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Illustration of Teotihuacan inhabitants

Teotihuacan society presents researchers with several puzzles. First, the city seems to have lacked a single powerful king, and may have been ruled by a council or an oligarchy. Second, the people appear to have been more prosperous than commoners in other ancient societies. Third, urban residents lived in a unique form of urban housing — the apartment compound. This project is a comparative study of the apartment compounds and other housing at Teotihuacan that addresses these and other puzzles, and establishes a better understanding of life and society in the premier ancient city of the Americas.

Photo of burials at Teotihuacan

The people of ancient Teotihuacan buried their dead under the floors of their houses. Over the years, archaeologists have excavated hundreds of these burials, some with rich offerings and others with none. This project is creating a database of Teotihuacan burials and offerings in order to analyze patterns of wealth, status and gender at the ancient city. The project is organized and run by a team of undergraduate students, under the direction of Professor Michael E. Smith.

photo of Moon Pyramid overlooking Avenue of the Dead and Plaza of the Columns Complex

This project seeks to understand what kind of government ruled Teotihuacan, and how the urban center developed there. By studying the Plaza of the Columns and the Plaza North of the Sun Pyramid and analyzing archaeological materials from these areas, researchers are gaining insight into the political and economic atmosphere of the ancient city.

Pinnacle Point on South African Coast

This project allows for climate modeling that produces “hind-casts” of the South African Cape climate during a glacial phase in the deep human past. The effort supports attempts at long-term climate forecasting by providing the background and paleo-models against which to test future projections. 

Drs. Kelly Knudson and Gwyneth Gordon

In the Isotopic Taphonomy of Human Remains project, team members will examine samples from human donors emplaced in different environmental conditions at the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility and Texas State University Forensic Anthropology Research Facility. Through isotopic analyses, project members will examine how different isotopes in the human body behave during decomposition in different environments.

South Africa coastline

This research uses interdisciplinary study to examine the coupled response of people and the environment in the Cape Floral region on the south coast of Africa to major fluctuations in global climate change during the time of the origins of the modern human lineage.

Volcanic erruption

In this project, researchers will apply a new dating method using volcanic ash to determine when a suite of uniquely human features first appeared in our evolutionary history and thus help us understand when, where and why our species evolved. 

Mother and son with oxen

The Archaeology of the Human Experience (AHE) asks archaeologists to consider what it was really like to live in the past that they study, and to understand the people who populated that past as fellow human beings. At this project’s heart is the desire to look beyond past people’s decisions to understand why those decisions were made.

Student researcher at Mossel Bay

The Mossel Bay Archaeology Project (MAP), led by Curtis W. Marean (ASU) and Peter Nilssen (Iziko South African Museums), is a long-term field study of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) in the Mossel Bay region. 

Teotihuacan's Pyramid of the Moon

This project investigates the origins of pre-industrial urbanism, particularly focusing on meanings and functions of monumentality at Teotihuacan.

Serpis Valley

This research integrates computational modeling of the recursive processes that drive human and natural landscape dynamics, validated through empirical studies in the earth, life and social sciences.

Calixtlahuaca, Mexico

This archaeological project address two research questions: 1) How was the economy of the ancient city of Calixtlahuaca organized? and 2) How did large processes such as conquest by the Aztec empire affect life, society and economy at Calixtlahuaca?

Chinese terracotta warriors

The goal of this project is to improve our understanding of the quality of the archaeological record. 


squash plant

With National Science Foundation support, Dr. Jane Buikstra leads an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Arizona State University and the Center for American Archeology in exploring the origins of agriculture in Eastern North America, one of 10 regions worldwide known to have witnessed the independent domestication of plants.