Institute for Mesoamerican Studies (IMS)

About the Institute

The Institute for Mesoamerican Studies (IMS) is a non-profit educational research institute dedicated to the study and dissemination of knowledge concerning the peoples and cultures of Mesoamerica (Mexico and Northern Central America).

IMS serves to organize and coordinate the work of the Mesoamericanist faculty at the University at Albany, SUNY. We have the largest number of full-time Mesoamericanists of any institution north of Mexico, and our members are among the most active and prominent scholars in the field of Mesoamerican anthropology.

The primary activities of IMS are research and publication.

Lea la introducción en español

El Instituto de Estudios Mesoamericanos (IMS) es un instituto de investigación y educativo dedicado al estudio y la diseminación de todo conocimiento referente a los pueblos y las culturas de Mesoamérica (México y el norte de América Central).

IMS colabora en la organización y coordinación del trabajo de profesores Mesoamericanistas en la Universidad de Albany, SUNY. Somos la institución con el mayor número de investigadores Mesoamericanistas, de tiempo completo, al norte de México, y nuestros miembros se encuentran dentro de los investigadores más activos y prominentes en el campo de la antropología Mesoamericana.

Las actividades primarias de IMS son la investigación y la publicación.

A Brief History of IMS

By Robert Carmack, Former IMS Director (1975 to 1984)


Founding of IMS in 1975

One of the primary reasons for founding IMS was because of the complaints in the Department of Anthropology that MA affairs were dominating departmental meetings and activities to the detriment of other interests in the department. 

Our proposed institute was approved that year by the VP of Research, and we were given office space and a small amount of funding. We had hoped that IMS would be elevated to priority status within the set of University research centers and thereby receive sufficient funding to finance research projects and obtain release time for faculty members. Unfortunately, that never happened. 

I should also add that we expected the Institute to be primarily oriented to carrying out research projects, and that there would be close collaboration between the different members of the Institute in each project. 

The first Executive Board consisted of Robert Carmack as Director, Peter Furst as Assistant Director, and Dean Snow as "Comptroller" (as we called the position in those days). The other founding board members were Peter Furst, Dwight Wallace, Lyle Campbell, Will Norman, and Florence Sloane. 

The original list of Research Associates included such well-known Mesoamerican scholars as Ken Brown, James Mondloch, Marcus Winter, Ronald Spores, Nancy Troike, Ellen Messer, and Mary Elizabeth Smith.


The Utatlan Project in the 1970s

This project gave considerable impetus to IMS, especially when NSF provided $132,000 for the project (which was a lot of money in those days). 

Most importantly, the funds were channeled through IMS, and there was extensive collaboration between the cultural, archaeological (especially Wallace and Brown), and linguistic (Campbell and Mondloch) specialists in the Institute. 

It also gave rise to the first monograph of our long and prestigious publication list, and opened up an area of important tasks for IMS that we had not much contemplated in the beginning (we were so unprepared for publishing that we actually left out the date of the first volume).


The Chris DeCormier Scholarship, 1978

As most of you know this scholarship was created by Louise and Bob DeCormier to honor their son Christopher, who had been an undergraduate student at the University at Albany. It was their idea, they raised the funds for it, and asked IMS to administer it. 

The original "Memorandum of Understanding" with the SUNY Research Foundation stated that the purpose of the fund was "to provide annual scholarship awards to undergraduate, or graduate students studying the Maya language and/or culture under the direction of IMS" (later we expanded this to include all MA studies). 

Chris had represented the University and IMS when he carried out independent fieldwork on Mayan language and culture in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, and later assisted members of IMS in advising the American Embassy in Guatemala on how to provide aid to the Mayas of Guatemala at the time of the tragic earthquake of 1976. 

Chris'  promising academic and personal life were cut short due to cancer in November of 1977.


Expansion of IMS in the 1980s

The 1980s brought in several new board members, whose Mesoamerican credentials greatly enhanced the prestige of the Institute and provided new leadership and direction.

The new members included Jill Furst, Gary Gossen, Richard Leventhal, Jorge Klor de Alva, Liliana Goldin, Brenda Rosenbaum, and James Wessman.  Klor de Alva soon became director and Leventhal assistant director (apprently the comptroller position sort of disappeared), until Jorge left for Princeton in 1989 (which turned out to be only a "whistle stop" on his journey westward), and Richard left for UCLA the following year.

This was a period of expansion of IMS research projects (in Belize, Chiapas, Central Mexico), as well as the publication of several new IMS volumes (now being distributed through University of Texas Press). 

In a letter to the DeCormiers at mid-decade, IMS director Gary Gossen could argue that despite the financial hard times the institute had become "one of a handful of high quality research centers in MA studies in the US."


Changing generations within IMS in the 1990s

One of the key developments for IMS during this period was the transfer of administrative jurisdiction over it from the Research Office to the Dean's office in the College of Social Sciences. Dean Webb became the best patron of IMS within the University that we have ever had. 

Besides providing funding for our operational costs, the Dean made it possible for us to create the position of Director of Research, and fill that position with Jan Gasco; as well as to replace departing board members with a new generation of young Mesoamerican scholars:  Louise Burkhart, Michael Smith, John Justeson, Marilyn Masson.  Among other things, this enabled us to achieve a better Affirmative Action balance on the board (from the original 6 white males to four females and five male board members). 

During the 90s, under the directorship of Gossen, Burkhart, and Smith we reorganized our internal structure, got our finances in order, and expanded the number and quality of our publications. 

More importantly, we launched new, highly professional, and well financed research projects in Morelos Mexico, Central Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and the Mixe-Zoque area of Mexico. Throughout all these years of change, growth, and struggle, the most important constant and symbol of IMS pehaps has been the DeCormier scholarship. 

Year after year, without fail, the award has been given to the best of our MA graduate students,, according to my account. And Bob and Louise have personally handed out the awards at every one of those ceremonies. 

Their commitment to Chris's memory and to the goals of IMS has been unfailing, and we have been touched at each year's ceremony by their words, poetry, singing and at times tears. 

Truly, they epitomize the intellectual and humanistic qualities that defined their son Chris, and for that we members of IMS will always be grateful.

Related Links

A list of resources that might interest to researchers in Mesoamerica, organized by alphabetical order. Their inclusion on this page does not indicate that IMS endorses them, nor does it imply that we screen them for content or accuracy. For any suggestions, please feel free to contact us at [email protected]

Contact Us

Phone: 518-442-4722

Email: [email protected]


The publication of scholarly books on Mesoamerica is one of the major activities of the Institute. IMS publishes two series of scholarly books on Mesoamerica: IMS Monographs and Studies on Culture and Society. Our books are produced by a commercial press.

IMS also periodically publishes Occasional Publications and Papers. These are usually project or site reports that are produced in-house as well. The only difference is that authors submitting occasional publications and papers are responsible for their own editing, design, and layout.

Monograph Series

The following monographs are in print and distributed through the University Press of Colorado. Order a book from UPC.

IMS Monograph Number 15

Utatlán: The Constituted Community of The K'iche' Maya of Q'umarkaj

By Thomas F. Babcock
ISBN 978-1-60732-154-5

One of the most important Postclassic cities, Utatlán, in highland Guatemala, was excavated more than three decades ago. However, the data amassed by archaeologists have not been published until now.

Details on architecture, pottery, burials, and artifacts, along with a focus on residential archaeology, make Utatlán: The Constituted Community of the K'iche' Maya of Q'umarkaj a significant contribution to Maya archaeology. Most information available on Utatlán focuses on the ceremonial center and ignores the city of the commoners.

Using the archaeological data, Utatlán attempts to determine the boundaries of the community and to characterize subdivisions within it. Evidence of indigenous nonelite houses, rich burials, and grave goods unlike those found in contemporary sites reveals information about the supporting residence zone.

