Marilyn A. Masson
Interests: Archaeology, ancient economies and urbanism, political organization, human ecology, ancient religion, zooarchaeology, lithic analysis
Areas: Mesoamerica, North America
I am a Mesoamerican archaeologist whose work is currently focused on the Postclassic period ( 1100 - 1500 A.D.) of the Maya lowlands under the auspices of the Economic Foundations of Mayapán Project (formed in 2001).
The Economic Foundations of Mayapán Project is examining the social and economic dimensions of production and exchange for Mayapán, the largest city of the Postclassic Maya world (click here to go to the project website www.mayapanarchaeology.org ). Our work in Belize led us to Mayapán’s gates, as the timing of amplification of long distance trade, Postclassic political hierarchy formation, and elite-sponsored ritual activities in northern Belize coincided with the rise of the great northern city to power. Although the Carnegie Institution performed an extensive settlement project at the city during the 1950's, little is known about the organization of production, social diversity, and trading activities that formed the basis of Mayapán's confederation. Along with my colleagues Carlos Peraza and Timothy Hare, I am currently mapping, surface collecting, and excavating residential houselots from across the city’s 4.5 square kilometer walled area. Surveys outside of the city wall by Bradley Russell reveal that Mayapán was larger and more diverse than previously thought. This project will provide a core perspective on Postclassic Maya political economy that is complementary to our information from the northeast Belize hinterland.
A new phase of research at Mayapán began in 2008. We are investigating the urban administration and social complexity of the city's landscape. This work focuses on the degree of interdependence of domestic and ritual dimensions of the city's economy. We track occupational heterogeneity and wealth across social class boundaries. This phase of research targets administrative features (temples, halls, elite houses, and market faciliites) in addition to selected, occupationally diverse commoner houses.
My former Belize Postclassic Project performed community analysis of Maya populations that occupied northeastern Belize from the 11th-16th centuries (click here to view photos from our fieldwork). Evidence from seven years of work (1996-2002) suggests that this area was heavily settled after the 10th century collapse of southern lowland polities of the Classic period. In the 11th century, this region appears to have become a hub of settlement, economic production, and coastal trading activities. This Postclassic florescence was linked to its participation in a maritime network of exchange that operated around the Yucatan Peninsula. The Belize Postclassic Project documented this long-term cycle of growth, prosperity, and stability as indicated by our study of three lagoon settlements.
In graduate and undergraduate courses at the University at Albany, I like to cover a range of topics that intersect with the research interests described above. A list of courses that I have taught at since 1996 includes the following:
Introduction to Archaeology
Archaeological Field School in Belize
Archaeology of Religion
Ethnohistory and Archaeology of Yucatan
Stone Tool Analysis
Seminar in Mesoamerican Archaeology
Precolumbian Maya Political Organization
Computer Applications in Archaeology
Maya Art and Archaeology
The Archaeology of Political Structure
The Archaeology of Social Upheaval
Current Theories about the Ancient Maya
Ancient cities and towns
Aztec, Inca, Maya
The Archaeology of Social Identity