University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Kurnick, Sarah, Ph.D.

Sarah Kurnick, Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Lehigh University; Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
Elected: 2011 (Department of Anthropology)

Sarah earned a B.A. in Anthropology from Haverford College in 2006 and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. She specializes in Mesoamerican archaeology and focuses on the creation, perpetuation, and negation of institutionalized social inequality. Her primary interests include the role of the past in shaping the present, and archaeology as social practice – how, in other words, archaeology can benefit the public. Her dissertation, “Negotiating the Contradictions of Political Authority: An Archaeological Case Study from Callar Creek, Belize,” examines the strategies rulers use to acquire and maintain political authority and the reasons followers often choose to obey. To fund her dissertation research, Sarah received grants from the National Science Foundation and the American Philosophical Society.  

Sarah is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Lehigh University; a Consulting Scholar for the Penn Cultural Heritage Center; and a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Penn. She is also Director, with David Rogoff, of the Proyecto Arqueológico Punta Laguna. The project aims to understand how the Postclassic Maya community at Punta Laguna interacted with its Classic period past, and to practice community archaeology: Sarah and David are working with current residents of Punta Laguna to engage tourists interested not only in the area’s spider monkeys, but also in its ancient Maya history. The project has been funded through the generous support of the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

Sarah has presented her research at numerous conferences and symposia, including the "Belize Archaeology Symposium," the "Yucatan in Pennsylvania Roundtable," and the "Penn Maya Weekend." Her publications include a volume, co-edited with Joanne Baron, titled Political Strategies in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, under publication by the University Press of Colorado; "The Importance of the Past to the Ancient Maya Political Present: Recent Investigations at Callar Creek, Belize," published in Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology; and “Crossing Boundaries: Maya Censers from the Guatemala Highlands,” published in Expedition.


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