In addition, Babcock applies the concept of "constituted community," interpreting the archaeological data from a prehistoric context, and proposes a theoretical framework for interpreting prehistoric sites with respect to urbanism and political complexity. Utatlán: The Constituted Community of the K'iche' Maya of Q'umarkaj will be of interest to students and scholars of Mesoamerican anthropology, archaeology, and ethnohistory.

IMS Monograph Number 14

Postclassic Soconusco Society: The Late Prehistory of the Coast of Chiapas, Mexico

By Barbara Voorhies and Janine Gasco
ISBN 0-942041-20-8

This timely report presents new archaeological data on Postclassic sites (11th through 16th centuries, AD) in one of the key regions of Mesoamerica. The Pacific coast of Soconusco was at the forefront of cultural developments from the time of its earliest farmers in the Formative period through the Spanish conquest. Yet until now the Postclassic archaeology of this region has remained poorly known.

This book presents the results of archaeological fieldwork at the political center Acapetahua and other key Postclassic sites in Soconusco by two leading Mesoamericanist archaeologists. The authors' analyses of artifacts shed light on subsistence activities, the production of textiles and other craft items, commercial exchange, and the social context of life in this area.

A notable feature of this report is the discussion of the place of these sites within the broader setting of Postclassic Mesoamerica. The Late Postclassic period was a dynamic and innovative time when peoples from all parts of Mesoamerica were drawn together by processes of commercial and stylistic interaction.

Until recently, however, Postclassic archaeological data has been limited to a few areas. Postclassic Soconusco Society now adds a key region to the overall picture. This work will serve as both a basic reference on the Postclassic archaeology of a key region and a case study in the local impacts and manifestations of ancient empires and world-systems.

IMS Monograph Number 13

Before Guadalupe: The Virgin Mary in Early Colonial Nahuatl Literature

By Louise M Burkhart
ISBN 0-942041-21-6

The introduction of the Virgin Mary to the native peoples of Mexico is often closely associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe, the principal Mexican Marian devotion. According to legend, the devotion originated in 1531 when the Virgin appeared to a Nahua man, Juan Diego, and left her image miraculously imprinted on his cloak.

Historical evidence indicates, however, that the Mexican shrine was not established until the 1560s, the legend was virtually unknown until its initial publication in Spanish in 1648 and in Nahuatl the following year; and native people did not participate in the devotion to any extensive degree until after the mid-seventeenth century. How, then, was devotion to the Virgin actually introduced to Nahuas during the first decades of Christian evangelization?

This book addresses this question through the presentation of Nahuatl-language devotional texts relating to Mary, texts through which Nahuas learned about the Virgin and expressed their own developing devotion to her. The wide range of Nahuatl literature on the Virgin shows that, far from some early "syncretic" mixing of Mary with native "goddess" cults, Nahuas were introduced to, and to varying degrees participated in, the full-blown medieval and Renaissance devotion to Mary, adapted into their own language.

These sources date from the 1540s through the 1620s and represent all of the major religious orders involved in the evangelization of the Nahuas: Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians and Jesuits. Native scholars participated in the composition of much of this material. Genres include sermons, catechisms, prayers, narratives, drama, hymns, and antiphonal chants.

The earliest extant edition of the rosary in Nahuatl is included, as are twelve miracle narratives, a complete Augustinian sermon on the Purification, and a lengthy native-edited account of the Assumption. Nahuatl text and English translation are presented in parallel columns. Each text is preceded by introductory commentary that explicates the European background of the material and its new meanings and uses in the Mexican context.

IMS Monograph Number 12

Classic Period Mixtequilla, Veracruz, Mexico: Diachronic Inferences from Residential Investigations.

Edited by Barbara L. Stark
ISBN 0-942041-17-8

This archaeological site report presents new in sights on an important but poorly-studied Mesoamerican culture-the Classic period of the Mexican Gulf Coast. Stark discusses her excavations at several sites in the Mixtequilla region, describes the deposits and artifacts encountered, and provides interpretations of the sites and their significance within a wider context.

Her analysis of the ephemeral remains of perishable houses is innovative and contains one of the most sophisticated treatments of site formation processes yet carried out in Latin America. Particularly important is the identification of some of the earliest spindle whorls in Mesoamerica, leading to new views of the importance of cotton textiles in the changing economies of the Late Preclassic and Classic periods.

Superb artifact illustrations, detailed descriptions, and an ample use of data tables, make this a valuable reference work. Mesoamericanists will find much of interest in this book, as will readers interested in tropical lowland settlement patterns, household archaeology, and site formation processes.

IMS Monograph Number 11

Hach Winik: The Lacandon Maya of Chiapas, Southern Mexico

By Didier Boremanse
ISBN 0-942041-16-X

Hach Winik may be the last comprehensive study of traditional Lacandon Maya society based on intensive ethnographic fieldwork. Long isolated, culturally conservative, and bearing a mystique of Mesoamerican "primitivism," the Lacandon now live on the brink of cultural disintegration. Their habitat is all but destroyed by lumbering and by the large-scale invasion of other Maya peoples in search of land.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Didier Boremanse collected cultural data and textual materials from two groups of Lacandon who still remained relatively isolated. Hach Winik describes and compares the cultural traditions of these two groups.

Topics presented in this volume include the history of Lacandon contact with other peoples as well as settlement patterns, life cycle, social control, residence and marriage, the kinship system, and the ritual expression of these social domains. Statistical data are balanced by a wealth of descriptive detail concerning events and individuals. A number of oral narratives are also presented and include many words and utterances in the original language with English glosses.

IMS Monograph Number 9

Phoneticism in Mayan Hieroglyphic Writing

By John S. Justeson and Lyle Campbell
ISBN 0-942041-08-9

A classic in the literature on the decipherment of Mayan writing, Phoneticism grew out of the famous Albany conference--a gathering of the leading Mayanists who were working within the modern, linguistically-informed paradigm for the analysis of Mayan hieroglyphic text. The volume contains nine senimal articles and appendixes.

Many of the phonetic readings on which current epigraphic work depends are worked out and presented here. Several papers focus on or carefully exemplify rigorous decipherment methodology; others provide primary data on the ancient language forms that lie behind the glyphic representations.

Studies on Culture and Society Series

The following publications are in print and distributed through the University Press of Colorado. Order a book from UPC.

Volume 9

Indigenous Bodies, Maya Minds: Religion and Modernity in a Transnational K'iche' Community
By C. James MacKenzie

Hardcover ISBN: 9781607323938 — $110
Paperback ISBN: 9781607325567 — $34.95
Ebook ISBN: 9781607323945 — $27.95

Indigenous Bodies, Maya Minds examines tension and conflict over ethnic and religious identity in the K’iche’ Maya community of San Andrés Xecul in the Guatemalan Highlands and considers how religious and ethnic attachments are sustained and transformed through the transnational experiences of locals who have migrated to the United States.

Author C. James MacKenzie explores the relationship among four coexisting religious communities within Highland Maya villages in contemporary Guatemala—costumbre, traditionalist religion with a shamanic substrate; “Enthusiastic Christianity,” versions of Charismaticism and Pentecostalism; an “inculturated” and Mayanized version of Catholicism; and a purified and antisyncretic Maya Spirituality—with attention to the modern and nonmodern worldviews that sustain them.

He introduces a sophisticated set of theories to interpret both traditional religion and its relationship to other contemporary religious options, analyzing the relation among these various worldviews in terms of the indigenization of modernity and the various ways modernity can be apprehended as an intellectual project or an embodied experience.

Indigenous Bodies, Maya Minds investigates the way an increasingly plural religious landscape intersects with ethnic and other identities. It will be of interest to Mesoamerican and Mayan ethnographers, as well as students and scholars of cultural anthropology, indigenous cultures, globalization, and religion.

