Demarest, a Louisiana Cajun, studied Mesoamerican anthropology and archaeology at Tulane University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude and was awarded the Dean's Medal. Demarest earned his M.A. and doctorate in anthropology and archaeology at Harvard University, he held the endowed Danforth Chair in Archeology, and was elected to the prestigious Harvard Society of Fellows club. From 1984 to 1986 he served as Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, USA. In 1986 he was promoted to Full Professor and was named to the endowed Centennial Chair. He now holds the endowed chair of Ingram Professor of Anthropology and is the Director of Mesoamerican Archaeology and Development.
Demarest has worked in Mesoamerica for over 35 years, leading archaeological excavations and investigative expeditions every year. He is considered one of the world's leading experts on the Maya, but is also interested in the Olmec, Incas, Aztecs and many aspects of anthropological theory, particularly the collapse of civilizations, the role of religion in ancient societies, and ethics in anthropology. He currently divides his efforts between archaeological excavations and exploration, development programs for indigenous Maya communities, and management of the Vanderbilt-owned, but Maya-managed, Cancuen tropical forest and archaeological park in the Peten region of Guatemala. He is currently director of both the Vanderbilt Cancuen Regional Archaeological project in the Peten forest of Guatemala and the Vanderbilt/Universidad del Valle San Andres Semetabej Regional Archaeology and Development projects in Guatemala's volcanic highlands.
Public education and media
In 2010 Science published a profile of Demarest and his work. Demarest's work with the Maya in Mesoamerica has been featured in many TV documentaries by National Geographic, the History Channel, Travel Channel, NBC, CBS, and programs in Brazil and Guatemala. As an authority in the field, Demarest has been interviewed on NPR, CBS, other venues and most recently the PBS Lehrer News hour regarding his research development work, the ancient Maya civilization and the collapse of civilizations.
Demarest himself is the author or editor of over a dozen books and monographs and over a hundred articles and book chapters.
In 2000 Demarest was presented with the Orden del Pop, a career leadership award bestowed by Guatemala's Universidad Francisco Marroquín in recognition of his services to Guatemalan archaeology, particularly his training of most of the current Guatemalan leaders in the archaeology of their country.
In 2004 Demarest became the first U.S. citizen to be awarded the Orden Nacional del Patrimonio Cultural de Guatemala. Demarest was presented with that award by the President of Guatemala, Óscar Berger, in a ceremony on November 10th of that year with a citation for his successful battles with looters and his contributions to "the rescue, conservation, and protection of the tangible cultural patrimony of Guatemala."
Dr. Demarest was named Distinguished Alumni for 2003 by Tulane University. He has won the Madison-Sarratt Award from Vanderbilt University for outstanding undergraduate teaching in the Arts and Sciences College.
Dr. Demarest, his wife, Vilma Lorena Anleu de Demarest and three sons are currently residents in Guatemala and the U.S., and also frequently in Finland, where they collaborate with European museum exhibitions and international indigenous development efforts.
- Weisman 2007: 225
- Vanderbilt University 2004
- Didrichsen, Maria, ed. (2005). Maya II: kadonneen kaupungin arvoitus = den återfunna mayastaden. Harri Kettunen and Jyrki Talvitie (Finnish trans.); Ulf Lewin (Swedish trans.). Helsinki: Didrichsen Art Museum. ISBN 952-5567-04-4. OCLC 76859502. (Finnish) (Swedish)
- Museo Popol Vuh (n.d.). "Dr. Arthur A. Demarest: Orden del Pop 2000". Orden del Pop. Guatemala City: Museo Popol Vuh, Universidad Francisco Marroquín. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
- Vanderbilt University (11 November 2004). "Maya archaeologist receives national medal from Guatemalan president" (online publication). Vanderbilt University's News Network. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
- Weisman, Alan (2007). The World Without Us. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-4272-0148-5. OCLC 122261590.