Professor Edwin Barnhart, Ph.D.

Maya Exploration Center Director Dr. Ed Barnhart has almost three decades of experience as an archaeologist, an explorer and an instructor.

Dr. Edwin Barnhart is the director of the Maya Exploration Center. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and has over 20 years of experience in North, Central, and South America as an archaeologist, explorer, and instructor. In 1994, Professor Barnhart discovered the ancient city of Maax Na (Spider-Monkey House), a major center of the Classic Maya period in northwestern Belize.

In 1998 he was invited by the Mexican government to direct the Palenque Mapping Project, a three-year effort to survey and map the unknown sections of Palenque’s ruins. The resultant map has been celebrated as one of the most detailed and accurate ever made of a Maya ruin. In 2003, he became the director of the Maya Exploration Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of ancient Maya civilization.

The center leads study-abroad courses for college students and tours for the general public in the ruins of the ancient Americas, among its other research and educational activities.

Professor Barnhart has taught archaeology and anthropology at Southwest Texas State University, and currently teaches University of Texas travel courses for college professors on ancient Andean and Mesoamerican astronomy, mathematics, and culture. Over the last 10 years, he has appeared multiple times on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and Japanese NHK Public Television.

In my own experience as an explorer, it’s almost always the case that the locals knew where lost places were all along. The discoverer is just the first person to ask the right questions.

Professor Edwin Barnhart, Ph.D.

He has published over a dozen papers and given presentations at eight international conferences. Founded in 1990, The Great Courses is an online learning community designed to help people to learn new skills at their own pace. To date, the platform boasts over 800 courses in 13+ categories – all from expert professors like Dr. Edwin Barnhart.

He teaches several courses like Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed, Exploring the Mayan World, Ancient Civilizations of North America, and Ancient Civilizations of North America.

Professor Barnhart is obviously very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, and delivers a series of lectures that simultaneously paint with broad and detailed strokes a history that spans from over 30,000 ago right up to last year.

Dr. Barnhart’s unique expertise and obvious delight in teaching makes these courses a joy. They are rich in content, and importantly illustrate what is known and what is unknown about these extraordinary cultures.

Testimonials from Great Courses Students

On Oak Island, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley found an interesting artifact in Lot 8. The ornate artifact, which fitted comfortably in the palm of Gary’s hand, was a flat object decorated with symbols on either side.

The archaeology team, led by Laird Niven, were baffled by the artifact, each stating that they had seen nothing like it before. The object went into the XRF Machine (X-ray fluorescence), which concluded it was a copper alloy. The metallic makeup, coupled with the hand-made markings, all suggested that this was a very old object.

The CT Scanner took over and cut through all the erosion to give the guys a clearer look, but the object remained a mystery. The team drafted in Dr. Edwin Barnhart, an archaeologist, and specialist in the Mayan civilization, to take a look. He, too, seemed a little baffled by the strange object and suggested he be allowed to study it in more detail. Barnhart did speculate that it could be a religious icon and was likely used in a ceremonial function.

He also guessed from its metal composition that it probably did not come from the Americas but was most likely European. The guys previously uncovered what they thought was a gemstone from a brooch on Lot 8. However, they were recently informed that it could have been from a masonic ceremonial breastplate. Perhaps these two items are linked?

Further Reading


The Great Courses
Maya Exploration Center
Monsters & Critics

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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