James A. Doyle

James A. Doyle

Director of the Matson Museum of Anthropology
Associate Research Professor of Anthropology
Affiliate Professor of Art History
Preferred Pronouns: he/él
216 Carpenter Building University Park, PA 16802
(814) 865-2033


Ph.D., Brown University, 2013 (Anthropology)
M.A., Brown University, 2009 (Anthropology)
B.A., Vanderbilt University, 2005 (Anthropology)

Professional Bio

Professional Bio

James Doyle is an archaeologist and museum professional whose curatorial practice activates objects for university teaching, scholarly research, and public education. He has conducted archaeological and conservation fieldwork, organized museum exhibitions, and published widely on the material and visual cultures of the ancient Americas. As Director of the Matson Museum of Anthropology, he is responsible for caring for and exhibiting the vast collections and preparing them for the move to the new Susan Welch Liberal Arts Building in the fall of 2024. He also manages Penn State's ongoing NAGPRA program for repatriation and long-term relationship building with Native Tribes and Nations.

His current book project is titled Arts of the Ancient Americas for the World of Art series with Thames & Hudson (fall 2025). This illustrated history foregrounding Indigenous concepts before European invasion would be the first accessible text on these diverse traditions for a general audience. It would also serve to correct the field’s over-emphasis on Mesoamerica and the Andes and highlight diversity from all regions, including the Isthmian region, the Antilles, the Amazon, and ancestral traditions from Native peoples in what is now the U.S. and Canada.

Previously he served as the Assistant Curator for Arts of the Ancient Americas at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, where he initiated the exhibition Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art (The Met and the Kimbell Art Museum, 2022-2023). The catalogue he co-edited was awarded the Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award for "an especially distinguished catalogue in the history of art" by the College Art Association. He also organized the critically acclaimed exhibition Arte del mar: Artistic Exchange in the Caribbean. Contributions to other exhibition projects at The Met include Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas (The J. Paul Getty Museum and the Met, 2017-2018), Design for Eternity: Architectural Models from the Ancient Americas (The Met, 2015-2016), Native American Masterpieces from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection (The Met, 2016-2017), and American Indian Art from the Fenimore Art Museum: The Thaw Collection (The Met, 2017). As the Post-Doctoral Associate in Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC, from 2013-2014, he also contributed to the catalogue of the Central American and Colombian collection at Dumbarton Oaks along with companion scholarly volume (2022).

Object-based studies have appeared in both traditional and online publications, such as a study of codex-style Maya ceramics (Metropolitan Museum Journal, 2016), as well as an investigation into the discovery of a fragment of a Maya carved wooden lintel in the Smithsonian collections (Mexicon, 2014). He has also researched the biographies of museum objects from their creation, trafficking, sale, and appearance in foreign collections, such as Stela 5 from the site of Piedras Negras (2019, in Market for Mesoamerica).

His archaeological work involves collaborations with archaeologists and local communities in northern Guatemala. The book Architecture and the Origins of Preclassic Maya Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and several peer-reviewed articles explored the intersections of community and political authority in the emergence of monumental architecture in the Maya landscape. The field project from 2008-2012 at the site of El Palmar, Petén, Guatemala, was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.