Seminar Details

Knowledge Series: What is Archaeological Heritage? with Patricia A. McAnany

When: March 10, 2021 3:00-4:00 PM

Duration: 1 hour

Certification: None


Individual Registration: Free to SAA members; not available to non-members

Group Registration: 

Patricia A. McAnany is Kenan Eminent Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Dr. McAnany has been the recipient of research awards from the National Science Foundation, the Archaeological Institute of America, and of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the John Carter Brown Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and several others. A Maya archaeologist, she is principal co-investigator of Proyecto Arqueológico Colaborativo del Oriente de Yucatán, a community-archaeology project focused on the Preclassic through contemporary community of Tahcabo, Yucatán. As Executive Director of a UNC-CH program called InHerit: Indigenous Heritage Passed to Present, she works with local communities throughout the Maya region and beyond to provide opportunities to dialogue about cultural heritage and to magnify Native voices in education and heritage conservation. She is the author and coeditor of many journal articles and books, including Maya Cultural Heritage: How Archaeologists and Indigenous Communities Engage the Past (2016).

By asking the question “what is archaeological heritage,” we step back from the common usage of this compound term in order to create a space in which to examine both “archaeology” and “heritage” separately. Archaeological heritage rose to prominence as a reaction to the destruction wrought by World War II and the quickening pace of industrial/agricultural development in the post-war world. Best exemplified by Henry Cleere’s 1989 book, Archaeological Heritage Management in the Modern World, archaeologists were designated as the experts best suited to “manage” tangible heritage. The marriage of heritage with archaeology soon encountered trouble as other “post-isms”—postmodernism and postcolonialism in particular—laid bare the colonial roots of heritage management. Increasingly, attention turned to the subjectivities of heritage—as a value-laden relationship to a past in which the tangible and intangible freely intermingle. Native voices question the universality of heritage and work towards heritage sovereignty. We examine these challenges to archaeological heritage and imagine a future in which these two different ways of relating to the past might coexist in productive tension.

The Knowledge Series seminars are opportunities to learn from prominent archaeologists as they share their experiences and expertise.