Research by Dr. Jason Yaeger and Dr. M. Kathryn Brown
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Dr. Jason Yaeger
Mopan Valley Archaeology Project Director
I am an anthropological archaeologist who studies Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations, particularly the Maya and Inka. My research interests include the organization of ancient households and communities, urbanism, landscapes and environments, the relationship between climate change and culture change, material culture and identity, ethnohistory, the politics of archaeological research, and Maya epigraphy and iconography.
Much of my research has sought to understand the organization of Classic Maya rural communities and the practices, institutions, and constructs that linked rural householders into extra-community socio-political entities. I have surveyed the countryside in Belize's Mopan River valley, mapped hundreds of houses and agricultural terraces, and excavated several rural houses in detail. My investigations also have taken me to the larger centers like Xunantunich, where I excavated monumental temples and palaces. My current research project focuses on documenting the changing relationships between Xunantunich and the rival center of Buenavista and understanding how competition between these two polities impacted the people who lived in the intervening countryside.
I have directed two other projects recenty that addressed broadly similar questions but in different contexts. The multi-disciplinary San Pedro Maya Project combined archival research, oral histories, and archaeological investigations to understand how Maya immigrants from Mexico were incorporated into colonial British Honduras in the 19th century. The Tiwanaku Inka Settlement Program examined how the Inka Empire reconfigured sacred space at the ancient city of Tiwanaku to fit their religion and world view and to legitimize their dominion over their provinces.
Honors and Awards: UTSA President’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Advancing Globalization (2017), Richard S. Howe Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, UTSA (2014).
Dr. M. Kathryn Brown
Mopan Valley Preclassic Project Director
My principal research focus is one of anthropology’s fundamental topics, the origins of complex societies. Because I am interested in the rise of complexity as a general phenomenon, I value cross-cultural comparisons. As my primary case study and focus of fieldwork, however, I examine the Maya Civilization of Central America. I have conducted research for over 25 years in the Maya Lowlands, especially in the Belize River Valley and Northern Belize. There, I have traced the development of social inequalities in early Maya communities. More recently, I have become interested in these processes at a regional scale, examining how early communities were placed across the ancient landscape and how they interacted through trade, competition, and warfare. Through these interactions, hierarchical structures came to bind these communities into more complex polities that formed the basis for the Maya states of the Classic period. These questions are the focus of my current fieldwork project, the Mopan Valley Preclassic Project, which examines the Preclassic components of sites in the Upper Belize River Valley including Nohoch Ek, Buenavista del Cayo, Xunantunich, and Las Ruinas de Arenal to understand both the roles of public architecture and ritual activities in sanctifying an emerging hierarchical social order, and how the interactions between competing communities shaped the development of complex polities.
Most of my research has focused on the Preclassic Maya, but I have a strong interest in Texas archaeology as well. I have directed eleven seasons of fieldwork in Texas, conducted as archaeological field schools. These projects investigated both historic and prehistoric sites, and the data collected have been relevant to several important topics in Texas prehistory and history, including prehistoric mobility patterns and the establishment of pioneer settlements in Texas.
Honors and awards: Member of the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, UT System Regents Outstanding Teaching Award (2015), UTSA President's Distinguished Achievement for Excellence in Teaching (2014).
Bernadette Cap, PhD
Leah McCurdy, PhD
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