By Tamara Jager Stewart
The late Wendy Ashmore was one of the leading theoreticians in Maya archaeological research. She was born in Los Angles in 1948, and she earned her B.A. in anthropology in 1969 from UCLA, and her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1981. Beginning with her dissertation Precolumbian Occupation at Quirigua, Guatemala: Settlement Patterns in a Classic Maya Center, Ashmore produced a remarkable number of insightful publications focused on understanding complex Maya settlement patterns and social theory, inspiring a generation of young professionals through her research and passion for teaching.
From 1981 to 1992, Ashmore taught at Rutgers University. She then moved to the University of Pennsylvania, where she served as an associate professor and associate curator of the Penn Museum’s American Section, and became an emeritus fellow of the museum’s Kolb Society. She took a position at the University of California Riverside (UCR) in 2000, where she taught until she retired as a distinguished professor emerita in 2016. She received the President’s Award from the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in 2002 and the Kidder Award, which is considered the highest award in the archaeology of the Americas, in 2012. Only three other women have won the Kidder.
“Wendy was such a kind person; she never had an enemy in all her years of academics, which is quite a feat,” said Tom Patterson, her husband of more than twenty years, who is also a professor emeritus at UCR. “She won every teaching and mentor award possible and was very supportive of her students—always open and listening to them. She always encouraged her students to go beyond, to surpass what she had accomplished, to be better than their teacher. And she was delighted when they did so.”
Ashmore excavates during a field school. | Credit: Used with permission from Thomas C. Patterson
“Wendy’s contributions to archaeology were many,” said Ed Schortman, professor emeritus of anthropology at Kenyon College, who met Ashmore in 1974 at Penn while attending graduate school. Schortman and Ashmore worked together at Quirigua in Guatemala from 1976 to 1979, and again as co-directors with Schortman’s wife, Patricia Urban, of the Santa Barbara Archaeological Project in Western Honduras from 1983 to 1986.
Ashmore (foreground) and others give a tour of Xunantunich to Manuel Esquivel (center), who was then the prime minister of Belize, in this 1990s’ photo. | Credit: Courtesy of Richard M. Leventhal
This is an article excerpt from the Fall 2022 edition of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription!
| The Archaeological Conservancy 2022