Marion Popenoe de Hatch
Born in Guatemala on October 26, 1930, to the famous American horticulturalist, Wilson Popenoe, and the renowned British archaeologist, Dorothy Hughes.
Marion obtained her doctorate in anthropology, with a specialization in Mesoamerican Archeology from the University of California at Berkeley. Her interest centered on the archeology of the South Coast and Highlands of Guatemala, where she worked as assistant to Edwin M. Shook. Together, they carried out extensive excavations of the Kaminaljuyú and Monte Alto sites. They also analyzed ceramics from Kaminaljuyú, Monte Alto, El Bálsamo, La Blanca, Semetabaj, Tiquisate, Salinas Tilapa, among others, which resulted in a series of joint publications.
During her professional career, Marion has concentrated particularly on Kaminaljuyú and Tak’alik Ab’aj. Her book on the excavations carried out in the area of Kaminaljuyú/San Jorge is one the most important works ever written on the great valley of Guatemala for its focus on community life, ceramics, and irrigation.
She also has a profound interest in Mayan and Olmec archaeoastronomy, and has identified astronomic observatories at various pre-Columbian sites.
Marion has two books to her name and was also editor of volume I of Historia general de Guatemala (1990).
Furthermore, she has been teaching for over 35 years, mainly at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.
In 2010, the board of the Popol Vuh Museum at Universidad Francisco Marroquín awarded Marion with the Orden del Pop, which is given to recognize the contribution of Guatemalans and foreigners to the study, protection, and promotion of Guatemala’s archaeology and history.
In 2007, Marion and her brother, Hugh, gave Casa Popenoe and its collections to Universidad Francisco Marroquín, a donation without precedence in the history of our country.
Marion continues to write and will shortly be publishing two books: Listening to the Ceramics: Understanding the Prehispanic Cultural Development of the South Coast and Highlands of Guatemala, and a children’s book Blanquita, the Fairy.
She currently lives in Antigua, Guatemala, just a few blocks from Casa Popenoe.
Blanquita is a little fairy who inhabits the rain forest in the tropics. She has grouped together the insects, birds and animals to form a symphony orchestra with a musical resonance that echoes through the trees. Now she wants to organize a school for all the different and varied woodland creatures that occupy and contribute to the lush rain forest environment. In this complicated task, Blanquita has to confront unusual and intimidating obstacles.
LISTENING TO THE CERAMICS
Understanding the Prehispanic Cultural Developments of the South Coast and Highlands of Guatemala
In archaeological investigations, the analysis of the ceramics from the excavations provides a great amount of information regarding details about the sequence of cultural evolution, relationships between populations, economic expansion and shifts from one geographic area to another. Following these changes, the archaeologist is able to arrange cultural developments chronologically while adding important information from other sources such as agricultural, calendrical and linguistic data which contribute to understanding the process of growth. In essence, ceramics “talk” to the archaeologist and he/she must listen carefully to what is being reported. When information has sufficiently assembled, the archaeologist can begin to define patterns and draw up hypotheses and reach working conclusions.