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Journey to Xibalba

A Life in Archaeology

Don Patterson

Publication Year: 2007

Patterson draws from ancient Mayan mythology, weaving the tale of Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the Hero Twins, and their voyage to Xibabla, the underworld, into his own story in order to provide an analogy of the journey through life and the daily challenges and pitfalls one must overcome. Each of the book's eight chapters are named after the houses of testing in Xibalba and reflect the people, environments, financing, and politics of the different archaeological projects Patterson worked on throughout his career. The resulting story is part Indiana Jones and part analysis of the problems facing modern Mesoamerica between globalization and national patrimony.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-

There are several persons that need to be acknowledged for their participation in this endeavor. First and foremost is my wife, Marisela Garcia de La Sota, without whose support and patience...

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Opening Letter to Jessica

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pp. 1-4

...One day my tocayo (same name), Don Knoles, a painter and free- lance reporter in San Miguel, encouraged me to write something about Mesoamerican archaeology for the public....

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Prologue: The Messenger from Xibalba

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pp. 5-10

....Funny isn't it? But almost every bit of advice and instruction that I recall from my father either started or ended with the word "boy." He never called me son. He never...

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1: The House of Gloom: San Miguel de Allende Project

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pp. 11-25

Back in 1973, everyone in town knew the director of Bellas Artes (the National School of Fine Arts). In retrospect his name, Miguelito Malo y Bueno, fit his character appropriately. Miguelito, the diminutive for...

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Letter continued

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pp. 26-32

I acknowledge that my first encounter with San Miguel de Allende was nocturnal and more than a little romantic in nature. I share it with you now because it remains the basis for my sentiment...

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2: The House of Portals: FLAAR Project

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pp. 33-75

I suppose I was somewhat naive. I just kept thinking of Michael Coe's The Maya, and what I could do as an artist for his next publication. So I called Yale...

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Letter continued

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pp. 76-

By now, Jessica, you should begin reading the Popol Vuh. You are lucky because the manuscript has been retranslated and edited recently by Dennis Tedlock. It is so much easier to read...

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3: The House of Jaguars: Yaxchilan Project

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pp. 77-136

Just before dark, a small group of Chol Maya men visited our final campsite before Tenosique. The camp was located seven days downriver from Yaxchilan near the confluence of the Chocol...

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Letter continued

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pp. 137-142

Hopefully there will never be closure to my relationship with Yaxchilan, the river, and its occupants. I have revisited the ancient civic-ceremonial center many times since the 1978...

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4: The House of Cold: Templo Mayor Project

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pp. 143-166

I returned to the Instituto Allende from Yaxchilan amid an atmosphere of gossip and change. It appeared from the rumors circulating around the campus about our work that the five months we spent in Yaxchilan...

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5: The House of Bats: Monte Alban Project

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pp. 167-202

Monte Alban was the first project I coordinated for the general director's office of the National Institute of Anthropology and History. I was in Oaxaca from March 1, 1980, until March 2, 1981. During...

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Letter continued

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pp. 203-204

By some miracle, I returned from Oaxaca to the Federal District with the five men, documentation team intact. We didn't have an office and the team didn't have a place to stay. Paco's and...

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6: The House of Snakes: Chichén Itzá Project

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pp. 205-241

Eduardo was not as formal with his meetings as Don Gaston. He could have been. True, he was not meeting all the time with the president of Mexico or his cabinet members, but he received the directors and...

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Letter continued

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pp. 242-

Traveling between Chichén Itzá and the valley of San Miguel is always rewarding. There is so much to take in and absorb on each trip. There are many routes, some longer, some shorter...

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7: The House of Dogs: Pilot Project

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pp. 243-252

Luis Felipe Nieto and I met for the first time in 1978 in the north bus terminal of Mexico City. We were both waiting for transportation to San Miguel via a second-class bus. It was strange—though...

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Letter continued

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pp. 253-254

Several factors influenced my decision to give up my tenure in INAH. The first was economic. By the end of 1986, I was earning more pesos per month than I had ever earned before; in fact, I jokingly referred to our family as millionaires. However, at 720...

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8: The House of Knives: Cañada de la Virgen Project

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pp. 255-286

I awoke from my dream slowly. I didn't want to let go of it. But the mere mental struggle of holding on caused the current images to slip from my grasp. Almost immediately, I found myself in...

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Epilogue: The Nine Lords of the Night

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pp. 287-296

The National Institute of Anthropology and History provided most of the opportunity, road, and transportation on my journey to Xibalba. Consequently, I am deeply indebted to both the...

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Final Letter to Jessica

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pp. 297-298

It seemed like the first question I was always asked at any social gathering in San Miguel de Allende was, "What is the most impor- tant discovery you have ever made?" My frequent...

Index

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pp. 299-309

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826342942
E-ISBN-10: 0826342949
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826342928
Print-ISBN-10: 0826342922

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 23 halftones, 3 line illustrations
Publication Year: 2007

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Subject Headings

  • Mexico -- Antiquities.
  • Maya mythology.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Central America.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Mexico.
  • Patterson, Don, 1942-.
  • Mayas -- Antiquities.
  • Central America -- Antiquities.
  • Archaeologists -- Mexico -- San Miguel de Allende -- Biography.
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