Posted by: Johan Normark | May 29, 2012

RIP William Rathje

One of the most influential archaeologists and Mayanists has passed away. William Rathje (1945-2012) began as a Mayanist and later in his life he initiated what has been known as garbology, the archaeological study of contemporary garbage. If you can get hold on Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage (1992), read it and your view of garbage will never be the same again. I have discussed some of Rathje’s later ideas regarding the Maya in one of my earlier blog posts. Rathje was also an early proponent for trade being an important factor in the history of the Maya region, ideas that still are valid as seen in a recent article on the Maya collapse. I met him when he visited the University of Gothenburg 6-7 years ago and he even attended the now dormant Microarchaeological seminars where I gave a talk about my “brand” of archaeology.

Update. Michael Shanks writes about Rathje on one of his blogs.


  1. May he rest in peace a great guy

  2. This is sad news. William Rathje was a genius. Do you know of a source where we can find more information about how he died? Thanks.

  3. There are no official sources yet as far as I know (nothing available on internet). I learnt about his death from facebook (Michael Schiffer) and now Michael Shanks confirms it on his blog. Neither one knows/mentions the actual cause of the death.


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