Volume 8

Beware the Great Horned Serpent!: Chiapas under the Threat of Napoleon
By Robert M. Laughlin

ISBN 0-942041-19-4 — $31.95

"Dr. Robert M. Laughlin, one of the world's greatest students of native language and culture, has produced a "historical anthropology" that is both captivating and illuminating. Like a mystery novel, the reader is led from the accidental discovery of a Tzotzil-Maya nineteenth-century text, found in the very building where Laughlin works (the Smithsonian Institution), through the bizarre and dramatic history of events surrounding the 1812 Cortes in Spain and an obscure proclamation sent to the officials of the American colonies.

"Through Laughlin's detailed accounts of these historical events that took place in Spain, New Spain, Peru, Guatemala, and Chiapa, the reader learns the meaning of the proclamation for the Creoles and Indians to whom it was addressed. In the best tradition of the 'microhistorian,' the proclamation and its Tzotzil text are historically and culturally contextualized rather than explained.

"As Laughlin himself states in his introduction: 'The pages that follow present a theater of the absurd, a fabulous history with myriads of details as if set in the Milky Way. The reader will not be comforted with an historical 'argument.'

"The prose is wonderful, the characters alive, and the plot intriguing. And along the way, the reader is treated to an inside perspective on the vicissitudes and small triumphs of colonial Indians in one small corner of the Mesoamerican world." — Robert M. Carmack, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University at Albany

Volume 7

Identities on the Move: Transnational Processes in North America and the Caribbean Basin

Edited by Liliana R. Goldin
Contributors include: Edna Acosta-Belén, Allan F. Burns, Jorge Durand, Duncan Earle, Juan Flores, Liliana R. Goldin, Michael Kearney, Douglas S. Massey, Victor D. Montejo, Suzanne Oboler, Carlos E. Santiago, Azara L. Santiago-Rivera, Nina Glick Schiller, and Ilan Stavas

ISBN: 0-942041-18-6 — $26.95

This valuable collection assembles essays by leading experts in transnationalism, highlighting emerging trends in this newly developed field. The contributions focus on the construction of transnational identities and how these identities form and change in the context of processes of migration and displacement. The book addresses the ways in which nations and states frame identity formation through labels, politics of exception, and racialization through an interdisciplinary and multi-methodological perspective, which permits the student of transnational processes to access diverse constructs through multiple angles.

The volume includes concrete ethnographic examples of identities in the making, documentation of the effects of exile and displacement, reflexive accounts by writers who have direct experience with transnationalism, and incisive theoretical arguments that highlight the ways in which race, citizenship, nation-states, and neo-colonialism create images and actions of individuals and communities. The examples include discussions about Latinos in the United States, individuals and communities along the borders, indigenous peoples in migration, and identity construction in international workplaces.

Volume 6

Economies and Politics in the Aztec Realm
Edited by Mary G. Hodge and Michael E. Smith

ISBN: 0-942041-15-1 — $32.95

"The Seventeen papers in this collection deal with various aspects of the relationship between economics and the political units which constituted the Aztec state and its main competitor the Tarascan empire. ...

"Until recently Aztec studies were dominated by two rather narrow foci ... a preoccupation with the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan coupled with neglect of other cities and the rural countryside, and an over-emphasis on the best-known Native and Spanish chronicles which ignored the vast corpus of lesser known but equally important documentary sources. ...

"Fortunately a few archaeologists and ethnohistorians, including the contributors to this volume, insisted on expanding the geographical and conceptual parameters of Aztec studies. They also began to employ recent innovative approaches in archaeology, locational geography, economics, political theory, and history in their quest to understand what really happened in central Mexico during the Postclassic period. The result has been some very exciting new perspectives on this fascinating topic." — Richard A. Diehl, Professor of Anthropology, University of Alabama

Volume 5

With Our Heads Bowed: The Dynamics of Gender in a Maya Community
By Brenda Rosenbaum

ISBN: 0-942041-14-3 — $19.95

"Brenda Rosenbaum has succeeded in capturing the daily routines of San Juan Chamula men and women in such a way as to reveal the gender subordination implicit in the fabric of this society.

"Since few of the monographs on this much studied area have addressed the issue of gender relations, this volume is a welcome and valuable addition to the field. Few ethnographers have explored the ambiguous link between ideology and social role performance in as great a depth as Brenda Rosenbaum.

"With her long commitment to fieldwork in San Juan Chamula she is able to demonstrate how women have been able to overreach a constraining model of behavior defined by men." — June Nash, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, City University of New York

Volume 4

Casi Nada: A Study of Agrarian Reform in the Homeland of Cardenismo
By John Gledhill

ISBN: 0-942641-13-5 — $32.95

"Casi Nada is the result of many months that the author shared the lives of the ejidatarios of Guaracha, Michoacan and of his patient reconstruction of the collective memory concerning a half centry of violence and hope. Without a doubt, it will become obligatory reading for those interested in the themes of agrarian reform, peasant reproduction and political control at the local level.

"The book will also serve to remind us that, if it is true that Mexican peasants never have supported populist inefficiencies, neither will they become enthusiastic supporters of a neoliberal agenda which condemns them to disappear." — Guillermo de la Peña, Director, CIESAS-Occidente, Guadalajara, Mexico

Volume 3

Ethnographic Encounters in Southern Mesoamerica: Essays in Honor of Evon Zartman Vogt, Jr.
Edited by Victoria R. Bricker and Gary H. Gossen

ISBN: 0-942041-12-7 — $18

This volume celebrates the long and productive career of Evon Z. Vogt, through whom the Chiapas highlands of southern Mexico have become a landmark reference point in the world ethnographic record.

Comparable in significant ways to Franz Boas and his Jesup North Pacific Expedition, Evon Z. Vogt and his Harvard Chiapas Project students and collaborators have, over thirty years, produced and published an ethnographic and linguistic corpus that has made the Tzotzil-speaking area of Chiapas on of the most thoroughly and professionally documented regions of the Americas.

Volume 2

The Work of Bernardino de Sahagún: Pioneer Ethnographer of Sixteenth-Century Aztec Mexico
Edited by J. Jorge Klor de Alva, H. B. Nicholson, and Eloise Quiñones Keber

ISBN: 0-942041-11-9 — $18

1990 marked the 400th anniversary of the death of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, the famous Franciscan missionary whose pioneering ethnographies of the Aztecs and their Nahuatl-speaking neighbors have earned him the title of "father of modern anthropology."

Thus it is fitting that the Institute for Mesoamerican Studies publish this landmark collection of studies by well-known scholars on the work of Sahagún and his native collaborators. The articles span from a review of Sahaguntine studies and the role played by Sahagún and his ethnographic project in the history of anthropology, to a series of novel inquiries into his encyclopedia of Aztec (Nahua) culture and its significance for art history and linguistics.

Volume 1

Symbol and Meaning Behind the Closed Community: Essays in Mesoamerican Ideas
Edited by Gary H. Gossen

ISBN: 0-942041-10-0. —$19.95

This innovative volume seeks to identify patterns in Mesoamerican symbolic representation that have persistence and coherence across the boundaries of time, space, culture, and language.

The collection also includes consideration of recent and powerful arrivals on the Mesoamerican stage, notably, European political, economic, and religious systems.

Occasional Publications

Occasional Publications can be purchased in hard copy for the price listed, plus an additional $4 for shipping and handling.

Please contact us at [email protected] if you would like to purchase a hard copy. Many of these publications are also available for download at no cost.

Occasional Publication Number 1
The Belize Postclassic Project: Laguna de On Island Excavations 1996
Edited by Marilyn A. Masson and Robert M. Rosenswig
$12 Hard Copy.

Occasional Publication Number 2
Belize Postclassic Project 1997: Laguna de On, Progresso Lagoon, Laguna Seca
Edited by Marilyn A. Masson and Robert M. Rosenswig
$12 Hard Copy.

Occasional Publication Number 3
Belize Postclassic Project 1998: Investigations at Progresso Lagoon
Edited by Marilyn A. Masson and Robert M. Rosenswig
$12 Hard Copy.

