Ph.D., Tulane, 1990
Archaeology, evolution of complex societies, political economy, cultural ecology, ceramic analysis, technological choice; Mesoamerica.
My archaeological research focuses primarily on the evolution of complex societies in the tropical lowlands of southern Veracruz, Mexico, including the Olmecs and their Epi-Olmec and Classic-period successors. Specifically, I study the interactions among environment, economy, ideology, and political practice at scales ranging from the individual household to supraregional political economies. In pursuing my research I draw on my interdisciplinary training in anthropology, geology, and geochemical characterization to understand patterns of resource exploitation and exchange within their social and cultural context. My research also attempts to move the archaeological investigation of culture change toward approaches that address variability within and between ancient cultures and away from typological approaches that obscure variability within cultural types and present culture change as a sequence of steady states. The analysis of variability provides a more accurate characterization of cultural systems and allows more sophisticated analysis of dynamic change.
Beginning in 1983, I have investigated ceramic production and exchange at the Classic period site of Matacapan, and household organization at the Late and Terminal Formative site of Bezuapan. Since 1995 I have directed survey and excavations at Tres Zapotes with principal financial support from the National Science Foundation and institutional support from the University of Kentucky and Ithaca College, collaborating with colleagues from the Universidad Veracruzana, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and INAH. Covering a span of 2,000 years, Tres Zapotes contains the longest continuous record of occupation for a major center in the southern Gulf lowlands, encompassing the Olmec, Epi-Olmec and Classic periods. This time span saw the emergence of the political institution of kingship, as well as the development of one of the earliest and most sophisticated writing systems in the New World. The main objective of my work at Tres Zapotes is to understand changes in political-economic power strategies in the transition from Olmec to Epi-Olmec times and beyond, including an apparent shift toward a more collective form of government around 400 B.C. To test this model, the current stage of research focuses on two related and critical aspects of Formative period political economy at Tres Zapotes: (1) the temporal and organizational relationships among formal civic-ceremonial architectural complexes and (2) differentiation in craft production at independent and elite-associated (or "attached") production loci.
Evolution of complex societies, political and economic archaeology, ethnicity, cultural ecology, ceramic analysis, archaeometry, geoarchaeology; Mesoamerica.
- 2008 Classic Period Cultural Currents in Southern and Central Veracruz. Dumbarton Oaks and Harvard University Press (co-editor with Philip J. Arnold, III).
- 2008 Debating with Robert: Papers on Mesoamerican Archaeology in Memory of Robert S. Santley. Journal of Anthropological Research 64(3). (editor with Patricia McAnany).
- 2008 But Robert, Where Did the Pots Go? Debating the Economy of Ancient Matacapan. Journal of Anthropological Research 64(3): 411-424 (with Wesley D. Stoner).
- 2007 Olmec Archaeology and Early Mesoamerica. Cambridge University Press.
- 2007 Pottery Economics in Mesoamerica. University of Arizona Press, Tucson (editor with George J. Bey, III.)
- 2007 Economy and the Transformation of Landscapes. Society for Economic Anthropology Monograph No. 25. AltaMira Press, New York (co-editor with Lisa Cliggett).
- 2006 Current Research on the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Research 14:189-241.
- 2005 Contemplating variation in Olmec Settlement and Polity Using Mississippian Models. In Gulf Coast Archaeology: Southeastern U. S. and Mexico, ed. by Nancy White, pp. 223-245. University of Florida Press.
- 2003 Settlement Archaeology and Political Economy at Tres Zapotes, Veracruz, Mexico. Monograph 50, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles.
- 2000 Why a Kiln? Firing Technology in the Sierra de los Tuxtlas, Veracruz, Mexico. Archaeometry 42:62-76.
- 2000 From Olmec to Epi-Olmec at Tres Zapotes. In Olmec Art and Archaeology in Mesoamerica, ed. by John Clark and Mary Pye, pp. 137-153. Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
- 2000 A Ceramic Perspective on the Formative to Classic Transition in Southern Veracruz, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 10(2):139-161 (with Georgia Mudd Britt).