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Archaeologist Peter Schmidt dies; devoted more than 4 decades to studying Maya

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Peter Schmidt devoted more than four decades of his life to the study of the Maya. Photo: Héctor Montaño / INAH.

Mérida, Yucatán — German-born archaeologist Peter Schmidt, whose work helped to safeguard much of Maya culture, died this morning in Mérida.

Schmidt lived in Yucatán for 40 years, devoted to studying ancient Mayan culture and protecting Chichén Itzá, one of the most visited sites in southeast Mexico.

Schmidt, who was born in 1940, began work at the archaeological site in 1970, and by the end of the decade he had established a program to protect and preserve Chichén Itzá’s monuments, as well as its flora and fauna. By 1973, he had settled permanently in Mexico.

In 1993, he became the director of the Chichén Itzá archaeological research project, where he studied archaeology, architecture, iconography, agriculture and hydraulic works, among other topics.

The archaeologist received UNESCO Medal of Cultural Diversity in 2014. When accepting the prize, at the Mundo Maya museum, Schmidt noted that interest in the Maya was expanding and urged researchers to continue studying its culture.

“It is a great culture increasingly appreciated by the public,” said Schmidt. “The Mayans (still) exist and we hope they will continue for many more years.”

Schmidt was also author of many books, including “I Maya” in 1998.

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