Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

John W. Hoopes Joins the Stone Center as a Greenleaf Distinguished Visitor for Fall 2017

August 30th, 2017

Written by John W. Hoopes

My research focuses on pre-Hispanic indigenous peoples of the Isthmo-Colombian Area, a territory stretching from eastern Honduras to northern Colombia that corresponds roughly with the distribution of indigenous speakers of languages in the Chibchan family. The ancient cultures of this area—especially those of Costa Rica—were among the first in the Americas to be studied archaeologically, but greater attention to Mesoamerica and the Andes has made those more widely known. I have sought to demonstrate the antiquity, character, and significance of the indigenous peoples of this area and to understand how the emergence of social complexity, long-distance exchange, and symbol systems are both similar to and distinct from those of neighboring peoples. My scholarship follows in the footsteps of anthropologist Doris Stone, the spouse of Roger Thayer Stone and daughter of philanthropist and Tulane benefactor Samuel Zemurray, a pioneer in the archaeology and ethnography of Central America.

As an archaeologist, I have conducted fieldwork in several different regions of Costa Rica, including the Arenal basin, the Tempisque River valley, Golfito Bay, and the Caribbean lowlands. In 1995, I was a Senior Fulbright scholar at the University of Costa Rica. My previous edited books, The Emergence of Pottery: Technology and Innovation in Ancient Societies (with William Barnett, 1995) and Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia (with Jeffrey Quilter, 2003), focused on the effects of ancient technology and cultural identity. This semester, I am completing the co-editing of Central American and Colombian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, a catalogue of Pre-Columbian art featuring primarily works in jade and gold. I have also served as a consultant for Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas, an exhibition that will be featured at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles (Sept. 16—Jan. 28, 2018) and the Metropolitan Museum in New York (Feb. 27—May 28, 2018).

My main project is completion of Ancient Central America, a book for Cambridge University Press that addresses the archaeology of the Isthmo-Colombian Area from Paleoindian times to the 16th century. While at Tulane, I will be assisting with a review of approximately 3000 objects from the Isthmo-Colombian Area in the collections of the Middle American Research Institute and with the installation of a new exhibition in the gallery in Dinwiddie Hall that will feature ceramics, stone sculpture, and other objects from ancient indigenous cultures across Central America. I will also be organizing an international symposium on new research on the archaeology of the Isthmo-Colombian Area.

My other interests include religious studies, art history, and counterculture. For several years I have taught “Shamanism Past & Present,” a course that offers a critical evaluation of the history and use of the concept of shamanism, examining phenomena ranging from Upper Paleolithic cave art and ritual practices in ancient Europe and Latin America to the techno-shamanism of Burning Man. I have a longstanding interest in pseudoarchaeology and popular mythology about the ancient past and have addressed topics ranging from Costa Rica’s monumental stone spheres to apocalyptic assertions about Maya calendrics.

John W. Hoopes is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Kansas visiting Tulane this fall as a Richard E. Greenleaf Distinguished Visiting Professor. He can be contacted at jhoopes@tulane.edu

Andes + People
Cynthia Garza
Ph.D. Candidate