Rafael Alvarado Receives NSF Grant To Develop Database of Mayan Literature and Culture

September 1, 2021
Rafael Alvarado

The School of Data Science is pleased to announce Associate Professor of Data Science Rafael Alvarado and Associate Professor of Spanish Allison Bigelow are the recipients of an NSF research grant to use data science, digital humanities, and linguistics to develop a database of Mayan literature and culture.

The grant will help fund the Multepal project, which currently focuses on the Popol Wuj as transcribed into Spanish and K'iche' Maya in the sixteenth century. The Popol Wuj is the longest and most complete surviving indigenous text of the Americas. Alvarado and Bigelow, in collaboration with a team of UVA students and indigenous scholars from Guatemala and Mexico, will use open source tools to build a digital variorum of several editions of the text, including new editions being created for the project. The goal of the project is to provide a shared, decolonized resource for education, research, and public engagement. A key element of the project is the development of a database of Mayan idioms and concepts as represented in the texts, along with scholarly annotations and commentaries.

Alvarado earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Virginia. A digital humanist, Alvarado realized he could combine his interests in human culture and quantitative methods with data science. His areas of research include digital humanities, text analytics, and the anthropology of information.

At the School of Data Science, Alvarado serves as program director of the M.S. in Data Science and teaches courses on exploratory text analytics and the practice and application of data science.


Director of Communications