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Kelli Carmean, a professor of anthropology at Eastern Kentucky University, will discuss the intersections of Mayan culture and her literary career in a lecture titled “Mayan Transformations: Historical Fact and Creative Fiction” on Thursday, Nov. 16.

Carmean photoFree and open to public, the lecture is part of the University’s year-long Chautauqua lecture series exploring transformations. Carmean’s remarks will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will serve as the keynote address for Native American Heritage Month.

Carmean earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, and a doctoral degree in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh. In 2002, she published “Spider Woman Walks This Land: Traditional Cultural Properties and the Navajo Nation.” The American Indian Quarterly hailed the book as “a noteworthy success … not just as an anthropology or archaeology textbook, but also as a study of Navajo cultural geography, history, and religion.”

Her scholarship led to her being selected to present the Roark Distinguished Lecture at EKU in 2010. She was also a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute participant in 2011, researching Mayan culture in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Earlier this year, she was named an EKU Foundation Professor, the University’s top honor for teaching excellence.

In 2010, Carmean began fusing her academic interests with creative writing, publishing her first work of fiction, “Creekside: An Archaeological Novel.” Her most recent novel, “House of the Waterlily: A Novel of the Ancient Maya World,” was met with much critical acclaim. In his review of the book, Scott Simmons said Carmean “is a fine storyteller who weaves her narrative as beautifully as a fine-spun huipil,” the most common traditional garment worn by indigenous women from central Mexico to Central America.

When she isn’t writing, Carmean finds herself in the classroom. After joining the EKU faculty in 1993, she served as coordinator of the anthropology program from 2003 to 2010, and as department chair from 2009 to 2015. She is currently the faculty liaison for the University’s study abroad program and is active in the Kentucky Institute for International Study, teaching classes in Denmark, Peru and Barcelona.

The Carmean lecture will be sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work; the Department of History; and the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences.

For more information about the Chautauqua lecture series, visit or contact Chautauqua Lecture Coordinator Erik Liddell at