Tatiana Proskouriakoff: Interpreting the Ancient Maya

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Overview

Born in Siberia during a turbulent period in Russian history, Tatiana Proskouriakoff came to America with her family when her father was commissioned during World War I by Czar Nicholas II to oversee the production of munitions in the United States. With the Czar’s abdication and the onset of the Russian Revolution, the Proskouriakoffs’ brief visit became a relocation.

Proskouriakoff excelled in art and completed a degree in architecture. She entered the field of Mesoamerican archaeology in the mid-1930s as a draftsperson and artist for a University of Pennsylvania archaeological project in the Petén rainforest of Guatemala. During her career, which spanned fifty years, Proskouriakoff became known for her thorough scholarship. In her landmark work, An Album of Maya Architecture, Proskouriakoff combined her artistic talents and architectural background to produce a vision of ancient Maya sites, such as Copán and Chichen Itza, at the height of their grandeur. By the end of her life, she had become one of the premier scholars of Mayan civilization.

In this first full-length biography of Proskouriakoff, Char Solomon chronicles the life of this remarkable woman.

For more information about this title, please visit charsolomon.com.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
"This intimate biography of a revered scholar in Maya studies describes the problems and pleasures of archaeological fieldwork, the organization of research, and the personalitites of well-known archaeologists...Rich in details about Proskourikoff's work and her personal life, the book is derived from her diary, correspondence, and interviews with colleagues, friends, and family; the author herself had talked with Proskouriakoff while assisting her in museum studies. The book will attract general readers and anyone interested in the ancient Maya."
Vol 41, No. 01 (September, 2003)
Sam Hodges
"If you're in a women's book club that needs a good selection for March - Women's History Month - consider "Tatiana Proskouriakoff." The title is a mouthful. But the book is a concise, moving account of a Russian-born American who made a huge mark in the male-dominated field of Maya studies...Proskouriakoff came to the United States as a girl when her father ran a Russian munitions program here. The Russian Revolution forced the family to stay. "Tania" grew up in Philadelphia and went to Penn State, where she was a rare female student in architecture. She began her career doing measurements and sketches for archaeologists studying what's left of the ancient Maya cities of Central America. For four decades, she traveled regularly to the sites, enduring rugged travel, primitive conditions and political upheaval. Her drawings imagining Maya cities in their heyday thrilled specialists and helped others to appreciate the ancient Maya culture. She also did crucial analysis of Maya hieroglyphs...This book draws on journals kept by the never-married Proskouriakoff. These reveal that she suffered self-doubt. She was often lonely, and had complicated relationships with male colleagues. None of that stopped Proskouriakoff, which is one reason Solomon...feels she...is too important to be a legend only within Maya studies. Young women in particular, need to know the Proskouriakoff story."
The Charlotte Observer Book Editor
Traci Arden
No scholar is more beloved by Mayanists than Tatiana Proskouriakoff, the Russian-born archaeologist and artist whose reconstruction drawings of sites duch as Piedras Negras and Copan are world famous...A new biography of this amazing scholar, Tatiana Proskouriakoff: Interpreting the Ancient Maya...is sure to fascinate readers...Filled with a large supporting cast of colorful characters and absorbing details of early archaeological expeditions to the Maya world, [it] wins over the reader with a compelling portrait of one of archaeology's most important early personalities.
Archaeology, Jan-Feb. 2003
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806134451
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Char Solomon, a freelance writer and researcher, served as a volunteer assistant to Tatiana Proskouriakoff from 1972 to 1973 when she worked on Proskouriakoff?s catalog of Maya jade. A talented artist in her own right, she has taught music for more than twenty years.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 The Russian Years 3
Ch. 2 A New Beginning (1916-1925) 11
Ch. 3 Architecture at Penn State and Beyond (1926-1935) 20
Ch. 4 Into the Jungle: The University of Pennsylvania Expeditions (1936-1938) 28
Ch. 5 Copan and the Carnegie Institution of Washington (1939) 41
Ch. 6 The War Years (1940-1944) 60
Ch. 7 Reconnaissance Trips through Central America (1944-1947) 80
Ch. 8 Mayapan and the Demise of the Carnegie Division of Historical Research (1947-1958) 99
Ch. 9 Resolution and Changing Priorities (1954-1958) 126
Ch. 10 Research, Hieroglyphs, and Further Adventure (1958-1965) 137
Ch. 11 Seminars, Jades, and Accolades (1965-1985) 149
Ch. 12 The Ceremony of the Ashes (1998) 168
Notes 173
Selected Writings of Tatiana Proskouriakoff 197
Bibliography 201
Index 209
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