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Archaeology professor secures grant to conduct interdisciplinary research in Mesoamerica

Archaeology professor secures grant to conduct interdisciplinary research in Mesoamerica

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Jessica Munson, Ph.D., assistant professor of archaeology and anthropology, has been awarded a $14,000 H. and T. King Grant by the Society for American Archaeology. The grant will fund geoarchaeological research in support of Munson’s ongoing excavation at Altar de Sacrificios, a Maya site located along the Mexico-Guatemala border.

Between May 2021 and April 2022, Munson will oversee geoarchaeological investigations along the Usumacinta River and its tributaries in Chiapas, Mexico, and Petén, Guatemala, in collaboration with Jill Onken, Ph.D., geosciences research associate at the University of Arizona and a geoarchaeology and geomorphology consultant.

“Floodplain environments like the Upper Usumacinta Confluence Zone provide rich resources and fertile soils for human habitation and agriculture—both in the past and the present,” Munson explained. “However, very little research has been carried out to understand how these landscapes changed over the course of human history.” The Munson-Onken research project seeks to build a detailed chronology of human occupation and river channel migration over time in order to understand how landscape changes shaped prehistoric human-environment interactions during the last 3000 years.

By providing the necessary environmental context to understand changing human occupation and settlement in the region over long spans, the project will inform Munson’s household excavations at Altar de Sacrificios, to be carried out over the next three years with funding from the National Science Foundation.

Munson’s award is just the second H. and T. King Grant to be made by the Society for American Archaeology. The award is given annually to further research that promises transformative contributions to the understanding of precolumbian cultures in Latin America.

The Lycoming College archaeology program provides a solid foundation in the theories, methods, and diverse approaches that archaeologists use to answer important questions about cultural diversity and social change through time and across vast geographic regions. Students are provided with unique field experiences, individualized curriculum with diverse electives, and extensive internship opportunities. To learn more, visit

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