American Archaeologist and Director of the Maya Exploration Center
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Edwin Barnhart, director of the Maya Exploration Center, has over twenty years of experience in Central and South America as an archaeologist, an explorer and an instructor. He has appeared in over a dozen documentaries and given presentations all over the world.His involvement in Maya studies began in 1990 as an archaeological intern in the ruins of Copan, Honduras. In January of 1996 he was invited to return to Copan and help the University of Pennsylvania excavate the early acropolis and the tomb of the city's lineage founder. From 1992-1995 he had been studying art,
iconography and epigraphy (hieroglyphic translation) under the late Dr. Linda Schele at the University of Texas at Austin. During that same time he worked across the state of Texas as a contract archaeologist.
In 1994 he began working as a surveyor and a UT field school instructor in the jungles of Northwestern Belize. After finding numerous small villages, Dr. Barnhart discovered the ancient city of Ma'ax Na (Monkey House), a major center of the Classic Maya Period. He mapped over 600 structures at Ma'ax Na between 1995 and 1997 before moving his research focus to Chiapas, Mexico. Also while in Belize, Dr. Barnhart worked with the Belize Post Classic Project mapping the island of Caye Coco and excavating a series of burials on an island in Laguna de On. Dr. Barnhart received his Masters degree in May of 1996 and began teaching Anthropology classes at Southwest Texas State University the following September. He taught Archaeology and Anthropology classes at SWTS until 1998 when he was invited by the Mexican government to direct the Palenque Mapping Project.
The Palenque Mapping Project was a three-year effort to survey and map the unknown sections of Palenque's ruins. Over 1100 new structures were documented, bringing the site total to almost 1500. The resultant map has been celebrated as one of the most detailed and accurate ever made of a Maya ruin. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2001 with his dissertation entitled The Palenque Mapping Project: Settlement Patterns and Urbanism in An Ancient Maya City.
Upon graduation, Dr. Barnhart and his colleagues established Maya Exploration Center through which to continue and share their research. As of 2020, he has led over 200 ancient sciences travel courses in 15 different countries. Also through MEC, he is the author of an annual wall calendar and an iPhone app which explains the ancient Maya calendar.
In 2012, he produced a 24-lecture video series for the Teaching Company’s Great Courses entitled “Lost Worlds of South America”. His second Great Course entitled “Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed” was released in March of 2015. Then in 2018 his third Great Course was released, entitled “Ancient Civilizations of North America”. His most recent production with Great Courses is a 6-episode travel series called “Exploring the Mayan World”.
Over the last two decades, he has appeared multiple times on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, Discovery Channel 3D, Canada’s Religion Television, Japanese NHK Public Television, and an award-winning documentary entitled “2012: The Beginning”. Dr. Barnhart is a Fellow of the Explorer's Club and leads travel courses for college professors on ancient astronomy, mathematics and sacred geometry. In 2020 he started his podcast – ArchaeoEd, which focuses on ancient cultures of the Americas.