Occasional Publication Number 4
Ethnohistory of Early Colonial Nicaragua: Demographyand Encomiendas of the Indian Communities
By Patrick S. Werner
$22 hard copy.

"This important manuscript on early colonial Nicaragua has already proven to be of great value to scholars of Nicaraguan history, and its publication by IMS will make it available to scholars and public alike. There is no other book that treats the early demography and colonial social structure of Nicaragua in such detail and depth. Students of both prehispanic and colonial Nicaragua will find it invaluable for an understanding of the Nicaraguan aboriginal peoples. In time, it is likely that Werner's book will become a classic work in Mesoamerican and Central American studies." - Dr. Robert Carmack, UAlbany

Occasional Publication Number 5
Belize Postclassic Project 1999: Continued Investigations at Progresso Lagoon and Laguna Seca
Edited by Robert M. Rosenswig and Marilyn A. Masson
$12 Hard Copy.

Occasional Publication Number 6
Belize Postclassic Project 2000: Investigations at Caye Coco and the Shore Settlements of Progresso Lagoon
Edited by Robert M. Rosenswig and Marilyn A. Masson
$12 Hard Copy.

Occasional Publication Number 7
Belize Postclassic Project 2001: Investigations at Caye Coco and the Shore Settlements of Progresso Lagoon
Edited by Antonina M. Delu, Bradley W. Russell and Marilyn A.Masson
$12 Hard Copy.

Occasional Publication Number 8
Sacred Landscape and Settlement in the Sibun River Valley, XARP (1999) Archaeological Survey and Excavation
By Patricia McAnany
$12 Hard Copy. A set of 13 maps are also available for Occasional Publication 8 for $39.
Occasional Publication Number 9
Belize Postclassic Project 2002: Investigations at the Shore Settlements of Progresso Lagoon and San Estevan
Edited by Josalyn M. Ferguson, Maxine H. Oland and Marilyn A. Masson
$12 Hard Copy.

Occasional Publication Number 10
Belize Postclassic Project 2003: Investigations on the West Shore of Progresso Lagoon
Edited by Maxine Oland and Marilyn A. Masson
$12 Hard Copy.

Occasional Publication Number 11
Post Classic Figurines of Central Mexico
By Flora S. Kaplan
$12 Hardcopy.

Occasional Publication Number 12
The Ground Stone Tools of Caye Coco, Belize
By Antonina M. Delu
$12 Hardcopy.

Occasional Publication Number 13
Postclassic Maya Lithic Tool Maintenance, Recycling,and Consumption Patterns at Lagunade On Island
By Sheila M Galup
$12 Hardcopy.

Occasional Publication Number 14
San Estevan Archaeological Project 2005: Report to the Department of Archaeology, Belmopan, Belize
Edited by Robert M. Rosenswig
$12 Hardcopy.

Occasional Publication Number 15
San Estevan Archaeological Project 2008: Report to the Department of Archaeology, Belmopan, Belize
Edited by Robert M. Rosenswig
$12 Hardcopy.

Occasional Publication Number 16
Nana naguan' rihaan nij sii chihaan': Consejos para la gente Triqui : Words of counsel for the Triqui People
By Roman L. Vidal López. Edited and analyzed by George Aaron Broadwell, Ashley LaBoda, Sharone Horowit-Hendler, Gabriela Aquino-Dehesa.
$20 Hardcopy (includes CD).

Occasional Publication Number 17
Postclassic Pottery Censers in the Maya Lowlands: A Study of Form, Function, and Symbolism
By Bradley Russell
$12 Hardcopy.

Occasional Publication Number 18
Belize Archaic Project 2019: Survey and Initial Excavation Report to the Institute of Archeology, Belmopan Belize
By Robert M. Rosenswig

Occasional Publication Number 19
Belize Archaic Project 2022: Survey and Excavation Report to the Institute of Archeology, Belmopan Belize
By Robert M. Rosenswig

The Legacy of Mesoamerica textbook

The Legacy of Mesoamerica is a textbook of the peoples and cultures of Mesoamerica, written by members of the Institute for Mesoamerican Studies.

The Legacy of Mesoamerica: History and Culture of a Native American Civilization textbook

Publisher: Prentice Hall
ISBN: 0-13-049292-2
Date: 2007. Second Edition

Table of Contents

  • Introduction

  • Unit I: Prehispanic Mesoamerica

    • Chapter 1: Origins and Developments of Mesoamerican Civilization

    • Chapter 2: Late Postclassic Mesoamerica

    • Chapter 3: The Mesoamerican World at Spanish Contact

  • Unit II: Colonial Mesoamerica

    • Chapter 4: Mesoamerica and Spain: The Conquest

    • Chapter 5: The Colonial Period in Mesoamerica

    • Chapter 6: Indigenous Literature from Colonial Mesoamerica

    • Chapter 7: Mesoamericans in the Neocolonial Era

  • Unit III: Modern Mesoamerica

    • Chapter 8: Native Mesoamericans in the Modern Era

    • Chapter 9: Transnationalism and the Political Economy of Mesoamerica

    • Chapter 10: The Mayan Zapatista Movement

  • Unit IV: Mesoamerican Cultural Features

    • Chapter 11: Language and Languages of Mesoamerica

    • Chapter 12: Women and Gender in Mesoamerica

    • Chapter 13: The Indian Voice in Recent Mesoamerican Literature

    • Chapter 14: The Religious Traditions of Mesoamerica

Additional Publications

The Institute for Mesoamerican Studies (IMS) also has several publications available upon demand. These can be purchased for download as PDFs or can be printed, bound and sent.

For ordering any of the following books, please contact us at [email protected]. Please note that prices do not include shipping charges. You will need to include an additional $4 to cover shipping and handling fees.

IMS Publication Number 1
Archaeology and Ethnohistory of the Central Quiche
Edited by Dwight T. Wallace and Robert M. Carmack

IMS Publication Number 2
Basic Quiche Grammar
By James L. Mondloch

IMS Publication Number 3
Bibliography of Mayan Languages and Linguistics
By Lyle Campbell with Pierre Ventur, Russell Stewart, and Brant Gardner

IMS Publication Number 4
Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus I: A Commentary
By Jill Leslie Furst (with a preface by Mary Elizabeth Smith)

IMS Publication Number 5
Migration Across Frontiers: Mexico and the United States, Vol III
Edited by Fernando Camara and Robert Van Kemper

IMS Publication Number 6
The Historical Demography of Highland Guatemala
Edited by Robert Carmack, John Early, and Christopher Lutz

IMS Publication Number 7
Aztec Sorcerers in Seventeenth Century Mexico: The Treatise on Superstitions by Hernando Ruiz de Alarcón
Edited and translated by Michael D. Coe and Gordon Whittaker

IMS Publication Number 8
Maya Hieroglyphic Codices
By Yuri Knorosov, translated by Sophie Coe

IMS Publication Number 10
A Consideration of the Early Classic Period in the Maya Lowlands
Edited by Gordon R. Willey and Peter Mathews

Procedures for Publication with IMS

The Institute for Mesoamerican Studies now works exclusively with the University Press of Colorado. If you are interested in submitting a manuscript for publication with us, please review this information:


The Institute for Mesoamerican Studies is a nonprofit scholarly organization whose goal is to promote research and scholarship on the ancient, historical and modern cultures of Mesoamerica.

One of our ways of accomplishing this goal is the publication of high-quality scholarly monographs on Mesoamerican anthropology. We publish two series: IMS Monographs and Studies in Culture and Society.

  • IMS Monographs are large-format books (8.5 inches by 11 inches) that present primary data on Mesoamerican cultures. We publish specialized research results that may be difficult to publish through traditional commercial or university presses.

  • The Studies in Culture and Society series publishes studies with a broader analytical, integrative, or interpretive focus.

When a manuscript is accepted for publication, the IMS Board of Directors determines the series in which it will appear.

