MacArthur Fellows Program

Peter Mathews

Archaeologist and Epigrapher | Class of November 1984

Archaeologist and Epigrapher
Cambridge, Massachusetts
33 at time of award
Area of Focus

Peter Mathews is an archaeologist and epigrapher who studies Maya hieroglyphics, decoding ancient glyphs to reveal the function and purpose of Maya monuments and to illuminate Maya culture, customs and beliefs.

Matthews is trained in historical linguistics and Mesoamerican archaeology and ethnohistory.  In the early 1970s, in collaboration with other specialists, Mathews contributed to the reconstruction of Maya dynastic history.  By analyzing the emblems of Maya rulers and tracing the extent of their appearance on monuments, he helped to establish the outlines of the political boundaries of city-states and the leaders that ruled them. 

He has done archaeological fieldwork in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.  He is the author of numerous articles on Maya art, iconography, and glyphic inscriptions, and is the co-author of The Code of Kings:The Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs (1998).  Mathews taught in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University (1979-1986) and in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada (1987-1999).  Since 1999, he has been an Archaeological Senior Research Fellow at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. 

Mathews received a B.A. (1975) from the University of Calgary, Alberta, and an M.Phil. (1979) and Ph.D. (1988) from Yale University.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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