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Interdisciplinary Research Methods in Ethnohistorical Archaeology

Location: Oaxaca, Mexico

June 15, 2014 to July 12, 2014

Session dates: 
Single session

Application Deadline: 
Sunday, June 1, 2014

Deadline Type: 

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



UCLA, UC San Diego & Institute for Field Research

Project Director:

Dr. John M.D. Pohl, UCLA; Dr. Danny Zborover, UC San Diego

Project Description

The purpose of this field school is to introduce students to innovative research methods in the integration of archaeology, art history, ethnohistory, and ethnography. Mexico in general and the vast state of Oaxaca in particular create an ideal research environment, where the indigenous cultures constructed monumental sites, ruled over city-states, invented complex writing systems, and crafted among the finest artistic traditions in the world, some of which are still perpetuated to this day. The clash of the Indigenous and the European worlds in the 16th century created a most unique culture, the legacy of which underlies the modern nation of Mexico.  By traveling through the mountains, valleys, and coasts of Oaxaca and immersing themselves in this rich study environment, students will gain direct experience with archaeological, ethnohistorical, and ethnographic research methods and resources. In addition, the course aims to provide insights into the practicalities of conducting academic research in Mexico, by visiting research institutes and hearing on-site lectures from local experts.  A broader question to be addressed is how new modes of inquiry in archaeology can reflect on approaches more consistent with the logic inherent in the scientific method. This interactive course will explore methods that avoid one-sided dependencies, and will link the past and present through the exploration of those surviving ancient sites and living communities which are directly referenced in the ethnohistorical records.

Period(s) of Occupation: Formative, Classic, Postclassic, and Colonial periods

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Full program

Minimum age: 
18 years old

Experience required: 
No previous experience is required

Room and Board Arrangements

Students will be staying in hotels in Oaxaca City and in local inns while traveling to the Mixteca and the coast. All students will be sharing a room based on room size and availability.
Oaxacan food is a wonderful blend of European and indigenous cuisines, and dining there is a cultural experience in itself. Specialized diets (vegan, kosher, etc.) are difficult to maintain, and vegetarians might find options fairly limited. Monday through Friday, breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided by the program. Students are responsible for their weekend meals. 

All room and board costs are included in tuition (excluding weekend meals)

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
Connecticut College
Number of credits offered 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units)


Contact Information
Institute for Field Research
1855 Industrial St. #106
Los Angeles
United States
424 226-6130
Recommended Bibliography: 

Joyce, Rosemary. 2004   Mesoamerica: A Working Model for Archaeology. In Mesoamerican Archaeology: Theory and Practice, edited by Julia Hendon and Rosemary Joyce, pp. 1-42. Blackwell, Cornwall.

Zeitlin, Robert. 2001   Oaxaca and Tehuantepec region. In Archaeology of Ancient Mexico & Central America: an Encyclopedia, edited by Susan Toby Evans and David Webster, pp. 537-546. Garland, New York. 

Pohl, John M. D., Virginia M. Fields, and Victoria I. Lyall. 2012   Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico. In Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico, edited by Virginia M. Fields, John M. D. Pohl, and Victoria I. Lyall, pp. 15-47. Scala Publishers/LACMA, London and Los Angeles.

Zborover, Danny. (Forthcoming)   From ‘1-Eye’ to Bruce Byland: Literate Societies and Integrative Approaches in Oaxaca. In Bridging the Gaps: Integrating Archaeology and History in Oaxaca, Mexico; A Volume in Memory of Bruce E. Byland, edited by Danny Zborover and Peter Kroefges, pp. 1-45. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Pohl, John M. D.  2003a   Creation Stories, Hero Cults, and Alliance Building (pp. 61-66);

Pohl, John M. D.  2003b   Ritual Ideology and Commerce in the Southern Mexican Highlands (pp. 172-177);

Pohl, John M. D.  2003c   Ritual and Iconographic Variability in Mixteca-Puebla Polychrome Pottery (pp. 201-206);

Pohl, John M. D.  2003d   Royal Marriages and Confederacy Building among the Eastern Nahuas, Mixtecs, and Zapotecs (243-248).

(All 2003 articles in: The Postclassic Mesoamerican World, edited by Michael E. Smith and Frances F. Berdan. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.)

Oudijk, Michel.  2008   The Postclassic Period in the Valley of Oaxaca: The Archaeological and Ethnohistorical Record. In After Monte Alban: Transformation and Negotiation in Oaxaca, Mexico, edited by Jeffrey Blomster, pp. 96-118. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.  

Pohl, John M. D. 2004   The archaeology of history in Postclassic Oaxaca. In Mesoamerican Archaeology: Theory and Practice, edited by Julia Hendon and Rosemary Joyce, pp. 217-238. Blackwell, Cornwall.

Chance, John K. 1987   Colonial Ethnohistory of Oaxaca. In Supplement to the Handbook of Middle American Indians: Vol. 4, Ethnohistory, edited by Ronald Spores, pp. 165-189. University of Texas Press, Austin.                               

Romero Frizzi, Maria de los Angeles. 1994   Indigenous Mentality and Spanish Power: The Conquest in Oaxaca. In Caciques and Their People: A Volume in Honor of Ronald Spores. Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Terraciano, Kevin. 2000   The Colonial Mixtec Community. Hispanic American Historical Review 80(1):1-42.

Jansen, Maarten. 2004   Archaeology and Indigenous Peoples: Attitudes towards Power in Ancient Oaxaca. In A Companion to Archaeology, edited by John Bintliff, pp. 235-252. Blackwell, Oxford.