IMS books are produced and distributed (advertised and sold) by the University Press of Colorado. Our books are distributed (advertised and sold) by the University of Colorado Press.

We do not offer royalties to authors. All proceeds from book sales are used to fund the publication series. Our advantages compared to commercial and university presses are professional-looking books, produced in timely fashion with wide visibility and distribution.

Prospectus Submission

Before submitting a prospectus, we strongly encourage you to contact the director of IMS to discuss your idea. Authors and/or editors may then need to develop a prospectus if the manuscript is not already complete.

The prospectus should describe each chapter and the overall goal, intellectual context, and projected audience for the book. It should also contain estimates of the length of the manuscript and the number and nature of figures and tables.

If the prospectus is approved by the Board of Directors, we will solicit a full manuscript.

Review & Production

Manuscripts should be prepared following IMS style. Authors will submit their manuscript electronically online using the University Press of Colorado system.

Manuscripts are reviewed by at least two scholarly reviewers. Manuscripts by IMS personnel must have at least one reviewer not connected with the Institute, whereas manuscripts by outside authors may be reviewed by either IMS personnel or outside scholars.

If a manuscript is accepted, a contract is offered and the author and/or editor is given specific instructions for revisions and manuscript preparation.

Manuscripts are assigned a production editor who is responsible for communications with the author and oversight of the production process.



Archaeology Projects

Economic Foundations of Mayapán, Yucatan

Faculty Associate: Marilyn A. Masson

This project investigates the ancient urban economy of the capital city of the Postclassic Maya world.

Maya Life in Early Colonial Yucatan

This project is directed by M. Masson, C. Peraza, T. Hare, and B. Russell at the Colonial Maya sites of Yacman and Hunacti, Yucatan, Mexico.

A structure at a Mayan archaeological site in Yucatan.

Read two recently published articles:

Gradual Changes in Early Colonial-Period Maya Ceramics in Northern Yucatan. Hist Arch (2021) Lope, C.P., Alvarado, W.C., Masson, M.A. et al.

Hybridity and Mortuary Patterns at the Colonial Maya Visita Settlement of Yacman, Mexico. Int J Histor Archaeol 25, 905–930, Masson, M.A., Russell, B.W., Serafin, S. et al.

Cerro Jazmin Archaeological Project

Faculty Associate: Verónica Pérez Rodríguez

Visit the Cerro Jazmin Archaeological Project website for detailed information.

San Estevan Archeological Project

Faculty Associate: Robert M. Rosenswig

Visit the San Estevan Archeological Project webpage for detailed information.

Soconusco Archaeological Project

Faculty Associate: Robert M. Rosenswig

Visit the Soconusco Archaeological Project webpage for detailed information.

Belize Archaic Project

Under the auspices of the Belize Postclassic Project, eight preceramic sites were documented between 1997 and 2002 in the Freshwater Creek drainage of northern Belize (Rosenswig and Masson 2001; Rosenswig 2003a).

In 1997, the Belize Postclassic Project began its second season of excavation at Laguna de On Island, near the headwatters of the Freshwater Creek drainage. At the base of Suboperation 19, we encountered an aceramic, white clay that contained macroflake tools, including a large retouched macro-flake and a heavily resharpened constricted uniface (Rosenswig and Safford 1998).

Our excavations documented cultural deposits over 2 m in depth. This was the first time we encountered a preceramic deposit containing patinated unifacially worked lithic tools under a Maya site.

The majority of known Archaic sites from the Freshwater Creek drainage have been documented at Progresso Lagoon. In 1999, a distinctive orange aceramic soil stratum (approximately 15 cm thick) containing patinated lithic flakes was documented 80 cm below ground surface in Suboperation 26 at Caye Coco to the north side of Late Postclassic Structure 2 (Mazeau 2000; Rosenswig 2001).

In 2000, I pursued the aceramic deposits discovered the previous year under a Terminal classic cobble terrace.

An excavation of aceramic deposits discovered under a Terminal classic cobble terrace.

A significantly resharpened and heavily patinated constricted uniface and numerous flakes were recovered from these excavations. In 2001, a concerted effort was made to document the extents of this aceramic component of the site. The aceramic component that we have documented at Caye Coco covers an area of approximately 150 sq m and it originates between 60 and 85 cm below the current ground surface. In 2001, more patinated, unifacial tools and flakes were recovered as well as two patinated hammer stones and evidence of worked oyster shell (Rosenswig 2002).

The excavations of Suboperations 26a, 26b and 26c provide fine-grained documentation of the stratigraphic position of the orange, preceramic horizon below Terminal Classic and Postclassic deposits.

In 2002, excavations were carried out at the base of the large central mound at the site core of the San Estevan site in what is now being used as the town dump (Rosenswig 2003b). Due to modern land disturbance, several hectares of what was previously the site core was excavated by heavy machinery down two meters below bedrock.

In 2001 the author, along with Dr. Marilyn Masson and twenty field school students, visited the site and noticed a distinctive orange soil horizon in a 30 m section of the profiles created by the quarrying activities. This orange horizon intrigued us as it resembled those containing Archaic materials at numerous sites around Progresso Lagoon (Rosenswig and Masson 2001).

In July 2002, we returned to the site and scrapped down the 30 m section of profile that contained the orange soil horizon. With the resulting increased visibility of the stratigraphy, a 9 m section was selected to be profiled.

This section was directly east of San Estevan´s large central mound, it also contained the most complex stratigraphy and the thickest section of the orange soil horizon. One meter west of the profile a 1 x 2 m unit was excavated as Suboperation 1 to provide a sample of materials from each stratigraphic level. Late Formative fill was documented above a Middle Formative cobble surface visible in the center of the profile. Below this we excavated the orange horizon matrix but did not recover any cultural material from this small test unit.

A second 1 x 2 m unit was excavated as Suboperation 2 in a bulldozer cut right at the eastern base of the large central mound. The orange horizon was documented here as well but also without any cultural material. Soil samples from all of these contexts were floated and the results are pending.

Excavation work being completed at Suboperation 2 at San Estevan's main mound.

Ongoing work at these, and other, preceramic sites will hopefully contribute to an understanding of the conditions under which settled life and ceramic use developed and why this transition took so long to occur in the Maya lowlands relative to the rest of Mesoamerica.

References Cited

Mazeau, Daniel E.

2000  Excavations at Structure 2 and Structure 3, Caye Coco. In Belize Postclassic Project 1999: Continuing Investigations at Progresso Lagoon and Laguna Seca, edited by R. Rosenswig and M. Masson, pp. 7-20. Institute of Mesoamerican Studies Occasional Publication No. 5. The University at Albany – SUNY, Albany.

Rosenswig, Robert M.

2001  Preceramic Evidence from Northern Belize and Caye Coco. In Belize Postclassic Project 2000: Investigations at Caye Coco and the Shore Settlements of Progresso Lagoon, edited by R. Rosenswig and M. Masson, pp. 87-95. Institute of Mesoamerican Studies Occasional Publication No. 6. The University at Albany – SUNY, Albany.

2002   Excavation of Preceramic Components at Caye Coco and the Fred Smith Site. In The Belize Postclassic Project 2001: Investigations and Analysis at Progresso Lagoon, edited by B. Russell, A. Delu and M. Masson. Institute of Mesoamerican Studies Occasional Publication No. 7. The University at Albany – SUNY, Albany.

2003a  New Archaeological Excavation Data from the Late Archaic Occupation of Northern Belize. Paper Presented at the Belize Department of Archaeology Symposium Belize City, July 2-6. To be published in the forthcoming proceedings of this meeting.

2003b  Looking for Archaic deposits at the San Estevan Site, northern Belize. In The Belize Postclassic Project 2002, edited by J. Ferguson, M. Oland and M. Masson. Institute of Mesoamerican Studies Occasional Publication No. 8. The University at Albany – SUNY, Albany.

