March 10, 2014 Richard Hansen to Deliver Kislak Lecture On Origins and Collapse of Preclassic Maya in the Mirador Basin, Guatemala

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Richard Hansen, a distinguished American archaeologist of the early Maya civilization, will deliver the seventh Jay I. Kislak Lecture, focusing on the extraordinary concentration of large and early ancient Maya cities nestled in the Mirador Basin of northern Guatemala.

Hansen will present “The Origins and Collapse of the Preclassic Maya in the Mirador Basin, Guatemala: Cultural and Natural Dynamics in the Cradle of the Maya Civilization” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2 in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, hosted by the Library’s Geography and Map Division and its Rare Books and Special Collections Division, is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed.

According to Hansen, the concentration of large cities in the Mirador Basin in the Middle and Late Preclassic periods (circa 1000 B.C. to A.D. 150) led to the construction of the largest pyramids on the planet, the largest ancient Maya cities, the first “freeway” system in the world and the first true state-level society in the Western Hemisphere. Such precocious cultural dynamics, which endured more than 1,000 years in the basin, mysteriously “collapsed” shortly after the time of Christ, with large-scale demographic reductions throughout the Mirador Basin and elsewhere in Mesoamerica. This first collapse of Maya society occurred about a thousand years prior to the great collapse of Maya civilization in the 9th century A.D.

Hansen is the director of the Mirador Basin Project, which investigates the mainly unexplored territory in the northern Petén, Guatemala. He is founder and president of the Foundation for Anthropological Research and Environmental Studies. He holds a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brigham Young University.

In addition to researching the archaeology of the Mirador Basin, Hansen is engaged in efforts to preserve the region, which is threatened today by looters, loggers, poachers and traffickers in drugs and humans. According to Hansen, preservation efforts of the area could also have economic benefits for the impoverished citizens of Guatemala and provide economic justification for the conservation of area forests.

The Kislak Lecture is a component of the Kislak American Studies Program, established at the Library of Congress in 2004 by the Jay I. Kislak Foundation. Previous lecturers were Jared Diamond, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Michael Coe, Jonathan Spence, David Stuart and Charles C. Mann.

In addition to the lecture series, the Kislak gift includes an important collection of books, manuscripts, historical documents, maps and art of the Americas. A permanent rotating exhibition of materials from the Kislak Collection, “Exploring the Early Americas,” opened in December 2007. To view the online version, visit The Kislak gift also provides for fellowships to study its materials.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at


PR 14-042
ISSN 0731-3527