The Mayanist world has most tragically lost one of its brightest stars, Dr. Pierre Robert Colas of Vanderbilt University. On the evening of August 26, 2008, Pierre and his sister Marie, visiting from Switzerland, were viciously gunned down in his home in Nashville, Tennessee, in an apparent home invasion robbery. Pierre was killed and his sister was taken to the hospital in critical condition suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. She passed away from her injuries on August 31. Details on this terrible incident and the ongoing police investigation can be found on a website set up by Vanderbilt University, which also provides a venue for friends, colleagues and students to comment and express their feelings on the loss of Pierre and his sister.

Pierre's death is a terrible loss for his family and friends, but also for the Mesoamericanist community in general. Known to many of his colleagues simply as "Robbie," Pierre was a recognized authority on Maya epigraphy and the ancient Maya culture, and had only recently joined the staff at the Department of Anthropology at Vanderbilt. As the many tributes from students and fellow professors attest, however, he had made a great impact at his university and adopted home and in the lives of his students.

Born in London, Pierre spent his early years in Hamburg, Germany, and while still a child visited many of the great sites of Mesoamerica, sparking an interest in him that ultimately led to his pursuing and receiving degrees in 1999 from the University of Hamburg and in 2004 from the University of Bonn. Pierre's dissertation, on the topic of royal onomastica amongst the Classic Maya, was published as a monograph (Colas 2004, see below). While in Europe Pierre was instrumental in starting the European Association of Mayanists (Wayeb), and a touching memorial to Pierre can be found on the website of this organization.

In association with his work with Wayeb, Pierre helped organize a number of the European Maya Meetings and was co-editor on two volumes of the proceedings from these academic conferences. He was also on the editorial board of the journal Mexicon.

Pierre's loss is profoundly felt, within the Vanderbilt community as well as the broader Mayanist world, where his contribution has been so cruelly silenced.




Pierre Robert Colas: Select Bibliography

BRADY, JAMES E., and PIERRE ROBERT COLAS
2005  Nikte Mo' Scattered Fire in the Cave of K'ab Chante': Epigraphic and Archaeological Evidence for Cave Desecration in Ancient Maya Warfare. In Stone Houses and Earth Lords: Maya Religion in the Cave Context, edited by Keith M. Prufer and James E. Brady, pp. 149-166. Boulder: University Press of Colorado.


COLAS, PIERRE ROBERT
1998a  Caves of Blood and War. Paper presented at the Third European Maya Conference, University of Hamburg.
1998b  Ritual and Politics in the Underworld. Mexicon 20(5):99-104.
1999a  Auf der Jagd im Codex Madrid: Ikonographische und epigraphische Analyse der Seiten 38a und 39-49 des Codex Tro-Cortesianus. Unpublished MA thesis, University of Hamburg.
1999b  CS 1A y CS 2A: Arqueologia de abrigos rocosos alrededor de Piedras Negras. In Proyecto Arqueológico Piedras Negras: Informe Preliminar 3, edited by Hector L. Escobedo and Stephen D. Houston, pp. 335-346. Universidad del Valle de Guatemala; Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Guatemala.
2000  Tok' and Tok: Two Examples of Rebus Writing in Maya Script. In The Sacred and the Profane: Architecture and Identity in the Maya Lowlands, edited by Pierre R. Colas, Kai Delvendahl, Marcus Kuhnert, and Annette Schubart, pp. 83-92. Acta Mesoamericana 10. Markt Schwaben: Verlag Anton Saurwein.
2001  Name Acquisition Amongst the Classic Maya Kings: An Anthropological Assessment. Paper presented at the 66th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, April 20, New Orleans.
2002  New Olmec Mask Uncovered. Mexicon 24(5):86.
2003  K'inich and King: Naming Self and Person among Classic Maya Rulers. Ancient Mesoamerica 14(2):269-283.
2004  Sinn und Bedeutung Klassischer Maya-Personennamen: Typologische Analyse von Anthroponymphrasen in den Hieroglyphen-Inschriften der Klassischen Maya-Kultur als Beitrag zur Allgemeinen Onomastik. Acta Mesoamericana 15. Markt Schwaben: Verlag Anton Saurwein.
2006a  The Hunting Scenes in the Madrid Codex: A Planner for Hunting Rituals. In Sacred Books, Sacred Languages: Two Thousand Years of Ritual and Religious Maya Literature, edited by Gogelio Valencia Rivera and Genevičve Le Fort, pp. 81-92 Acta Mesoamericana 18. Markt Schwaben: Verlag Anton Saurwein.
2006b  Personal Names: A Diacritical Marker of an Ethnic Boundary Among the Classic Maya. In Maya Ethnicity: The Construction of Ethnic Identity From Preclassic to Modern Times, edited by Frauke Sachse, pp. 85-98. Acta Mesoamericana 19. Markt Schwaben: Verlag Anton Saurwein.
2008  Review of Lynn A. Grant, The Maya Vase Conservation Project. Current World Archaeology 3(6):64-65.


COLAS, PIERRE ROBERT, and CHRISTOPHE G. B. HELMKE
1999  A Brief Note on the Orthography, Meaning, and Grammar of Archaeological Site Names in Western Belize and the Maya Area. In Western Belize Regional Cave Project: A Report of the 1998 Field Season, edited by Jaime J. Awe, pp. 1-7. Department of Anthropology, Occasional Paper No. 2. Durham: University of New Hampshire.


COLAS, PIERRE ROBERT, and ALEXANDER VOSS
2000  Spiel auf Leben und Tod: das Ballspiel der Maya. In Maya Gottkönige im Regenwald, edited by Nikolai Grube, Eva Eggebrecht and Matthias Seidel, pp. 186-193. Cologne: Könemann.
2001  A Game of Life and Death — the Maya Ball Game. In Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest, edited by Nikolai Grube, Eva Eggebrecht and Matthias Seidel, pp. 186-193. Cologne: Könemann.


COLAS, PIERRE ROBERT, KAI DELVENDAHL, MARCUS KUHNERT, and ANNETTE SCHUBART, eds.
2000  The Sacred and the Profane: Architecture and Identity in the Maya Lowlands. Acta Mesoamericana 10. Markt Schwaben: Verlag Anton Saurwein.


COLAS, PIERRE ROBERT, CHRISTOPHE G. HELMKE, JAIME J. AWE, and TERRY G. POWIS
2002  Epigraphic and Ceramic Analyses of Two Early Classic Maya Vessels from Baking Pot, Belize. Mexicon 24(2):33-39.


COLAS, PIERRE ROBERT, GENEVIEVE LEFORT, and BODIL LILEFORS PERSSON, eds.
2006  Jaws of the Underworld: Life, Death, and Rebirth Among the Ancient Maya. Acta Mesoamericana 16. Markt Schwaben: Verlag Anton Saurwien.


PETRYSHYN, JAROSLAW T., and PIERRE ROBERT COLAS
2004  A Lacandon Religious Ritual in the Cave of the God Tsibana at the Holy Lake of Mensabok in the Rainforest of Chiapas. In the Maw of the Earth Monster. Austin: University of Texas Press, edited by James E. Brady and Keith M. Prufer, pp. 328-341.


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