2013  Chautauqua Program - Travel Course to Oaxaca

A rug of natural dyes and fibers from the master weavers of Teotitlan del Valle


Ethnobotany and Archaeology in the Oaxaca Valley, Mexico

July 6 - 13, 2013

Instructor: Dr. Ed Barnhart

Course Description:

For thousands of years, from house building to medicine, the use of local plants has been central to the indigenous way of life in Oaxaca. The Olmecs, Zapotecs, 
and Mixtecs all inhabited Oaxaca, each sharing their plant knowledge and passing it down to the next generation. This course will discuss the vast botanical 
knowledge of the descendants of those cultures, while traveling around the Oaxaca Valley.

The course’s home base will be the picturesque colonial city of Oaxaca.  Within in the city, participants will explore its vast flower markets, peruse its herbal 
remedy shops, and sample its unique indigenous cuisine (including the famous Oaxacan chocolate, of course!).  Visits to the cactus gardens of Santa Domingo 
and the city’s ethnobotanical gardens will also be made.  Moving into the valley of Oaxaca, the course will go to the various craft villages, where people of 
Zapotec descent are still making pottery, textiles, and wooden carvings in the same way as their ancestors did.  In Teotitlan del Valle, the participants will 
witness textiles and dyes being made in the same way as they were when the Aztec empire demanded them as tribute.  In San Bartolo Coyotepec, they 
will meet a community who has been making the Oaxaca’s famous black pottery in the same way for almost 2000 years.  Other stops in the valley will include 
El Tule, the largest diameter tree in the world, and mescal factories, where participants will learn how farmers turn maguey into a powerful alcoholic drink, 
once used by shamans to induce trance.  A course to Oaxaca would be remiss not to include a tour of the hilltop ruins of Monte Alban.  At those ruins, 
and also by studying the ancient books collectively referred to as the “Mixtec Codices”, the course will analyze the evidence of how Pre-Columbian societies 
were using plants in their everyday lives.  As a final bonus of the week chosen for this course, the city of Oaxaca will be gearing up for their annual 
Guelaguetza dance festival at the end of July.  One evening during the course the group will attend one of the practice dance shows.
Click for a more detailed itinerary 

For people interested in: 

Botany, biology, chemistry, environmental studies, archaeology, anthropology, art, history, art history, sociology, philosophy and other related social sciences fields.



While not required, participants are encouraged to have at least some knowledge of the cultures and flora of Oaxaca.  Dr. Ed Barnhart can recommend readings 
for those interested in learning more before the trip.  The tours will involve walking through ruins and Zapotec villages in hot, arid conditions.  Participants in weak 
physical condition are encouraged to build strength and stamina before the trip.


About your instructor:

Dr. Ed Barnhart has worked in Mexico and Central America for the last twenty years as an archaeologist, an explorer, and an instructor.  During his four years as the student of Dr. Linda Schele (world renowned for finally breaking the Maya code of hieroglyphics in 1973) he developed a strong background in Maya hieroglyphics, calendar systems, iconography, and archaeoastronomy. During his graduate career, South American iconography and shamanism were also major foci of his studies.  From 1998 to 2000 he was the Director of the Palenque Mapping Project, an archaeological survey that discovered over 1000 new structures in the Maya ruins of Palenque.  He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin in 2001 and is now the Director of the Maya Exploration Center, a non-profit research center based in Austin, Texas and Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico.  He and his team are currently investigating archaeoastronomy and ancient geometry in the ruins of Central America, South America, and Cambodia.  Visit www.mayaexploration.org for more information about Dr. Barnhart and the Maya Exploration Center.




                       $1400.00  for double lodging

                       $1700.00 for single room lodging

Costs include:

Lodging in Oaxaca - Hotel Parador San Miguel

Private ground transportation


Final group dinner at closing ceremonies

Museum entry fees

Ruins/park entry fees



Participants are responsible for arranging their own flight reservations to and from Oaxaca City.  Since participants come from all over the country, recommending a single flight is impossible.   As of October 2013, the average flight from the USA to Oaxaca City is running about $500-700.



Costs do not include:

Airfare to/from Oaxaca

lunches and dinners (except the last night)

travel insurance

tips for service providers (drivers, waiters, maid staff, etc.)

Hotels during the course:

Hotel Parador San Miguel


To secure a place in the course a deposit of $300 to Ahau Travel is required.

 The balance payment will then be due 60 days before the course. 


We request your deposit by check to:

Ahau Travel

3267 Bee Caves Rd

Suite 107-161

Austin, Texas 78746


Or you can pay with a credit card through Paypal.com with the button below

When it becomes available, you must also fill out the 2013 Chautauqua Program registration form and pay the $100 registration fee at:



Participants in Dr. Barnhart’s courses always ask about whether they need pre-course immunizations.  Dr. Barnhart is not a medical professional and this is a question he cannot and should not answer.  Each participant should consult his or her personal physician before the course.



For money in Mexico, we highly recommend an ATM card and/or a credit card. ATM's are everywhere in Mexico and available 24-hours a day. You can also use a credit card with a pin number (if you know the pin number). Travelers checks are very difficult to exchange and you could end up spending the entire day at the bank.

Please change some U.S. money in the United States into Mexican Pesos. The exchange rate as of October 2013 is 1 US Dollar = 12.8 Pesos.  International airports have several places to change money.



Building J at Monte Alban



      Detailed Itinerary for the 2013 Oaxaca Course


Suggested Reading List


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