Marilyn A. Masson

Office: Arts & Sciences Building, Room 109
Ph: (518) 442-5199
E-mail:                         Publications
Ph.D., University of Texas, 1993                     

Marilyn A. Masson

Interests: Archaeology, ancient economies and urbanism, political organization, human ecology, ancient religion, zooarchaeology, lithic analysis

Areas: Mesoamerica, North America

Research Statement

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 ). 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

Selected Publications Since 2005

Masson, Marilyn A. and Carlos Peraza Lope.(forthcoming 2013) Kukulkan’s Realm: Urban Life at Ancient Mayapán. University of Colorado Press.

Masson, Marilyn, Timothy Hare, Carlos Peraza Lope, Bradley W. Russell, editors (n.d.) Settlement, Economy, and Society at Mayapan, Yucatan, Mexico. To be submitted to the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Masson, Marilyn A. and David A. Freidel
An Argument for Classic Maya Market Complexity. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology (submitted).

Masson, Marilyn A. and David A. Freidel (in press as of 2012)
Wide Open Spaces: A Long View of the Importance of Maya Market Exchange. In Merchants, Treade and Exchange in the Precolumbian World, edited by K. Hirth and J. Pillsbury. Dumberton Oaks, Washington D.C.

Hare, Timothy S. and Marilyn A. Masson (in press as of 2012) Intermediate Scale Patterns in the Urban Environment of Postclassic Mayapan. In Neighborhoods in Archaeology, edited by C. Anauld, L. Manzanilla and M.E. Smith. University of Arizona Press.


In the Realm of Nachan Kan: Postclassic Maya Archaeology at Laguna de On, Belize. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Edited Volumes

Masson, Marilyn A. and David A. Freidel (eds). Ancient Maya Political Economies. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, California.

Smith, Michael E. and Marilyn A. Masson (eds). Ancient Civilizations of Mesoamerica: A Reader. Blackwell Press, Malden, MA.

Selected Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Marilyn A. Masson and Carlos Peraza Lope. Animal use at Mayapán. Quarternary International 191:170-183.

Marilyn A. Masson and Carlos Peraza Lope. Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl, Death God and Creation Mythology of Burial Shaft Temples at Mayapán. Mexicon XXIX: 77-85.

Marilyn A. Masson, Timothy S. Hare, and Carlos Peraza Lope. Postclassic Maya Society Regenerated at Mayapán Late Postclassic Economic Transformations at Mayapán. In After Collapse: The Regeneration of Complex Societies. Glenn M. Schwartz and John J. Nichols (eds); pp. 188-207. University of Arizona Press.

Peraza Lope, Carlos, Marilyn A. Masson, Timothy S. Hare, Pedro Candelario Delgado Ku. The Late Postclassic Chronology of Mayapán: New Radiocarbon evidence. Ancient Mesoamerica 17:153-176.

Masson, Marilyn A. and Robert M. Rosenswig. The Evolution of Postclassic Maya Pottery Traditions in Northern Belize. Submitted to Latin American Antiquity (16:355-384).

Masson, Marilyn A. and Carlos Peraza Lope. Commoners in Postclassic Maya Society. In Ancient Maya Commoners. Jon Lohse and Fred Valdez (eds). Pp. 197-224. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Masson, Marilyn A. and Shirley Boteler Mock. Maya Cultural Adaptations from the Terminal Classic to Postclassic Period at Lagoon Sites in Northern Belize as Reflected in Changing Ceramic Industries. In The Terminal Classic in the Maya Lowlands: Collapse, Transition, and Transformation. Don S. Rice, Prudence M. Rice, and Arthur A. Demarest (eds). Pp. 367-401. Boulder: University of Colorado Press.

Fauna Exploitation from the Preclassic to the Postclassic Periods at Four Maya Settlements in Northern Belize. In Maya Zooarchaeology: New Directions in Method and Theory. Kitty F. Emery (ed). Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology Press.