Rosenswig, Robert M. and Marilyn A. Masson

2001  Seven New Preceramic Sites Documented in Northern Belize. Mexicon 23: 138-140.

Rosenswig, Robert M. and Thomas W. Stafford, Jr.

1998  Archaic Component Beneath a Postclassic Terrace at Suboperationeration 19, Laguna de On Island. In Belize Postclassic Project 1997: Laguna de On, Progresso Lagoon, Laguna Seca, edited by M. Masson and R. Rosenswig, pp. 81-89. Institute of Mesoamerican Studies Occasional Publication No. 2. University at Albany – SUNY, Albany.

Izapa Regional Settlement Project

Faculty Associate: Robert M. Rosenswig

Visit the Izapa Regional Settlement Project webpage for detailed information.

Ethnographic Projects

Pictographic catechisms from colonial Nahua Mexico

Faculty Associate: Louise Burkhart

This project includes a book in progress, co-authored with Elizabeth Hill Boone (Tulane University) and David Tavárez (Vassar College), to be published by Dumbarton Oaks. The book will present a facsimile, reading, and analysis of Bibliothèque Nationale de France manuscrit mexicain 399, a pictorial manuscript made in Mexico City during the second half of the seventeenth century and connected with the Moteuczoma family.

Often called “Testerian” manuscripts after fray Jacobo de Testera, one of the early Franciscans in Mexico, pictographic catechisms present the texts of the Roman Catholic catechism, which indigenous people were expected to learn from memory, in the format of a series of pictograms, each representing a word or phrase. In a few cases, alphabetic glosses in Nahuatl or, in one case, Otomi accompany the images.

This new form of writing, though probably derived from sixteenth-century experiments in catechetical representation, may have emerged only in the later seventeenth century, as one of the textual strategies by which indigenous elites sought to represent themselves as good Christian subjects who adopted Christianity in the immediate wake of Spain’s military conquest.

Highly original and experimental, this writing was never fully systematized, nor was it ever divorced from its catechetical context to become a fully independent writing system. It was a mnemonic system supporting memorization and oral recitation of the catechism. As a political strategy, it recuperated the associations of picture writing with the pre-conquest and conquest-era elites, to whom later-colonial leaders hearkened back in order to legitimize their own lineages and their dynastic rights to lands and privileges. This archaizing strategy deliberately reversed the sixteenth-century trajectory that saw indigenous literacy abandon picture-writing for the roman alphabet.

My research questions the long-standing assumption that these manuscripts were developed by, or at least under the supervision of, the early Franciscan friars. The Franciscans and other preachers did use pictures, but there is no good evidence that they used small paper booklets of this kind, as opposed to larger paintings on cloth.

Nearly all extant pictographic catechism include a question-and-answer catechetical summary that did not develop until the 1630s, nor reach the form encoded in the pictographic texts until 1644. On this topic, see my article entitled “The ‘Little Doctrine’ and Indigenous Catechesis in New Spain,” Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 94, May issue, 2014.

Passion Plays of Eighteenth-Century Mexico

Visit the Passion Plays of Eighteenth-Century Mexico website for detailed information.

Day of Triqui Culture in the Capital Region

Faculty Associates: Walter Little and George Aaron Broadwell

The Day of Triqui Culture is an annual occasion recognized San Juan Copala Triquis' distinct cultural contributions to the Albany area.

The event boasts traditional foods, dance performances and handicrafts.  IMS associates also present on research related to the Triqui language and textiles.

Linguistic Projects

Project for the Documentation of the Languages of Mesoamerica

Faculty Associates: John Justeson and Terrence Kaufman

In 1993, we began a project to document the lexicon, phonology, and morphosyntax of selected Mije-Sokean languages, which by 1995 was extended to all living Mije-Sokean languages.

Besides the value of the work for its own sake, this documentation was undertaken in order to facilitate a reconstruction of the proto-Mije-Sokean protolanguage.

This reconstruction, and the documentation of the individual Mije-Sokean languages, was to serve as a resource for revising and extending the decipherment of Epi-Olmec writing (Justeson and Kaufman 1993, 1996 [1994], 1997).

In 1995, the Project began research on five of a projected 11 Sapotekan languages:

  • Central: Juchitán

  • Central: Chichicapan

  • Central: Chichicapan

  • Solteco: Lachixío

  • Zenzontepec

These were to be documented, the ancestral proto-Sapotekan language was to be reconstructed, and the reconstruction, along with the documentation of the individual Sapotekan languages, was to help in the decipherment of Sapoteko hieroglyphic writing, which had been under way since 1992.

In 1996, we started research on four more Sapotekan languages:

  • Northern: Atepec

  • Papabuco: Zaniza

  • Southern: Coatlán

  • Yaitepec

Work is not yet effectively under way on Southern: Cuixtla.

There are arguably more than 11 Sapotekan languages; they fall into six branches: since we could not reasonably document them all, at least one language from each of the branches had to be documented, plus any additional languages that promised to be straightforwardly useful for reconstructing proto-Sapotekan, proto-Sapoteko, and proto-Chatino. This set of languages contained 11 members.

In 1997, we began work on Matlatzinka and Mecayapan Gulf Nawa.

In 1998, we began work on Tlawika (Okwilteko).

In 1999, we began work on Zongolica Nawa, Huehuetla Tepewa and Otlaltepec Popoloka.

In 2000, we began work on Zapotitlán Totonaco and Yatzachi-Zoogocho Northern Sapoteko.

The preparation of a dictionary for each language was undertaken by a different linguist; some of these linguists were advanced graduate students, others post-PhD professionals; one is a beginning graduate student.

A major feature of the Project is that a set of specialists in each language family is trained in the context of regular and long-term interaction, helping to generate a body of lore that is tested through discussion and comparison of the results of individual investigation.

Although not all of these languages are radically underdocumented, it is fair to say that there is not yet a theory or model of Mije-Sokean, Sapotekan, or Oto-Pamean grammar. We hope that such will eventuate from the work we have begun.

Awards & Scholarships

The Institute for Mesoamerican Studies offers several financial awards to UAlbany students each year for outstanding essays and research projects in Mesoamerican anthropology.

Applications are currently OPEN. Deadline: Friday, March 22.

See submission details below.


Essay Awards

David Scotchmer Essay Award

About the Award

The Scotchmer award recognizes outstanding professional writing by graduate students in the field of Mesoamerican studies. The award (subject to annual adjustment) will be $150, to be used as the awardee sees fit to further their research program.

The winner is usually announced in mid-April of each year and will be recognized in the published program at the Honors Convocation on Commencement weekend in May.

The award is named for the late Dr. David Scotchmer, an alum of our graduate program (PhD, 1991) who died in 1995 just as his career was flowering.

David, a pioneer in the study of the Protestant Evangelical Movement in Guatemala, published several significant essays on this subject while a graduate student here at UAlbany. This award, in his honor, celebrates and encourages the writing and publication efforts of graduate students.


All students enrolled in the MA or PhD program in the Department of Anthropology at UAlbany with research interests in Mesoamerican Studies are eligible for this competition. Student Associates of the IMS are given preference.

Essay Requirements

Unpublished essays on any aspect of Mesoamerican Studies are eligible for submission. The essay may be a revised seminar paper, MA paper, doctoral dissertation exam essay or an expanded version of a presentation at a professional meeting.

Co-authored student essays are eligible. Co-authored student-faculty essays are not eligible.

Papers submitted for consideration should be under 40 pages in length, double spaced, and should conform to the style of a major professional journal, such as American Antiquity or American Anthropologist.

Students should consult the style guide of the journal and make sure that bibliographic entries, subheadings and other elements conform to the correct style. All necessary tables and illustrations must be included, but they do not need to be in final, publishable format.

Procedures for Submission

A submission cover letter should include the following: context in which the essay took shape, i.e., the circumstances under which it was conceived and written, and plans, if any (not required), for submission for publication.

