National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Jayur M. Mehta

Affiliation: Florida State University

Dr. Jayur Madhusudan Mehta is an Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Florida State University. He holds degrees from the University of Alabama (M.A.) and University of North Carolina (B.A.), and earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Tulane University. His research specializes in the study of North American Native Americans, human-environment relationships, and the consequences of French and Spanish colonization in the Gulf South. He is a Stone lecturer for the AIA’s 2023-2024 National Lecture Program.


The Mississippi River Delta is an expansive and dynamic coastal delta that has attracted human settlement for thousands of years. Over this time frame, hundreds of monumental complexes were constructed amidst the marshes, bayous, and river levees. These complexes fundamentally reworked the ecology of the deltaic plain, creating topography and enhancing biodiversity, whilst also creating novel viewsheds from which to see and be seen. These monumental places were engineered to last and they were emplaced to reflect the anthropogenic and natural worlds. In the French colonial era, the river delta became the seat of a new empire, an entrepot from which massive wealth was generated, and which rested on the backs of enslaved Africans and rapidly disappearing Indigenous communities. My most recent excavations are a community-directed effort to highlight the daily, material, and religious lives of enslaved Africans and free people of color. Herein, I review the archaeological history of the Mississippi River Delta, showcase my excavations, and articulate a path forward for a reciprocal archaeology that reaches as far forward into the future as it does into the past.

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