Current Research Domains

An overarching outcome of my work −and a major goal −is to uncover the “hidden histories” of underrepresented groups in the historical records of the American Southwest, and to explain the causes and consequences of social and political transformations following European contact. To gain this understanding, my research spans the disciplinary boundaries of anthropology, history, and the physical sciences.

Photograph by J. Andrew Darling

Photograph by J. Andrew Darling

Research Domains



I take a landscape and apprenticeship approach that combines insights from traditional potters, geological source survey, replicative studies, and geochemical techniques to explore issues of tradition, identity and social transformation in the production of modern Native American and archaeological ceramics.

Apprenticship as Historical Memory

My ceramics research draws on themes presented by Michelle Hegmon and Sunday Eiselt in their edited volume "Engaged Anthropology" of which apprenticeship with a cultural expert is one of the ultimate expressions. As a former apprentice to a Jicarilla Apache artisan, the late Felipe Ortega, I have been able to unite ethnographic approaches and the study of Native craft with archaeological investigations of material culture.  These insights have found a place in studies of O'Odham and Pee Posh clay harvesting in the central Phoenix Basin and the development of art market traditions in micaceous pottery manufacture in New Mexico.  Current work on a book length monograph covers many aspects of this research including the perpetuation of historical memory through the practice of traditional craft.

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How did Jicarilla Apache women corner the micaceous ceramic market in cookwares by transporting clay on horseback and producing ceramics "on the hoof" in 19th-century New Mexico?

  • Apprenticeship

  • NAA and micaceous clay sourcing

  • Replicative studies.

  • Gender, tradition, and identity

Jicarilla Micaceous

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How did Hohokam artisans utilize a rich and varied ceramic resource landscape to create one of the largest pottery industries in the American Southwest? 

  • NSF Funded

  • Arizona ochre and mica schist sourcing

  • LA ICP-MS and experimental techniques

  • Tribal Archaeology

  • Social complexity 


Featured in SMU Research News

Hohokam Ceramics



My ceramic and archaeological research focuses on the demographic, economic, and social transformation of indigenous societies in the American Southwest following Spanish and American colonization of New Mexico. The introduction of Indian slavery and the forced population dislocations by the Spanish fostered violence and insurrection by Pueblo and Plains Indian peoples through much of the 17th-century.  Economic reforms instituted by the Spanish Bourbon Monarchy stabilized local and regional economies by the late 18th-century, bringing relative peace and unprecedented demographic and economic growth to the mestizo descendants of these Spanish colonizers. New cultural patterns and craft traditions flourished under the Bourbon regime until the American invasion of the mid 1800s, which created widespread dependencies on wage labor and other institutions that still impact Hispanic and Indian communities today.  

Plains Apaches. After an 18th-century pa

Segment of SegesserI hide painting depicting Indian auxiliaries with Spanish weapons attacking a tepee village defended by Indians on foot.

Jicarilla Enclavement

Following their expulsion from the Plains in the late 16th century, the Jicarilla Apache of New Mexico thrived in the hidden spaces located between Pueblo and Spanish settlement for nearly 200 years prior to their confinement on the Dulce reservation. This research considers the impacts of Plains Indian violence and European contact on the Jicarilla Apache, whose strategies for survival included their unique transformation of the bison trade into a brisk commerce in mountain products, including glistening micaceous cook pots, where barter among women was the rule and the men trafficked in contraband, protection, and game. Enclavement was the Jicarilla practice of invisibility – to be present but unseen.  


Featured in SMU Research News


Vecino Ethnogenesis 

In the parlance of colonial Spanish, a “vecino” was a neighbor or land-owning citizen.  Many multi-ethnic and Native American individuals attained this legal status and flourished as a new and growing population under the economic reforms of the Bourbon monarchy of the late 1700s, undermining notions of class and race in 18th-century New Mexico. This research considers how New Mexico’s Spanish colonial society transformed into a persistent indigenous community with strong connections to a distinctive Indian heritage. An extension of this work involves how Vecino children experienced these changes during the American territorial period.

Featured in Archaeology A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America and in SMU Research News.

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The history of colonialism in the U.S. Southwest and the inter-cultural and ecological interactions that it entails, has a strong bearing on present disparities in education, healthcare, and access to critical resources on Indian reservations and in rural Hispanic towns.  More and more, these communities have asked archaeologists to provide the “hard evidence” of their history and cultural ancestry for use in claims for land, water, and other resources.  These questions touch on now-classic themes of archaeological investigation such as interregional trade, socio-political and demographic change, and the movements or migrations of people in the past. Conflicts over land, water, and mineral resources will continue in the future, and archaeological data will certainly play a role in resolving these challenges.  


  • 2016-present: Ad-Hoc Director, SMU Archaeology Research Collections

  • 2012-present: Co-Owner, Southwest Heritage Research LLC.

  • 2009-present: Research Affiliate, Gila River Indian Community, Cultural Resource Management Program.

  • 2006-2011: Director, SMU-in-Taos Community Based Archaeology Field School.

  • 2003-2005: Project Manager, Gila River Indian Community, Cultural Resource Management Program.


Selected Projects

  • 2017-2019 Hopi Expert: Satellite Inventory of Hopi Irrigated Lands in Tributaries of the Little Colorado River (in General Adjudication of all Rights to use Water in the Little Colorado River / CV-6917-203)

  • 2013 Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo Expert: Population History, Agricultural Land Use and Cultural Continuity in the Ohkay Owingeh Homeland, Rio Chama Watershed (New Mexico, ex rel. State Engineer v. Aragon)

  • 2008 State of New Mexico Expert: Critical Review of United States and Ohkay Owingeh Expert Reports Regarding Precolumbian Water Use in the Santa Cruz and Truchas Watershed (New Mexico, ex rel. State Engineer v. Abbott).

  • 2004 Picuris Pueblo Expert: Sangre de Cristo Micaceous Clays and Picuris Pueblo Ceramics: Geochemical Evidence for a Picuris Pueblo Clay Source District. (Picuris v. Ogleby Norton Mine)

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