The Rise of Civilization in Mesoamerica Conference

February 3, 2018  9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

The ancient community of Tlatilco, today buried beneath modern day Mexico City, was once the thriving heart of early Mesoamerican civilization. More than 3,000 years ago, the emerging civilizations in the region experienced significant changes in sociopolitical development. Artifacts and clay sculptures from that time,  many unseen by the public until now, help shed new light on a culture shrouded in mystery. Join scholars, specialists, and museum officials as they delve into the archaeological findings and explore the rise of civilization in Mesoamerica.

The free, one-day conference is hosted by UC Riverside in conjunction with the collaborative Riverside Art Museum (RAM) and Smithsonian Affiliate Riverside Metropolitan Museum exhibition: Uncovering Ancient Mexico: The Mystery of Tlatilco. The exhibit features incredible ceramics from the RMM collection, artifacts on loan from National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), previously unpublished images from the 1940s Tlatilco site excavations, as well as an intriguing animation directed and produced by David Lebrun, Amy Halpern, and Rosey Guthrie (director and producers of Breaking the Maya Code).


Riverside Public Library (Main Branch), Conference Room- Second Floor, 3581 Mission Inn Ave, Riverside, CA. Parking is free on Saturday in downtown Riverside.


8:30 AM: Registration
9:00 AM: Welcome
Keynote and Session 1
9: 15 AM: Keynote: Dr. Karl Taube (UC Riverside, Anthropology) Powers of Rain and Lightning: The Olmec and the Origins of Rain Gods in Ancient Mesoamerica
10:00 AM: Dr. Patricia Ochoa Castillo (Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City, Curator) Tlatilco, a revaluation of the site, its materials and the definition of the Olmec
10:25 AM: Dr. Christopher Pool (University of Kentucky, Anthropology) It’s Complicated: Gulf Olmec Participation in Interregional Networks
10:50 AM: Discussion and questions
11: 00-11:15 break
Session 2
11:15 AM: Dr. Ronald Bishop (Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Archaeologist) Neutrons and PreClassic Mesoamerica
11:40 AM: Catharina Santasilia (UC Riverside, Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology) Results from the scientific laboratory analysis on the Tlatilco collection at RMM
12:05 PM: Discussion and questions
12-15-1:45 break for lunch
Session 3
1:45 PM: Dr. Elizabeth Paris (University of Calgary, Anthropology) Style and Value in the Early Complex Communities of Northern Belize
2:10 PM: Dr. Jaime Awe (Northern Arizona University, Anthropology) The Genesis of Civilization in the Eastern Maya Lowlands: A Belize River Valley Perspective
2:35 PM: David Lebrun (Night Fire Films, producers of “Breaking the Maya Code” and “Out of the Maya Tombs”) Animating Tlatilco
3:00 PM: Discussion and questions
3:10-3:25 break
Session 4
3:25 PM: Dr. Michelle Rich (San Antonio Museum of Art, Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow) and Dr. Matthew Robb (UC Los Angeles Fowler Museum, Chief Curator) Ritual Journey: The Transformation of an Olmec Transformation Figurine
3:50 PM: Dr. Richard Lesure (UC Los Angeles, Archaeology) Early Figurines from the Coast of Chiapas, Mexico, and the Origins of Mesoamerican Art
4:15 PM: Dr. Diana Magaloni (LA County Museum of Art [LACMA], Director of the Program for Art of the Ancient Americas) Offering 4 from La Venta: Material and Artistic Analysis
4:40 PM: Wrap up,  discussion, and questions
5:00 PM: Reception

Click HERE to download Conference Poster or the Abstracts and Schedule


Sponsored by the UCR Center for Ideas and Society

In collaboration with exhibition hosts: Riverside Art Museum, Riverside Metropolitan Museum, LACMA

Additional exhibition sponsors include the Tilden Family Foundation and Private Donors– Thank you!