A Mayanist is a scholar specialising in research and study of the Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

n pre-Columbian
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during...

 Maya civilization
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

. This discipline should not be confused with Mayanism
Mayanism is a non-codified eclectic collection of New Age beliefs, influenced in part by Pre-Columbian Maya mythology and some folk beliefs of the modern Maya peoples...

, a collection of New Age beliefs about the ancient Maya.

Mayanists draw upon many inter-related disciplines including archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, epigraphy
Epigraphy Epigraphy Epigraphy (from the , literally "on-writing", is the study of inscriptions or epigraphs as writing; that is, the science of identifying the graphemes and of classifying their use as to cultural context and date, elucidating their meaning and assessing what conclusions can be...

, ethnology
Ethnology is the branch of anthropology that compares and analyzes the origins, distribution, technology, religion, language, and social structure of the ethnic, racial, and/or national divisions of humanity.-Scientific discipline:Compared to ethnography, the study of single groups through direct...

, history
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, photography
Photography is the art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film...

Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

, architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

, astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 and ceramics
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...


The term Mayanist was coined by parallel with specialised fields studying other historical civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

s; see for example, Egyptologist (Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

) and Assyriologist
Assyriology is the archaeological, historical, and linguistic study of ancient Mesopotamia and the related cultures that used cuneiform writing. The field covers the Akkadian sister-cultures of Assyria and Babylonia, together with their cultural predecessor; Sumer...

 (Ancient Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

). It has been in widespread use from the late 19th century onwards, particularly by those who have studied and contributed to the decipherment
Decipherment is the analysis of documents written in ancient languages, where the language is unknown, or knowledge of the language has been lost....

 of Maya hieroglyphics, the complex and elaborate writing system
Writing system
A writing system is a symbolic system used to represent elements or statements expressible in language.-General properties:Writing systems are distinguished from other possible symbolic communication systems in that the reader must usually understand something of the associated spoken language to...

 which was developed by the ancient Maya.

Notable deceased Mayanists

  • Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg
    Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg
    Abbé Charles-Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg was a noted French writer, ethnographer, historian and archaeologist...

  • Frederick Catherwood
    Frederick Catherwood
    Frederick Catherwood was an English artist and architect, best remembered for his meticulously detailed drawings of the ruins of the Maya civilization. He explored Mesoamerica in the mid 19th century with writer John Lloyd Stephens...

     (1799–1854), British architect & draftsman; explorer and early illustrator of Maya ruins
  • Désiré Charnay
    Désiré Charnay
    Claude-Joseph Désiré Charnay was a French traveller and archaeologist notable both for his explorations of Mexico and Central America, and for the pioneering use of photography to document his discoveries....

  • Napoleon Cordy
    Napoleon Cordy
    Hannibal Napoleon David Alfred Thomas Cordy was an amateur scholar in the field of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations, who made some notable contributions in the 1930s and 1940s to the early study and decipherment of the Maya script, used by the pre-Columbian Maya of southern Mexico and...

  • Ernst Förstemann
    Ernst Förstemann
    Ernst Wilhelm Förstemann was a German historian, archivist and librarian, director of the Sächsische Landesbibliothek in Dresden...

  • Alfred V. Kidder
    Alfred V. Kidder
    Alfred Vincent Kidder was an American archaeologist considered the foremost of the southwestern United States and Mesoamerica during the first half of the 20th century...

     (1885–1963) instituted multidisciplinary approach [anthropology/archaeology] at Quirigua with Alfred Maudslay.
  • Yuri Knorozov (1922–1999)
  • Teobert Maler
  • Alfred Maudslay
    Alfred Maudslay
    Alfred Percival Maudslay was a British colonial diplomat, explorer and archaeologist. He was one of the first Europeans to study Mayan ruins....

     (1850–1931) photographed, sketched & made plaster casts, and published reference material on Maya sites in the late 19th century.
  • Sylvanus Morley
    Sylvanus Morley
    Sylvanus Griswold Morley was an American archaeologist, epigrapher, and Mayanist scholar who made significant contributions toward the study of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization in the early twentieth century....

  • Augustus Le Plongeon
    Augustus Le Plongeon
    Augustus Le Plongeon was a photographer and antiquarian who studied the pre-Columbian ruins of America, particularly those of the Maya civilization on the northern Yucatán Peninsula. While his writings contain many eccentric notions that were discredited by later researchers, Le Plongeon left a...

