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Jennifer Mathews is a professor of anthropology in the sociology and anthropology department at Trinity University, where she teaches courses in archaeology and biological anthropology. She studies ancient and historical Maya archaeology, as well as issues of sustainability and tourism. She has been named the 2019 recipient of the Dr. and Mrs. Z.T. Scott Faculty Fellowship in recognition of her outstanding abilities as a teacher and mentor.
She received her master's and Ph.D. in anthropology, with a specialization in Maya archaeology, from the University of California at Riverside. Her undergraduate degree was in anthropology from San Diego State University (1991). She has been conducting fieldwork and archival research in Mexico since 1993.
She has written journal articles, book chapters and three edited books on Maya archaeology: Quintana Roo Archaeology (with Justine Shaw), Lifeways in the Northern Maya Lowlands: New Approaches to Archaeology in the Yucatán Peninsula (with Bethany Morrison) and The Value of Things: Prehistoric to Contemporary Commodities in the Maya Region (with Tom Guderjan). She also published Chicle: Chewing Gum of the Americas: From the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley (with Gillian P. Schultz). She is currently working on co-authored volume with John Gust called Sugarcane and Rum: The Bittersweet History of Labor and Life on the Yucatán Peninsula, that will come out in spring of 2020, as well as an edited volume with Tom Guderjan on prehistoric to contemporary Maya boundaries and the manipulation of space entitled The Ties that Bind and the Walls that Divide: Prehistoric to Contemporary Maya Manipulation of Social Space.
Fedick, Scott L., Jennifer P. Mathews, and Kathryn Sorensen. 2012. “Cenotes as Conceptual Boundary Markers at the Ancient Maya Site of T’isil, Quintana Roo, Mexico.” Mexicon Volume XXXIV (No. 5): 118-123.
Glover, Jeffrey B, Rissolo, Dominique, and Jennifer P. Mathews. 2011. “The Hidden World of the Maritime Maya: Lost Landscapes along the North Coast of Quintana Roo.” In The Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes, edited by Benjamin Ford, pp. 195-216. Springer Press, New York, NY.
Mathews, Jennifer P. with Gillian P. Schultz. 2009. Chicle. The Chewing Gum of the Americas: From the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley, University of Arizona Press.
Professor Mathews's research has focused on the ancient Maya, studying roads, architecture, and the layout of sites. Over the last decade, she has been focusing on the post-Colonial period of the Yucatan Peninsula (1850–1950), looking at the extraction of commodities like sugarcane, chicle (the base for chewing gum) and rum production. She is planning to return to the field to begin documenting 19th-century churches in the Yucatán.
Professor Mathews works regularly with local museums such as the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) to teach docents about the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica, and her students provide copies of their semester-long research papers on pieces in their collection. She has a service project every semester in her classes to raise money for a cause related to the class, such as the San Antonio Food Bank (Eating and Drinking in the 19th Century), adopting primates at the San Antonio Zoo (Seminar in Primatology) or supporting Maya women artisans in Mesoamerica (Pre-Columbian Art of Mesoamerica and Seminar on the Ancient Maya). She has also curated two exhibits "The Modern Maya: The Photographs of Macduff Everton" and "Crafting Maya Identity."