Criteria for Evaluation

Essays will be judged by a committee of IMS faculty for professional quality, following standard disciplinary criteria.

Undergraduate Essay Award In Mesoamerican Studies

About the Award

This award recognizes outstanding undergraduate achievement in the field of Mesoamerican studies, as judged by a written essay. The award will be $100, to be used as the awardee sees fit.

The winner is usually announced in mid-April of each year and is recognized (in the published program and in person) at the Honors Convocation on Commencement weekend in May.


All undergraduate students at UAlbany are eligible for this award.


Essay Requirements

Unpublished essays on any aspect of Mesoamerican studies are eligible for submission. The essay may be a revised term paper, a senior honors thesis or any other essay.

Co-authored student essays are eligible. Co-authored student-faculty essays are not eligible.

Papers submitted for consideration should be under 30 pages in length, double-spaced, and should conform to the style of a major professional journal such as American Antiquity or American Anthropologist.

Students should consult the style guide of the journal and make sure that bibliographic entries, subheadings, and other elements conform to the correct style. All necessary tables and illustrations must be included, but the illustrations do not need to be in final, publishable format.

Procedure for Submission

Three copies of the essay should be submitted to the IMS office in Arts and Sciences (AS) 233 or the IMS mailbox (AS 236), including a digital copy in PDF to [email protected].

Students should arrange to have a faculty member write a letter of reference that discusses the context and importance of the paper.

A submission cover letter statement should include the following:

  • Context in which the essay took shape, i. e., the circumstances under which it was conceived and written

  • The name of the faculty reference

Criteria for Evaluation

Essays will be judged by a committee of IMS faculty for their professional quality, following standard disciplinary criteria.


First Encounter Scholarship for Mesoamerican Fieldwork

This scholarship is established to fund travel to Mesoamerica to conduct preliminary work that may allow students to carry out individual research in the area.

Appropriate activities include first visits to research sites, language and/or paleography training, or other preliminary activities that may be essential to the successful completion of individual fieldwork or related research.

All graduate students enrolled in a degree program in the UAlbany Departments of Anthropology, History or Sociology with research interests in Mesoamerican studies are eligible for this award.

Three copies of the proposal should be submitted. Proposals should consist of the following:

  • Application Cover Page

  • Project Description: This should be a short description (two to three single-spaced typed pages) of the proposed project. It should describe the research problem, give the theoretical background of the research, specify objectives and methods, provide a statement of the anthropological significance of the project, and state how the research relates to your degree program and other research you have done or plan to do. Please add a bibliography of one or two pages.

  • Schedule and Budget: In one page, provide a proposed schedule of activities, a budget of expenses, and a statement of actual and potential additional sources of funding for the research.

  • Curriculum Vitae

Criteria for selection include the scholarly value of the research project, the level of professionalism demonstrated, and the relationship of the project to the student's degree program.

Christopher DeCormier Memorial Scholarship
Christopher DeCormier
Christopher DeCormier

About the Scholarship

Every year, this award is given to one or more graduate or undergraduate students to conduct research on Mesoamerica. Preference is given to IMS student associates.

The scholarship was established to honor the memory of Christopher DeCormier, a UAlbany student with strong interests in Maya culture and fieldwork.

Proposed projects may be in any subfield of anthropology but should focus on interpreting some aspect of ancient or modern Mesoamerican culture or society. Fieldwork should not be an end in itself but should contribute to an understanding of some feature of Mesoamerican culture or thought.

Making a donation to the Christopher DeCormier Memorial Scholarship

Dear Friends of Christopher DeCormier:

I would like to introduce myself to you as the original Director of the Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, and now a regular board member of that institute.

It was under my direction that Chris originally spent a year abroad among the Quiche-Mayas of Guatemala in order to learn their language and become familiar with their culture. Chris was a wonderful student and person. He was bright, hard-working, caring of others, dedicated, and energetic. It was a joy to work with him, and to watch him grow as a scholar. He undoubtedly would have become one of the leading Mayan linguists in the U.S., had not cancer cut short his highly productive life. The scholarship which his family initiated and supported has always seemed to me to be the perfect memorial to Chris. It has supported many young people like Chris to do what he was not able to do: to complete their studies and go on to live productive, humanitarian lives.

IMS is proud of the fact that all the scholarship funds go exclusively to support student research in Mexico and Central America (Mesoamerica), and none for administration or any other purpose. Further, each round of competition has attracted several capable young scholars, and, thus, without fail the awards have gone to deserving candidates. We make a commitment to you that we will continue to administer the scholarship in the interest of young scholars and in a fair and just manner.

At current funding levels most students must later find additional resources to return to the field and gather needed information. We are trying to increase the overall fund in order to provide student scholars with sufficient finances to maintain themselves for at least one year in the field. Funding at this level would make it possible for most students to gather enough information upon which to base a doctoral dissertation. We ask you, therefore, to be generous in your donations.

We are pleased to be partners with you in this very human endeavor to keep Chris DeCormier's spirit alive.

Robert M. Carmack, PhD
Emeritus Professor of Anthropology

To offer a donation, please send a check, payable to the Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, to:

The Institute for Mesoamerican Studies
Department of Anthropology
Arts and Sciences 233
The University at Albany
1400 Washington Ave.
Albany, NY 12222

About Christopher DeCormier and the Memorial Scholarship

Dear Friends,

In the days immediately following Christopher's death in November of 1977, we both felt that we must reach out to find some way to transcend that finality. We knew that it could only come about through our involvement with young men and women who shared with our son his commitment to humanity, his passion for the adventure of life, and his willingness to meet it more than halfway. We decided to set up a scholarship fund in Christopher's memory.

We called Robert Carmack at the University at Albany to ask his help in establishing the scholarship. We knew that he had been the single greatest influence in Christopher's decision to pursue studies in anthropology, specializing in Maya studies, when he was an undergraduate at Albany. In fact, we remember very well the first time we met Dr. Carmack, sitting on the grass outside the University building on a late May morning, listening while he briefed our son before Christopher's first field trip to Guatemala.

The Christopher DeCormier Scholarship Fund became a reality in 1978. Since then, many young scholars have received assistance enabling them to pursue a variety of exciting field research opportunities. Now in the fourth decade of the fund, we would like to salute all the young men and women who have thus far been its recipients, as well as all of the members of the University at Albany's Institute for Mesoamerican Studies. We feel privileged to be a part of your community, and to be able, through you, to celebrate and reaffirm the spirit that was Christopher.

Louise and Robert DeCormier

Textile Collections

Over the years, through donation and acquisitions, the IMS has assembled a collection of textiles, mostly from Guatemala and Mexico.


Triqui Textile Collection

Thanks to the generosity of Román Vidal López and the Albany Triqui community, the IMS has been able to start a collection of Triqui textiles from San Juan Copala.

Access a Spanish-English-Triqui dictionary.

Items in the Triqui Textile Collection



A man's bag

A man's red bag with white stripes, red rope fringe and colorful stitching.

A man's belt

A man's red fabric belt with green, white and red silk ribbons.

A man's pants (Xroj in Triqui)

A man's white linen pants.


Close up of a man's white linen pants, with multicolored buttons along the ankle.

Men's shirts (Cotoó in Triqui)

A man's red silk shirt.


A man's green silk shirt.

Women's huipils (Ro'nó in Triqui)

A woman's red fabric huipil with green, yellow and pink silk ribbons.


A woman's red fabric huipil with purple, yellow and blue silk ribbons.

Small looms

A red and black weaving with multicolored embellishments on a small loom.


A red and white weaving with multicolored embellishments on a small loom.

Backstrap looms

A half finished red weaving on a backstrap loom.

Palmer Textile Collection

In 2010, the IMS received a generous textile donation from Diane Palmer, who lived in Guatemala in the 1970s.

The Palmer collection focuses on daily-wear clothing with pieces dating back into the 1930s. The collection is currently being catalogued and will be available for research use.

