Departmental field programs include on-going research in Peru, conducted by Jean Hudson; in Quintana Roo, Mexico, co-directed by Laura Villamil and Jason Sherman; as well as past projects in Puebla, Mexico, conducted by Melvin Fowler (emeritus) and John Richards.
Work in Peru focuses on ecological relationships between humans, their cultural systems, and local faunal resources. Projects in southern Peru include zooarchaeological analysis of two coastal preceramic sites, Kilometer 4 and Villa del Mar; a close working relationship with the Museo Contisuyo in Moquegua, Peru, has been essential to this research. A study abroad program during Winterim 2002 involved 12 students traveling to Peru during the month of January for an intensive introduction to Peruvian archaeology and applied zooarchaeology. A new research program is underway in northern Peru and involves ethnoarchaeological research with modern reed boat fishing communities and the development of local comparative osteological collections.
Previous UWM work in Mexico was sparked by Fowler's 1961-1963 involvement with Richard MacNeish and the Tehuacan Archaeological-Botanical project at Coxcatlan Rockshelter in Puebla, Mexico. With support from the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society and other funding sources, Fowler's UWM research developed into a long-term program in the Valle de Puebla region of Puebla, Mexico. Through surface survey, aerial remote sensing, archaeological excavation, and geoarchaeological studies, the Puebla Preclassic project sought to investigate the rise of early village farming communities and the role of water-control technologies in the emergence of complex societies.
Beginning in the summer of 2008, UWM researchers will initiate a long-term, multifaceted archaeological project in south-central Quintana Roo, Mexico—an important but relatively under-studied area of the Maya lowlands. Laura Villamil will direct large-scale excavations at the ancient Maya settlement of Margarita. The aim of these excavations will be to elucidate how social groups in the urban core of the site responded to the sociopolitical changes that characterized the Classic period (AD 250-900). Concurrently, Jason Sherman will direct investigations in the hinterland around Margarita. This research will integrate survey with excavations of households and small settlements in order to explore how rural, largely commoner populations interacted with the urban inhabitants of Margarita, and how they were affected by-and/or influenced-the evolution of regional states. Student participation will play an essential role in the research at Margarita.