretations. This way, I can give back to modern Maya people what has been stolen.

Since my return to eastern Yucatán, I have been able to conduct research in Maya communities which have continuous occupation from ancient Maya times to the present. This points to the fact that we, modern Mayas, are direct descendants of Mayas who built the ancient monumental sites. My hope for the future is that some of the students I teach will become promoters of the biocultural resources in their own communities and transform our colonized ways to a new freedom in our Maya land.

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