George Cowgill

Professor Emeritus
Faculty
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Biography

George L. Cowgill obtained degrees in physics before switching to anthropology. As an undergraduate, he also took courses in English and creative writing, and he has persistently attempted to integrate scientific and humanistic approaches in his research. He is especially interested in the worldwide comparative study of ancient urban societies in their social, political, economic and ideational aspects, particularly in explanatory models of change that recognize practices and intentions of individuals acting in and acting upon their natural and social contexts. He also maintains an interest in the social, cultural, and economic factors affecting present-day human fertility, especially in poorer nations, which he sees as a topic of continuing concern that is unduly neglected by most anthropologists. He has worked on applications of mathematical and statistical methods and concepts to archaeological topics.

Cowgill’s field research has been mainly in Mesoamerica, the scene of major pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Aztecs, Maya and many others. He has worked especially at the immense pre-Aztec city of Teotihuacan, near modern Mexico City, where he supervises an ASU-managed archaeological research center. In the 1960s he assisted in the comprehensive mapping and surface collection of remains of the entire eight-square-mile ancient city, directed by Dr. René Millon of the University of Rochester. Since then, much of his effort has gone into computer-aided spatial and statistical analyses of the data collected by that project. In 1988-89 he collaborated with Rubén Cabrera, of the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History and with Professor Saburo Sugiyama (professor at Aichi Prefectural University in Japan and a research professor at ASU) in excavations that permanently changed the pacific image of early Teotihuacan by revealing nearly two hundred sacrificial victims at the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent (also known as the Temple of Quetzalcóatl).

Education

  • Ph.D. Harvard University 1963
  • A.M. University of Chicago 1956
  • M.S. Iowa State University 1954
  • B.S. Stanford University 1952

Publications

Cowgill, G.L. (2013). Possible Migrations and Shifting Identities in the Central Mexican Epiclassic. Ancient Mesoamerica 24(1), 131-149.

Nichols, D.L., Neff, H., and Cowgill, G.L. (2013). Cerro Portezuelo: States and Hinterlands in the Pre-Hispanic Basin of Mexico. Ancient Mesoamerica 24(1), 47-71.

Cowgill, G.L. (2013). Conversation with W.L. Rathje and M. Shanks. In W.L. Rathje, M. Shanks, and C. Witmore (Eds.), Archaeology in the Making: Conversations Through a Discipline (pp. 185-203). New York: Routledge.

Cowgill. G.L. (2012). Concepts of Collapse and Regeneration in Human History. In D.L. Nichols and C. Pool (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology (pp. 301-308). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Cowgill, G.L. (2009). La Cite de Teotihuacan: croissance, developpements architecturaux et culture materielle. In Teotihuacan: Cite de Dieux (pp. 82-89). Paris: Musee de Quai Branly.

Cowgill, G.L. (2008). Teotihuacan as an Urban Place. In A.G. Mastache, R.H. Cobean, A. Garcia Gook, and K.G. Hirth (Eds.), El Urbanismo en Mesoamerica, Vol. 2 (pp. 85-112). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Cowgill, G.L. (2008). An Update on Teotihuacan. Antiquity 82, 962-975.

Cowgill, G.L. (2008). How I Got to Where I am Now. Ancient Mesoamerica 19(2), 165-173.

Cowgill, G.L. The Urban Organization of Teotihuacan, Mexico. In E.C. Stone (Ed.), Settlement and Society: Essays Dedicated to Robert McCormick Adams (pp. 261-295). Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of Calififornia, Los Angeles.

Neff, H., Blomster, J., Glascock, M.D., Bishop, R.L., Blackman, M.J., Coe, M.D., Cowgill, G.L., Cyphers, A., Diehl, R.A., Houston, S., Joyce, A.A., Lipo, C.P. and Winter, M. (2006). Smokescreens in the Provenance Investigation Of Early Formative Mesoamerican Ceramics. Latin American Antiquity 17(1), 104-118.

