The Proyecto Económico de los Altos de Chiapas examines the role of this area as an economic, political and cultural frontier zone on the western Maya periphery. The project is co-directed with Dr. Roberto López Bravo (Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas).
The 2009 field season investigates the political economy of the Jovel Valley of highland Chiapas, location of the modern city of San Cristóbal de las Casas. The project examines the political economy of the hilltop sites of Moxviquil and Huitepec through a “bottom-up” household archaeology approach, and investigates the complex relationships between social inequality, household wealth and occupation in Jovel Valley polities. The project received support from an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, and provided data for my dissertation, entitled “Political Economy on the Postclassic Western Maya Frontier,” for which I received the University at Albany Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award. Publications based on the findings of this project use advanced quantitative methods to examine community-scale social networks as constructed through cross-valley exchange relationships, examine the degree of specialization in urban activities at the archaeological site of Moxviquil, and analyze the ways in which Jovel Valley sites engaged with long-distance exchange networks.
The current phase of this research project examines the ways that materials, technologies and styles are used to negotiate cross-cultural interactions in politically contested frontier zones. Our 2015-2016 fieldwork examines the structure of political and economic relationships between Jovel Valley settlements. We also examine communication and contact between the Mayan-speaking peoples of highland Chiapas and their Chiapanec neighbors to the west. The project is supported by a Wenner-Gren International Collaborative Research Grant and the Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas.