I am a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley and an archeologist who has conducted fieldwork in Honduras since 1977, starting as an undergraduate. My original interests in settlement patterns and cultural identity in what has long been called the “frontier” of Mesoamerica led me to household archaeology, theories of material symbolism, and eventually to questions about how gender, sex, and other intersecting dimensions of identity such as race, ethnicity, class, and age are materialized.
My research involves specializations at several different scales. Ceramic analysis,which ironically as an undergraduate I tried to avoid getting involved in because I saw it as a feminized specialty that limited women to labs, has become the main focus of my smallest scale work. Understanding how and why people made figurines– small representations of humans, non-human animals, and other things– and asking about how they understood the material differences between fired clay, stone, and other materials we label as perishable today turns out to be a very productive way to think about human actors and their engagements with the world. I still am not enthusiastic about typology for typology’s sake, but now I have some basis to critique it.
At a slightly larger scale, my interests in households have repeatedly led me to ask questions about the rituals through which residents of households created and recreated social persons. This has led me to work on mortuary practices, but also to try to rethink the kinds of deposits often called “caches”.
Finally, beginning with my roots in settlement pattern surveys and influenced by the characterization of the region I work in as a frontier between “culture areas”, I have a long-term research focus on space, place, and landscape. I am heavily influenced by social geographers and am especially interested in reinstating temporality and experience in the static maps that we produce. This converged with my interests in identification to add a focus on embodiment that links all three scales in my work.
My interests are unified under the heading of social archaeology. Not coincidentally I was a founding editor for the Journal of Social Archaeology.
In addition to Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives (Thames and Hudson, 2008), I am the author or co-author of Embodied Lives: Figuring Ancient Egypt and the Classic Maya (Routledge, 2003, with Lynn Meskell); The Languages of Archaeology: Dialogue, Narrative, and Writing (Blackwell, 2002), Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica (University of Texas, 2001); Sister Stories (NYU Online, 2000, with Carolyn Guyer and Michael Joyce); Encounters with the Americas (Peabody Museum, 1995, with Susan Shumaker); and Cerro Palenque: Power and Identity on the Maya Periphery (University of Texas, 1991).
I believe that archaeology is particularly dependent on collaborative work, and so I have also co-edited a series of books aimed at advancing understanding by bringing together different scholars. The most recent of these projects, Mesoamerican Archaeology: Theory and Practice (Blackwell, 2004, with Julia Hendon) was designed as a textbook alternative to readers, composed of new essays by leading archaeologists in the field. Beyond Kinship (University of Pennsylvania, 2000, with Susan Gillespie) brought together archaeologists and social anthropologists to explore the social model of “house societies” as an alternative to models requiring archaeologists to infer kinship from material remains. Social Patterns in Pre-Classic Mesoamerica (Dumbarton Oaks, 1999, with David Grove) and Women in Prehistory: North America and Mesoamerica (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997, with Cheryl Claassen) present papers from conferences, one sponsored by Precolumbian Studies at Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks Research Center, the other the second of Cheryl Claassen’s ground-breaking conferences on archaeology of gender at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.
I received my PhD in anthropology from the University of Illinois-Urbana in 1985, and the AB from Cornell University in 1978 with majors in anthropology and archaeology.
From 1985 to 1994 I was assistant curator of precolumbian archaeology at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum, organizing the reinstallation of the Latin American exhibition that opened in 1992. Concurrently, from 1986 to 1989 I was Assistant Director of the museum; and from 1989 to 1994 was first Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology. I came to Berkeley in 1994 as Director of the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology and Associate Professor in Anthropology, and served as museum director until 1999. I currently am the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Social Sciences and Professor of Anthropology at Berkeley.