Cowgill, G.L. (2006). Using Numerous Cases to Extract Valid Information from Noisy Surface Data at Teotihuacan. In J.L. Hantman and R. Most (Eds.). Managing Archaeological Data: Essays in Honor of Sylvia W. Gaines (pp, 147-154). Tempe, AZ: Anthropological Research Papers No. 57: Arizona State University.

Cowgill, G.L. (2003). Teotihuacan and Early Classic Interaction: A Perspective from Outside the Maya Region. In G.E. Braswell (Ed.) The Maya and Teotihuacan: Reinterpreting Early Classic Interaction (pp. 315-335). Austin: University of Texas Press.

Cowgill, G.L. (2003). Teotihuacan: Cosmic Glories and Mundane Needs. In M.L. Smith (Ed.) The Social Construction of Ancient Cities (pp. 37-55). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Cowgill, G.L. (1990). Artifact classification and archaeological purposes. In A. Voorrips (Ed.), Mathematics and information science in archaeology (pp. 61-78). Bonn: HOLOS Verlag.

Cowgill, G.L. (2000). The central Mexican highlands from the rise of Teotihuacan to the decline of Tula. In R.E.W. Adams and M.J. MacLeod (Eds.), The Cambridge history of the native peoples of the Americas. Volume II: Mesoamerica, Part 1 (pp. 250-317). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cowgill, G.L. (1989). The concept of diversity in archaeological theory. In R. Leonard and G. Jones (Eds.), Quantifying diversity in archaeology (pp. 131-41). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cowgill, G.L. (1993). Distinguished lecture in archeology: Beyond criticizing new archeology. American Anthropologist, 95(3), 551-573.

Cowgill, G.L. (1975). On causes and consequences of ancient and modern population changes. American Anthropologist, 77(3), 505-25.

Cowgill, G.L. (1988). Onward and upward with collapse. In N. Yoffee and G. Cowgill (Eds.),The collapse of ancient states and civilizations (pp. 244-76). Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Cowgill, G.L. (2004). Origins and development of urbanism: Archaeological perspectives. Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, 525-549.

Cowgill, G.L. (1996). Population, human nature, knowing actors, and explaining the onset of complexity. In D. Meyer, P. Dawson and D. Hanna (Eds.), Debating complexity, proceedings of the 26th Annual Chacmool Conference, (pp. 16-21). Calgary: University of Calgary Archaeological Association.

Cowgill, G.L. (2000). "Rationality" and contexts in agency theory. In M.A. Dobres and J. Robb (Eds.), Agency in archaeology (pp. 51-60). London and New York: Routledge.

Cowgill, G.L. (1983). Rulership and the Ciudadela: Political inferences from Teotihuacan architecture. In R. Leventhal and A. Kolata (Eds.), Civilization in the ancient Americas: Essays in honor of Gordon R. Willey (pp. 313-43). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press and Peabody Museum, Harvard.

Cowgill, G.L. (2004). Thoughts about rethinking materiality. In E. DeMarrais, C. Gosden and C. Renfrew (Eds.), Rethinking materiality: The engagement of mind with the material world (pp. 273-280). Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

Millon, R.,  Drewitt, R. B., and Cowgill, G.L. (1973). Urbanization at Teotihuacan, Mexico. Volume 1: The Teotihuacan map. Part 2: maps. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Yoffee, N., and Cowgill, G.L. (Eds.) (1988). The collapse of ancient states and civilizations. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Research Activity

Professional Associations

<p>Cowgill has served on the Executive Committee of the Society for American Archaeology, as consulting editor for mathematics and statistics for American Antiquity (the leading journal for North American archaeology), and as advisory editor for archaeology for Current Anthropology. He has held a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford, Calif.). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is a recipient of the Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology (from the Archaeological Institute of America), the Excellence in Archaeological Analysis award of the Society for American Archaeology and the A.V. Kidder Award for Eminence in American Archaeology (from the Archeology Division of the American Anthropological Association).</p>