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Arlen Chase

Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Office: Science Building 2 Room 528
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Arlen F. Chase has been engaged in Maya archaeology since 1971. He earned his BA in 1975 and then his PhD in Anthropology in 1983 from the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation work comprehensively detailed the archaeological excavations carried out by the University Museum at Tayasal, Peten, Guatemala.

Since 1978, he has been actively involved in archaeological excavation in Belize. With his co-researcher, Diane Z. Chase, he has co-directed archaeological investigations at the sites of Nohmul (1978-1979), Santa Rita Corozal (1979-1985), and Caracol (1985-present) in Belize. Santa Rita Corozal was a Postclassic capital city that was abandoned in C.E. 1532; it was archaeologically investigated to understand how contact period Maya society was organized. Caracol, Belize is the largest known Classic Period Maya city with a population over 100,000 people at C.E. 650. Students have been actively engaged in the extended field programs carried out by the Chases since the 1970s.

His academic career has included positions at four universities. His first appointment was at the University of Central Florida (UCF), where he stayed until 2016 - starting as a Visiting Assistant Professor in 1984, becoming a tenured Full Professor in 1995 and being named a Pegasus Professor (UCF’s highest academic honor) in 2007. While at UCF, he also served as Chair of the Faculty Senate, President of the Faculty Union, and as a voting member of both the UCF Board of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors for the State University System. He also held various administrative roles at UCF,

including serving as Chair of the Department of Anthropology (2006-2014), Director of the Nicholson School of Communication (2015-2016), and Associate Dean for the College of Science (2013-2016). In 2016, he moved to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as a Professor in the Department of Anthropology. In 2019, he moved to Pomona College in Claremont, California as a Visiting Professor in the Department of Anthropology. He started as a Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Houston (UH) in Fall 2023.

He has co-authored and co-edited a dozen books or monographs. The most recent ones are The Materialization of Time in the Ancient Maya World: Mythic History and Ritual Order (Fall 2023; University Press of Florida) and Ancient Mesoamerican Population History: Urbanism, Social Complexity and Change (Spring 2024; University of Arizona Press). He has also authored or co-authored over 180 articles and book chapters, all of which are available for download at

His research has repeatedly been covered by newspapers and television. A 1988 PBS special entitled Caracol: The Lost Maya City was the second most watched PBS documentary that year. The 1993 National Geographic special entitled Lost Kingdoms of the Maya featured the Chases’ research and Arlen was featured as the voice of reason in the 2006 History Channel’s show Decoding the Past: Mayan Doomsday Prophecy (that showed repeatedly through December 21, 2012 when some thought that the world would end). In 2022 the Chases’ research was featured in a NOVA documentary entitled Ancient Maya Metropolis that was the most watched NOVA episode for that year. In March of 2023, CBS news covered the Chases in a seven and a half minute segment on CBS Saturday Morning –

At all the institutions with which he has been affiliated, students have gained active field experience through participation in full archaeological field seasons and that tradition continues at the University of Houston in relation to the Caracol Archaeological Project (

Research and Teaching Interests

Anthropological Archaeology; Complexity, Urbanism, Coupled Human-Nature Dynamics; Remote Sensing (LiDAR); Sustainability; Ethics and Heritage; Archaeological Method and Theory; Contextual, Ceramic, and Settlement Analysis; Hieroglyphic Interpretation; Mesoamerica, Maya 


  • ANTH 2302 Introduction to Archaeology
  • ANTH 4372 Mayan Archaeology
  • ANTH 3395 Topics in Archaeology: Collapse and Transformation of Complex Society
  • ANTH 4380 Field Methods
  • ANTH 4382 Laboratory Methods
  • ANTH 4393 Research
  • ANTH 4498 Independent Study