  • Tatiana Proskouriakoff
    Tatiana Proskouriakoff
    Tat’yana Avenirovna Proskuriakova was an American Mayanist scholar and archaeologist who contributed significantly to the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphs, the writing system of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Mesoamerica.-Early life:...

  • Leon de Rosny
  • Ralph L. Roys
  • Linda Schele
    Linda Schele
    Linda Schele was an expert in the field of Maya epigraphy and iconography. She played an invaluable role in the decipherment of much of the Maya hieroglyphics. She produced a massive volume of drawings of stelae and inscriptions, which, following her wishes, are free for use to scholars...

     (1942–1998), expert in Maya epigraphy and iconography.
  • John Lloyd Stephens
    John Lloyd Stephens
    John Lloyd Stephens was an American explorer, writer, and diplomat. Stephens was a pivotal figure in the rediscovery of Maya civilization throughout Middle America and in the planning of the Panama railroad....

     (1805–1852), U.S. explorer and writer
  • Edward Herbert Thompson
    Edward Herbert Thompson
    Edward Herbert Thompson was an American-born archaeologist and diplomat.-Biography:Edward H. Thompson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. Initially inspired by the books of John Lloyd Stephens, Thompson devoted much of his career to study of the Maya civilization...

     (1857–1935), best known for excavating the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza
  • J. Eric S. Thompson
    J. Eric S. Thompson
    Sir John Eric Sidney Thompson was an English Mesoamerican archeologist and epigrapher. His contributions to the understanding of Maya hieroglyphs lead him to be one of the foremost mid-20th century anthropological scholars. He was generally known as J. Eric S...

     (1898–1975), British Mayanist, early epigraphist.
  • Jean-Frédéric Waldeck
    Jean-Frédéric Waldeck
    Jean-Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck was a French antiquarian, cartographer, artist and explorer.-Biography:...

  • Gordon Willey
    Gordon Willey
    Gordon Randolph Willey was an American archaeologist famous for his fieldwork in South and Central America as well as the southeastern United States...


Notable living Mayanists (as of 2010)

  • Michael Coe (born 1929), North-American archaeologist and iconographer, nestor
  • Ian Graham
    Ian Graham
    Ian Graham is a former Australian rules footballer who played with Collingwood in the VFL during the 1960s.His best season came in 1964 when he won the Copeland Trophy for Collingwood's Best and Fairest player...

    , British archaeological explorer
  • Nikolai Grube
    Nikolai Grube
    Nikolai Grube is a German epigrapher. He was born in Bonn in 1962. Grube entered the University of Hamburg in 1982 and graduated in 1985. His doctoral thesis was published at the same university in 1990. After he received his doctorate, Grube moved to the University of Bonn...

    , German epigrapher, archaeologist, and historian
  • Norman Hammond
    Norman Hammond
    Norman Hammond is a British archaeologist, academic and Mesoamericanist scholar, noted for his publications and research on the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. Educated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, Hammond is a professor in the Archaeology Department at Boston University's College of Arts and...

     (born 1944), British archaeologist
  • Peter Mathews
    Peter Mathews (archaeologist)
    Peter Mathews is an Australian archaeologist, epigrapher, and Mayanist. He was a professor at the University of Calgary, and is Co Director of the Naachtun Archaeology Project. He is a professor of Archaeology and Maya Hieroglyphs at La Trobe University.He graduated from University of Calgary...

     (born 1951), Australian epigrapher
  • Stephen Houston (born 1958), North-American archaeologist and epigrapher
  • Simon Martin
    Simon Martin
    Simon Martin is an artist living and working in London.Martin attended the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, between 1985-89. He has shown at White Columns, New York, The Powerplant, Toronto and the Tate Triennial 2006, at Tate Britain.-External links:* - Simon Martins own...

    , British epigrapher and historian
  • David Stuart
    David Stuart (Mayanist)
    David Stuart is a Mayanist scholar and professor of Mesoamerican art and writing at the University of Texas at Austin.-Early life:He is the son of Mayanist scholars George Stuart and Gene S. Stuart...

    , principal North-American epigrapher
  • Karl Taube
    Karl Taube
    Karl Andreas Taube   is an American Mesoamericanist, archaeologist, epigrapher and ethnohistorian, known for his publications and research into the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica and the American Southwest. he holds a position as Professor of Anthropology at the College of Humanities,...

    (born 1957), principal North-American iconographer
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