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September 18 , 2007

Journey to Xibalba: A Life in Archaeology


When Don Patterson's twenty-seven-year-old daughter turned to him for advice about her professional future, Patterson in turn reflected on his almost thirty-year experience working on major archaeological sites in Mexico and Central America. His autobiographical account examines his professional journey, the people and institutions that made it possible, and the decisions, both good and bad, that he made along the way.

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In 2004 the author compiled a “book” intended for family members, entitled “I Remember It Well”, comprised of letters completion of his university studies, from 1965-1967, during which time he hitchhiked, youth-hosteled and worked his way throughout most of Western Europe. In concluding that "book" he noted that over the intervening home, travel…

Patterson draws from ancient Mayan mythology, weaving the tale of Hunahpu and Xbalanque, the Hero Twins, and their voyage to Xibabla, the underworld, into his own story in order to provide an analogy of the journey through life and the daily challenges and pitfalls one must overcome. Each of the book's eight chapters are named after the houses of testing in Xibalba and reflect the people, environments, financing, and politics of the different archaeological projects Patterson worked on throughout his career. The resulting story is part Indiana Jones and part analysis of the problems facing modern Mesoamerica between globalization and national patrimony.

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