Universiteit Leiden

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Maarten Jansen

Professor emeritus of Mesoamerican Archeology and History

Prof.dr. M.E.R.G.N. Jansen
+31 71 527 2439

Maarten Jansen is emeritus professor in Heritage of Indigenous Peoples (with focus on the Americas) at the Faculty of Archaeology.

More information about Maarten Jansen

Office days

Maarten Jansen has no fixed schedule. Appointments can be made by email.


Colonialism has had a profound impact on the societies, economies en worldviews of both the expanding Western countries and the peoples of Asia, Africa and the Americas that suffered the consequences. Studying heritage in this context, therefore, not only sheds light on functions, meanings and value of ancient monuments and artefacts, but also produces insights into processes of cultural interaction, continuity and change, into religious conflict and syncretism, into the construction of stereotypes about “the other”, and into issues of identity, (inter)national politics and human rights.

The Spanish conquest , some five centuries ago, has produced enormous destruction in Middle and South America, but contemporary Indigenous Peoples have preserved languages and cultural traditions. The research of Maarten Jansen, working together with Mixtec researcher / activist Gabina Aurora Pérez Jiménez, concentrates on the intellectual world of the ancient and contemporary Indigenous cultures of Mexico. To this effect, they combine the study of archaeological sites and artefacts, museum collections, chronicles and archival documents with ethno-archaeological fieldwork in descendant communities, learning from contemporary Indigenous experts and documenting oral traditions, rituals and ceremonial discourse. Simultaneously, they participate in the development of a decolonizing perspective and participatory practice in conformity with the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).

Their interdisciplinary approach has resulted in new understandings of the visual art and pictorial manuscripts (codices, lienzos, maps) produced by the Mixtec and Nahua (Aztec) peoples in pre-colonial and early colonial times, works that contain important religious, historical and socio-economic information.

Synthetic monographs:

Teaching activities

As emeritus professor of ‘Heritage of Indigenous Peoples (with focus on the Americas)’ and of ‘Mesoamerican Archaeology and History, Jansen organizes seminar activities for a diverse group of PhD candidates. Furthermore he teaches incidental courses (e.g. Leiden University: HOVO) as well as lectures and workshops in the Netherlands and abroad. He also provides supplementary thesis orientation for interested BA/MA students.

Curriculum vitae

University studies: BA Classical languages, Leiden University 1973 (cum laude), M.A. Archaeology of precolumbian America, with minors in Nahuatl and Quechua, Leiden University 1976 (cum laude), PhD Humanities, Leiden University 1983 (cum laude).

Employment by Leiden University 1977- 2018, successively as doctoral assistant, assistant professor, associate professor and full professor of successively ‘Archaeology of Precolumbian America’, ‘Mesoamerican Archaeology and History’, and ‘Heritage of Indigenous Peoples’.
Construction of these specialisations at Leiden University. Intensive teaching experience on all levels (BA, MA, RMA and PhD).

Successful supervision of 45 PhD candidates (who have finished before 2020).
Participation in diverse faculty commissions, university working groups and steering groups.
Directive functions in the Faculty of Archaeology: Director of Education (2000-2003), Dean (2003-2006) and head of the department ‘Archaeological Heritage and Society’ (2014-2017).  

Direction of several externally financed projects

  • Códices Mexicanos (Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico: 1989-1998)
  • Mixtec City-States: nature and development of indigenous socio-political organisation (NWO open competition: 2000-2007)
  • Sahìn Sàu, an Endangered Language of Southern Mexico (NWO Endangered Languages program: 2005-2009)
  • Keeping the Days. Time and identity in Middle America (NWO open competition: 2007-2011)
  • Shedding light on endangered mutual heritage. Developing non-invasive imaging techniques to uncover, understand and preserve ancient Mexican pictorial manuscripts (NWO Science for Arts program, 2012-2018)
  • ‘Time in Intercultural Context. The Indigenous Calendars of Mexico and Guatemala’ (European Research Council, Advanced Grant 2012 –2017)


  • Commander in the Order of the Aztec Eagle (Mexican Government, 1994).
  • Special appointment as extra-ordinary professor (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2002).
  • Medal ‘Andrés Henestrosa’ (Government of the State of Oaxaca, Mexico, 2009).

Professor emeritus of Mesoamerican Archeology and History

  • Faculteit Archeologie
  • Archaeological Heritage
  • Heritage of Indigenous Peoples

Work address

Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden
Room number B2.09




  • No relevant ancillary activities
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