Mesoamerican Economy and Archaeology Lab

Mesoamerican Economy and Archaeology Lab

The research focus in this laboratory is on the reconstruction and study of ancient economy in pre-industrial societies using archaeological, historic, and ethno-archaeological techniques and approaches.  The economy can be characterized in terms of the production, distribution and consumption of material goods.  All three of these economic dimensions are researched in this laboratory where students learn to conceptualize and operationalize economic questions using archaeological materials.  Likewise, we explore the ways that economy is organized in society at both the household and institutional levels.

Ken Hirth has conducted research on prehistoric Mesoamerican economic systems for over 30 years.  He is interested in the development of analytical methodologies appropriate for reconstructing dimensions of prehistoric economic behavior.  Foremost among these is the identification of different contexts of production and the reconstruction of distribution networks through which goods circulated.  Professor Hirth’s research on trade and crafting in both market and pre-market economies has sought to model how commodities moved over space using a distributional approach that matches the empirical location of material remains with the systems of distribution that produced them.  He is particularly interested in the difference between rural and urban economies and how the concentration of population helped to shape production and distribution systems to meet the demands of urban communities.

Current Research Projects

Students are encouraged to develop their own research interests.  Nevertheless five ongoing projects provide students with opportunities to engage in different forms of economic analysis and to obtain skills that can be applied to their dissertation research. Follow the links below for detailed information on each project.

Classes Taught by Ken Hirth on Economic Analysis

  • Anth 422: Mesoamerican Archaeology and Ethnography
  • Anth 426W: Archaeology Lab Analysis (Spring 2011)
  • Anth 451: Economic Anthropology
  • Anth 456: Cultural Ecology
  • Anth 497H: Ancient Economy (Spring 2011)
  • Anth 588: Method and Theory in Archaeology (Fall 2010)