Joyce Marcus

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Robert L. Carneiro Distinguished Professor of Social Evolution, Anthropology: Director, Museum of Anthropological Archaeology; Curator, Latin American Archaeology, Museum of Anthropological Archaeology

4038 Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, 1109 Geddes Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079

Office Location(s): 4038 Museums
Phone: 734.763.5164
View Curriculum Vitae

  • Affiliation(s)
    • Anthropology
  • About

    Joyce Marcus has carried out fieldwork in Nevada (Lovelock Cave), California (the La Brea Tar Pit), Mexico (San José Mogote), Guatemala (El Mirador, Tres Islas, Naranjo, Tintal, Chunhuitz), and Peru (Cerro Azul). Marcus entered the field of Archaeology after Heinrich Berlin had shown that certain hieroglyphs (which he called ‘emblem glyphs’) referred to the royal dynasties of Maya cities. By plotting the distribution of emblem glyphs, Marcus showed that some Maya states had a four-tiered hierarchy in which secondary centers mentioned their dynastic capital, tertiary centers mentioned their secondary centers and so on. A byproduct of this work was her identification of the previously unknown emblem glyphs of Calakmul and Motul de San José. This discovery led to excavations by William Folan that showed Calakmul was one of the biggest Maya capitals, at the center of a hexagonal lattice of secondary centers. Marcus then began to document the rise of Maya states, dating the moment when each capital acquired its emblem glyph. This led to her fleshing out a “Dynamic Model” which shows the way Maya regions went through cycles of political centralization and breakdown.  Marcus then decided to see if she could document the rise and fall of the Zapotec state by analyzing the hieroglyphs of that undeciphered script. She eventually showed a Zapotec pattern of centralization and breakdown similar to the Maya. She went on to co-direct the University of Michigan project at San José Mogote, Oaxaca, which produced Mexico’s oldest hieroglyphic monument, as well as key data on the social and political evolution of the Zapotec. Marcus went on to investigate the relationship between archaeological data and Spanish eyewitness accounts by excavating the site of Cerro Azul, Peru. In 2008 she published its architecture and pottery; in 2009 she published data on its brewery; she is currently working on evidence for its economic specialization, division of labor (fishing vs. weaving), and the nature of individual style, as expressed in the textiles and workbaskets buried with female weavers.

  • Education
    • M.A., Harvard University, 1971
    • Ph.D., Harvard University, 1974
  • Awards
    • Elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1997)
    • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1997)
    • Elected to the American Philosophical Society (2008)
    • Cotsen Book Prize for Excavations at Cerro Azul, Peru: The Architecture and Pottery (2008)
    • Shanghai Award for contributions to archaeology (2013)
    • Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, University of Michigan (2007)
    • Mentor Recognition Award, University of California at San Diego
  • Research Areas of Interest
    • origins of the village
    • the origins of writing
    • comparative chiefdoms and states
    • the emergence of social and political inequality
    • the political economy of states and empires
  • Selected Publications:
  • Books