Anthropology at Tulane University
Dinwiddie Hall 101
6826 St. Charles Ave
New Orleans, LA 70118
Phone number:504-865-5336


Assistant Professor

Fields of Study: anthropological and historical linguistics, Mesoamerican indigenous languages and writing systems, decipherment, archaeology, iconography



Professor Zender received his B.A. in anthropology from the University of British Columbia (1997), and his M.A. (1999) and Ph.D. (2004) in archaeology from the University of Calgary. As a linguist, he studies contemporary and historically-attested Mesoamerican languages in order to reconstruct older stages of these languages, the better to compare them to ancient writing from the region. As an epigrapher and archaeologist, his work focuses on the ongoing decipherment and interpretation of these writing systems, and especially in their origins, development, and eventual abandonment during the Colonial era. Professor Zender teaches courses in historical linguistics, Maya hieroglyphic writing, and several Mesoamerican Indian languages (Ch'orti' Maya, Yucatec Maya, Classical Nahuatl, and Chicontepec Nahuatl).




Recent Media Attention:

•  AIA Online Interactive Dig, Cahal Pech, Belize (2014-2015)

• Joseph Schuldenrein, 'Deciphering Archaeology: Mayan Hieroglyphs', Myth, Reality, and 21st Century Archaeology (Dec 11, 2013)

• Andrea Cooper, 'The One Who Hammers,' Trek Magazine, number 34, pp. 18-21 (Dec 2013)

• Krystal D'Costa, 'Modern Lessons from a Lost Language,' Scientific American (Feb 28, 2013)

• Julie Murphy, ‘Maya archeology event in Flagler largest in 7 years,’ The Daytona Beach News-Journal (Sept 30, 2013)

• Thomas Dodson, 'The Origins and Development of Writing', CNC Web Interview (Dec 4, 2010)

• Corydon Ireland, 'Language Made Visible,' Harvard Gazette Online, Monday (Sept 20, 2010)

•  'Lost Language Found on the Back of 400-Year-Old Letter', National Geographic News (Aug 29, 2010)


Select Recent Publications:

• Yaeger, Jason, M. Kathryn Brown, Christophe Helmke, Marc Zender, Bernadette Cap, Christie Kokel Rodriguez, and Sylvia Batty
2015   Two Early Classic Elite Burials from Buenavista del Cayo, Belize.  Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 12:181-191. Belize, Institute of Archaeology.

• Martin, Simon, Stephen Houston, and Marc Zender
2015    Sculptors and Subjects: Notes on the Incised Text of Calakmul Stela 51. Maya Decipherment: Ideas on Maya Writing and Iconography, Jan 7th, 2015.

• Bassie-Sweet, Karen, Marc Zender, Jorge Pérez, and Stanley Guenter
2015    The Painting of Joljá Cave. In The Ch'ol Maya of Chiapas, edited by Karen Bassie-Sweet, pp. 86–105. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

• Zender, Marc
2014    On the Reading of Three Classic Maya Portrait Glyphs. PARI Journal 15(2):1–14.

• Zender, Marc
2014    The Naming Insight: Hieroglyphic Names and Social Identity in the Pre-Columbian Americas.  In A Celebration of the Life and Work of Pierre Robert Colas, edited by Christophe Helmke and Frauke Sachse, pp. 61–74. Acta Mesoamericana 27. Verlag Anton Saurwein, Munich, Germany.

• Law, Danny, John Robertson, Stephen Houston, Marc Zender, and David Stuart
2014    Areal Shifts in Classic Mayan Phonology. Ancient Mesoamerica 25(2):357–366.

• Zender, Marc
2013    Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity. The Teaching Company, Chantilly, VA.

• Law, Danny, Stephen Houston, Nicholas Carter, Marc Zender, and David Stuart
2013    Reading in Context: The Interpretation of Personal Reference in Ancient Maya Hieroglyphic Texts. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 23(2):23–47.

• Stone, Andrea, and Marc Zender
2011    Reading Maya Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Maya Painting and Sculpture. Thames & Hudson, New York and London.

• Quilter, Jeffrey, Marc Zender, Karen Spalding, Régulo Franco, César Gálvez, and Juan Castañeda
2010    Traces of a Lost Language and Number System Discovered on the North Coast of Peru. American Anthropologist 112(3):355–369.

• Zender, Marc
2010    Baj 'Hammer' and Related Affective Verbs in Classic Mayan. PARI Journal 11(2):1–16.




Office: 301c Dinwiddie Hall

Phone: (504) 862-3100




Anthropology, Dinwiddie Hall 101, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5336