Exciting connections emerging between conservation of one of the world’s largest caves and archaeological relics of the ancient Maya civilization will be revealed when noted Maya archaeologist Dr. Jaime Awe speaks at the McClung Museum on the University of Tennessee campus on March 23 at 7 p.m. Titled "Ancient Maya Cave Use and the Conservation of Subterranean Sites in Western Belize,” his talk is sponsored by The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee Chapter, the University of Tennessee’s Archaeology Research Lab and the East Tennessee Chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America.
As an international conservation organization, The Nature Conservancy has been active in the protection of the forests and caves of Belize where Dr. Awe investigates ancient Maya archaeological sites. Caves were sacred places to Native American cultures. For the Maya civilization, caves were portals to the underworld, representing both creation and death to the Maya.
Staff from the organization’s Tennessee Chapter have recently traveled to Belize to assist local officials in conservation planning and consulting there. Protecting the country’s natural resources is resulting in protection for cultural resources as well, such as Maya relics that remain in the forests and caves of Belize. Nature Conservancy staff discovered this connection when they made the acquaintance of Dr. Awe in Belize in the course of their work there.
A leading expert on Maya archaeology and history, Awe is the Director of the Institute of Archaeology in the National Institute of Culture in Belize. Since the early 1980s, Awe has conducted extensive research at the Maya sites of Caledonia, Pacbitun, Cahal Pech and Baking Pot, and at numerous cave sites, including Actun Tunichil Mukna, in the Cayo District.
Awe has published numerous articles in various archaeological journals, books and magazines. In addition, his research has been featured on several television programs shown on National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, the History Channel, the Weather Channel, the BBC and recently on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World on the Travel Channel.
Introducing Dr. Awe for his talk will be Jan Simek, Professor of Anthropology and currently Interim President at the University of Tennessee. Professor Simek recently was called upon by The Nature Conservancy to authenticate Native American rock art discovered on a Conservancy nature preserve in Tennessee. Simek confirmed that the rock painting—left by a prehistoric Mississippian culture—is approximately 1,000 years old.
Awe’s presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session and a reception.
There is no charge to attend the lecture or the reception, and the public is invited.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.