Tomás Gallareta Cervera holds a BA in Anthropology from the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, México and an MA and Ph.D. in Archaeology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has worked for 13 years as a professional archaeologist in the Maya area where investigates the role of place-making and monumental architecture in the development of royal authority during the Preclassic and Classic periods. His current research is focused on the rise of divine kingship during the Terminal Preclassic at the site of Chan Chich (Belize) including its Upper Plaza, a palace group elevated seven meters above the main plaza. Additionally, he is currently working on a second research project "Voices Of The Puuc Angels: Rural Life Among The Archaeological Ruins In The Yucatan Peninsula,” which, through oral history, contributes to the decolonization of contemporary archaeology.

Areas of Expertise

Maya archaeology, ancient monumental architecture, anthropology of fear, oral history (Note: On sabbatical spring 2024)


2016 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of North Carolina

2016 — Doctor of Philosophy from Univ North Carolina Charlotte

2010 — Master of Arts from University of North Carolina

2006 — Bachelor of Arts from Autonoma de Yucatan, Butler University

Courses Recently Taught

Today, people increasingly live in highly industrialized and urban civilizations. But how long have humans had "civilization?" What is "civilization" and how can it be recognized? This course addresses these questions through looking at the basic elements of archaeology and its place in anthropology. Topics covered include the history of archaeology, fundamental aspects of fieldwork and analysis, and the prehistoric record from the first humans to the origins of civilization. This foundation course is required for upper-level work in archaeology courses. No prerequisite. Offered every semester.

This course introduces students to the discipline that studies and compares cultures. Students learn about the main concepts used in anthropology and how anthropologists conduct research, while also discovering how people live in other times and places. They also learn about theories that provide frameworks for understanding and comparing cultures. Ethnographic descriptions of life in particular places give students factual materials with which to apply and critique such theories. Through this introduction to the study of culture in general, and an exposure to specific cultures, students inevitably come to re-examine some of the premises of their own culture. This foundation course is required for upper-level work in cultural anthropology courses. No prerequisite. Offered every semester.

Why are some fears, such as those of snakes, heights and darkness, shared by individuals of all cultures? Why do different societies fear different things? Do hunter-gatherer groups have the same fears as capitalist societies? What do these fears reveal about culture? To address these questions, we investigate the concept of fear, from its biological foundations, to the meanings given to this emotion by different cultures around the world through concepts, theories and methods used in anthropology. In a biological sense, fear is the response that our bodies have to a perceived threat. However, humans, as social animals, give a multiplicity of meanings to fear, which shapes their social and cultural practices. In our current political climate, fear has become a rhetoric commonly used to justify decisions of aggression, such as the physical separation of “good Americans” from “bad hombres” by means of a 55-foot wall, the reclusion of the rich into exclusive neighborhoods to avoid the poor, and even the possibility of a nuclear holocaust. Indeed, we are living in a constant state of fear of “the other.” Anthropologists make the familiar strange and the strange familiar by comparing human behavior cross-culturally and questioning common notions that people may consider “natural” but are, in fact, socially constructed. The class consists of lectures, media analyses, readings and discussions about fear from multiple cultures and their social implications in the contemporary world. This counts toward an upper-level elective for the major. No prerequisite.

Latin American people are a driving force of the U.S. economy, and they are projected to become one of the largest populations in the country (50 million by 2050). Moreover, the tag “Latino,” widely used in the U.S. to designate individuals who trace their ancestry to countries colonized by Spanish-speaking countries, does a disservice to the rich history, culture and diversity within these populations. Anthropology, the study of culture and humanity, focuses on a variety of different directions to encompass the diversity of humanity. Anthropologists make the familiar strange and the strange familiar by comparing human behavior cross-culturally, questioning common notions that people think are “natural” (e.g., two genders, the concept of a nuclear family, superior or inferior races, proper table manners, etc.) but are in fact socially constructed. In this course, we read, review and discuss, through the lens of anthropology, the origins, transformations and diversity of Latin American culture. The course discusses the Latin culture’s cultural roots, from its pre-Hispanic past, and colonial transformation to its current diverse contemporary peoples. The course, however, represents only a small sample of this extremely diverse field, since no single-semester course can give comprehensive coverage of all the different types of studies pursued by anthropologists. Overall, this course helps develop an understanding of the complexity of Latin American culture, develops cultural awareness and curiosity concerning its diversity, and challenges ideologies of ethnocentrism, heterosexism, racism and sexism. This counts toward the upper-level elective for the major or one of the two core courses for the Latinx Concentration. No prerequisite. Offered every year.