National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Kenneth E. Seligson

Affiliation: California State University, Dominguez Hills

Kenneth E. Seligson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at California State University Dominguez Hills, an Honorary Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and recently Lecturer with the University of Southern California.  He holds his degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D. and M.A.) and Brown University (A.B.).

“I am an anthropological archaeologist studying human-environment relationships in the northern Maya lowlands of the Yucatan Peninsula. Specifically, my research has focused on understanding changing resource management practices related to the production of burnt lime in the hilly Puuc region of the Yucatan.”


The Ancient Maya used burnt lime for everything. From the mortar that held their elaborate temple pyramids together to the processing of corn into a nutritious staple food, burnt lime was literally the glue that held the Maya world together. Yet until recently, archaeologists did not know how the Prehispanic Maya made their burnt lime. The amount of wood used in traditional aboveground kilns during the Colonial Period and more recently raised the possibility that burnt lime production may have led to rampant deforestation during the Classic Period. In this lecture, I discuss the many archaeological methods that I used to identify a fuel-efficient Prehispanic pit-kiln technology in the Northern Lowlands – a finding that questions the idea that Classic Maya civilization “collapsed.”

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Seligson, Kenneth E., 2019 “What We Can Learn From the Ancient Maya About Facing the Challenges of Climate Change.” The Conversation (Online Publication) (Forthcoming)

Seligson, Kenneth E., Tomás Gallareta Negrón, Rossana May Ciau, and George J. Bey, 2017    “Burnt Lime Production and the Pre-Columbian Maya Socio-Economy: A Case Study from the Northern Yucatán.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 48:281–294.

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