The collection is divided by geographical provenience of the textiles:

  • Mesoamerica: Diane Palmer has collected a variety of fajas (belts), cloths, and huipiles (women's blouses) from both Guatemala and Mexico.
  • Andes: The Palmer Collection includes belts from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru
Diane Palmer on Collecting Textiles

I’ve always been a collector, of one thing or another, since childhood. Living in Latin America in the 1970s , it was easy to find many different collection possibilities. We decided to collect textiles and necklaces from the places we lived including Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and, our main focus, Guatemala. I am also a student of history, in general, and Latin American history and culture in particular. The history of the reasons for differences in clothing in Guatemala, why they still exist today, and the impact of this is a history of Guatemala.

Since the Spanish conquest of Guatemala, each village developed a different huipil (blouse), faja (belt) and cinta (headband) for women. Men’s indigenous clothing also differed village to village, but is no longer as prevalent as women’s. The story has it that in order to make sure indigenous people did not run away from their master’s encomienda (landholding), each village had different trajes (clothing)- colors and designs, as well as different glass bead necklaces for women. Thus, if someone did try to run away, he or she was easy to spot- the clothing was different from others in the new village.

Geography also played a role in the diversity of dress. Villages are separated by steep mountains and rugged terrain which has led to isolation and determined dress distinctions. According to Henry Duflon (OAS, 1980) in 1950 there were over 100 villages in highland Guatemala that had their own distinctive dress.

A sparkly red faja from Sololá, Guatamala.
A faja from Sololá, Guatamala

Over the centuries, colors and even designs have gradually changed. Usually change results from a major event because a particular colored thread was no longer obtainable, or villagers moved to a new place and patterns changed or merged. During the years we lived in Guatemala, after the major earthquake in 1976 we noticed colors change in various village textiles. Solola is an example. Today both men and women use sparkling threads in their weaving, something not present before the earthquake. Another is in Parrramos; fajas in the early 1900s were red with thin brown and double dark blue stripes; in the 1970s they were red with lavender, green, and dark blue stripes.

Reasons to sell textiles, are actually varied. Sometimes it is simply a market issue. Other times, especially for cofradias it is a matter of economic need for cash. In this vein, one day we witnessed a woman try to sell her huipil to a textile shopkeeper. The blouse was nothing special in design, and though she kept insisting, he refused. She left in tears. We followed her and eventually asked what she wanted for the blouse and why she wanted to sell it so badly. She said she was desperate for $1.25 to buy medicine. We bought the huipil from her and it became special to us.

In collecting beads, we also learned cultural economic lessons. In Chiapas, Mexico where we purchased the “Christmas” beads, the first time we went we found hardly any for sale; the next time everyone seemed to offer them for sale. It turned out that the first time had been during a lull in the agricultural cycle; the second, at the start of planting season when seeds and fertilizers were needed, and cash was necessary to pay for these items. We believe that the ability to purchase very old or special cofradia (brother or sisterhood organizations) textiles may also very well depend on the need for cash.

Christmas beads from Chiapas, Mexico.
Christmas beads from Chiapas, Mexico

The bead or necklace collecting grew into an interest in trade beads in general. We learned a great deal about why one town or region preferred a particular size or style of bead, and about the impact of their preferences on traders. There is a vast global history of trade beads and their impact in many countries that were colonized- in Africa, Asia, and the US, as well as Latin America. We wrote several articles for the Bead Journal (no longer published). Trade beads are still a fascination for me whenever I travel.

Perhaps the changes in clothing today reflect the political, economic, and cultural changes in Guatemalan society. On return to Guatemala since the Peace Accords of 1996 and with the resulting strengthening of indigenous pride and political influence , I have noticed that many more women in cities and towns wear indigenous huipiles, fajas, and cortes (skirts) rather than ‘western’-style clothing, but the styles are of whatever mixture of color and design and machine-made. It is now more acceptable to wear indigenous style clothing and no longer necessary to differentiate by village or town of origin. Nevertheless, there are still many rural and isolated towns where particular designs and colors predominate, and some weaving is still hand-done. This is a topic which could be discussed at great length, but the distinctions, the reasons for them, their impact on culture, and the changes over time are what drew me to collecting textiles and bead necklaces.

Collecting textiles and beads gave us an entree into villages and conversations with people. In the 1970s it was not dangerous to travel throughout the country. We could, and did, camp anywhere with our young children. We preferred walking around villages and towns, talking to people and listening to their stories, rather than just driving through and taking photos of houses, markets, and people.

Over time the collection became an important part of understanding and appreciating Guatemalan culture. The more we saw and heard, the more we learned about different designs and patterns, the more we understood the nature of indigenous isolation, pride, and enforced repression. When we lived or traveled in other places in Latin America, especially Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru, textile and bead collecting gave us similar entree and knowledge of a particular culture there.

The reason I donated the collection to two museums, Tulane and the University at Albany, is really the same reason I loved collecting textiles and trade bead necklaces. They are exquisite examples of personal and cultural expressions that can be shared with others. While my children appreciate the beauty and value of the textiles, none has a particular interest in keeping them. We would like others to be able to appreciate their beauty and the differences from one town or region to another, as well as to be able to learn more about what is becoming a lost art. We hope viewing and studying the necklaces and clothing from Guatemala- or Mexico, Ecuador, or Peru- will encourage interest in and understanding of indigenous cultures. In addition, the collection also provides examples of different weaving techniques within a country or in different regions of Latin America.

Diane N. Palmer
Belmont, Massachusetts

News & Events



IMS hosts faculty lectures, guest speakers and other events throughout the year.

  • "From Weaving to Well-Being: Maya Women’s Quest for a Dignified Life"
    Dr. Joyce Bennett (Department of Anthropology, Connecticut College) will speak at 3:30 p.m. March 8, 2024, in the Fine Arts Building, Room 126, as part of the IMS Speaker Series.



Our Team


Verónica Pérez Rodríguez
Verónica Pérez Rodríguez
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
Arts & Sciences 113

Faculty Associates

The Institute's Board of Directors is made up of our Faculty Associates, who come from all four fields of anthropology and work throughout Mesoamerica.

Louise M. Burkhart
Louise M. Burkhart
Professor Emerita
Department of Anthropology
Arts & Sciences 203
Jennifer Burrell
Jennifer Burrell
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology; Department of Africana, Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies
Arts & Sciences 244
Lauren Clemens
Lauren Clemens
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
Arts & Sciences 237
Joanna Dreby
Joanna Dreby
Department of Sociology; Department of Africana, Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies
Arts & Sciences 342
Robert W. Jarvenpa
Professor Emeritus
Department of Anthropology
John Justeson
John Justeson
Professor Emeritus
Department of Anthropology
Arts & Sciences 240
Walter E. Little
Walter E. Little
Professor and Chair of the Department of Africana, Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies
Department of Anthropology; Department of Africana, Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies
Arts & Sciences 245
Marilyn A. Masson
Marilyn A. Masson
Professor and Chair
Department of Anthropology
Arts & Sciences Building, Room 109
Verónica Pérez Rodríguez
Verónica Pérez Rodríguez
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
Arts & Sciences 113
Robert M. Rosenswig
Robert M. Rosenswig
Department of Anthropology
Arts & Sciences 108
John F. Schwaller
John F. Schwaller
Professor Emeritus
Department of History
Social Science 060F

Student Associates

The Institute for Mesoamerican Studies has a dynamic group of student associates working toward advanced degrees in anthropology at UAlbany, with a regional focus in Mesoamerica.

Archaeology Students
  • Alba Tellez Nieto

  • Antonio Martinez Tuñón

  • Joy Przybyla

Socio-cultural Students
  • Alondra Aca García

  • Heungtae Yang

Linguistics Students
  • Jessica Holtz

Sociology Students
  • Fatima Rodríguez Pacas