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Kenan Eminent Professor

Email: mcanany(@)

Phone: (919) 843-8978

Fax: (919) 962-1243

Office: 211A Alumni

Department of Anthropology, CB# 3115
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3115

External Professor: Santa Fe Institute

Area of Interest:

Cultural Heritage and Indigenous Communities; Ancestor Veneration; Archaeological Understanding of Detachment from Place; Cultural Logic of Noncapitalist Economies; Identity and Gender Constructs; Cacao Production and Use; Social Reproduction of Technology; Maya Studies; Archaeology of Mesoamerica.


Ph.D., University of New Mexico, 1986

CV of Patricia A. McAnany

Professional Background: 

Patricia A. McAnany, Kenan Eminent Professor of Anthropology, is a Maya archaeologist who has conducted field research and cultural heritage programs through the Maya region. Her professional interests include the intersection of ritual and economy, ancestor veneration, the creation and abandonment of place, and the cross threading of cultural heritage with indigenous identities. She founded the Maya Area Cultural Heritage Initiative and co-founded InHerit: Indigenous Heritage Passed to Present ( She is the author/co-editor of several books, most recently Maya Cultural Heritage: How Archaeologists and Indigenous Communities Engage the Past (2016); Textile Economies: Power & Value from the Local to the Transnational (2011) co-edited with Walter E. Little; Ancestral Maya Economies in Archaeological Perspective (2010); Questioning Collapse: Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability, and the Aftermath of Empire (2009) co-edited with Norman Yoffee; and Dimensions of Ritual Economy (2008) co-edited with E. Christian Wells. She is the recipient of several research awards from the National Science Foundation and of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for the Arts & Humanities (UNC, Chapel Hill), the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Radcliffe Center for Advanced Study at Harvard University.


Research & Activities:

My professional activities include collaborative archaeological research and heritage programs with communities in the Maya region. I have come to appreciate that interpreting the past—writing a narrative based upon archaeological evidence (whether from Belize, Yucatán, or elsewhere)—poses great theoretical and methodological challenges and ethical responsibilities. My career is one of engagement with the evolving intellectual challenges and ethical responsibilities of archaeology.

Currently, I serve as the Principal Investigator of InHerit: Indigenous Heritage Passed to Present (; as the Executive Director of The Alliance for Heritage Conservation; and as the co-Principal Investigator (with Prof. Ivan Batun-Alpuche) of Proyecto Arqueológico Colaborativo del Oriente de Yucatán (PACOY). PACOY is an archaeological and community-based investigation of the conditions of life at early Colonial Maya communities that were nucleated around mission locales, such as Tahcabo and Tixhualactun, Yucatan.

InHerit is a UNC program that works in collaboration with local Maya communities, NGOs seated within the community, and an alliance of archaeologists to develop programs that highlight cultural heritage and the need for heritage conservation. We define heritage broadly as something that is tangible (embedded within landscapes as well as inherited and inalienable objects) or intangible (language; spirituality; ritual practice; artistic performance; and learned technologies). The goal of InHerit is to foster greater dialogue between communities and archaeologists and between communities and respective nation-states regarding the investigation, interpretation, and management of Maya cultural heritage. Those who collaborate with us on InHerit projects embrace the ethical philosophy that local communities—and indigenous Maya peoples in particular—possess the right to access all domains of knowledge about their past and to be active partners in knowledge creation as well as decisions that affect the presentation and perception of their deep history, particularly in reference to tourism, museum development, and archaeological research.

The Alliance for Heritage Conservation is a nonprofit that works to fund heritage programs in the Maya region and beyond.

With support from the NSF, we launched Proyecto Arqueológico Colaborativo del Oriente de Yucatán (PACOY) during the summer of 2012. This project is focused on discovery and documentation of the difficult-to-detect early Colonial Maya settlements that provided the labor for the construction of the remarkably durable Catholic missionary churches built throughout the Yucatán Peninsula during the 17th century. Working in collaboration with Universidad de Oriente, which is located in Valladolid, Yucatán, we are focusing particularly on areas of proselytizing in east-central Yucatán.

For more information about this research and cultural heritage activities, please see my CV (linked to this page) that contains a complete listing of books, journal articles, and book chapters written either solely by me or jointly with students and colleagues.

Links to activities relevant to current research: