Research and Teaching Interests
Archaeology of complex societies, Memory and identity, Anthropology of death, Identity and social difference, Material culture, Museums, Politics of the past, Geoarchaeology; Iberian Peninsula, Europe
I am an anthropological archaeologist interested in the ways people used (and use) material culture, the remains of the dead, and monuments to create, enhance, and challenge sociopolitical difference and inequality. I am intrigued by the ways that social phenomena and cultural values come to be materialized, and how their materiality triggers social action. For me, archaeology is also the study of how the past (or how we imagine that past) intersects with contemporary life, so I also enjoy projects that examine how, when, and why the past gets enlisted for social, political, or economic purposes. I welcome opportunities to work with students on research related to these questions.
My research has concentrated on the histories of the people who lived in Portugal and Spain from the Neolithic through the Bronze Age (4000-1000 BC), a dynamic period characterized by episodes of political centralization and devolution. In this research, I bring together a concern for memory and object biographies with insights gained through geochemistry, geographic information systems, and bioarchaeology to understand the ways that people of the past used objects and monuments of their own past, such as heirlooms and ancestral burials, to shape their futures.
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I have written three books:
- The Archaeology of the Iberian Peninsula: From the Paleolithic to the Bronze Age (Cambridge University Press, 2020).
- with Anna J. Waterman, Jennifer Mack, Joe Alan Artz, and Liv Nilsson-Stutz. In Praise of Small Things: Excavations at the Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age Burial of Bolores (Torres Vedras), Portugal. (British Archaeological Reports, International Series. Oxford, 2015).
- You can read more and access publications about this research on the Bolores Project website: http://bolores.lib.uiowa.edu
- Heraldry for the Dead: Memory, Identity, and the Engraved Stone Plaques of Neolithic Iberia (University of Texas Press, 2008).
And I have edited (or co-edited) the following books:
- with Pedro Díaz-del-Rio and Inés Sastre. The Matter of Prehistory: Papers in Honor of Antonio Gilman Guillén. (Bibliotheca Praehistorica Hispana, XXXVI, 2020)
- with Vasilis Tsamis. 2011. Material Mnemonics: Everyday Memory in Prehistoric Europe (Oxbow, 2011).
- Comparative Archaeologies: The American Southwest (AD 900-1600) and the Iberian Peninsula (3000-1500 BC) (Oxbow, 2010).
- The Origins of Complex Societies in Late Prehistoric Iberia (International Monographs in Prehistory, 1995).
My current research is exploring the nature of Islamic engagement with the pre-Islamic material remains of the Iberian Peninsula, particularly prehistoric burials and settlement sites. When the Berber commander Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād and his troops crossed what is now known as the Strait of Gibraltar in 711 CE and led what was to become the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, then known as al-Andalus, the Iberian landscape was dotted with thousands of highly visible monuments constructed by pre-Islamic peoples. These included megaliths (large stone burials and standing stones) and stone-walled hilltop settlements dating to between the 6th and 3rd millennium BCE (the Neolithic and Copper Age). How did Islamic peoples engage with these ancient remains? Were they ignored, defaced, or destroyed, as they dated to the time before Muhammad, referred to as jāhilīyah or the Age of Ignorance? As an archaeologist whose work has centered on Iberian prehistory, memory, object biographies, and materiality, I find these questions extremely compelling. Little systematic research has been carried out on these questions, although there are well-documented cases of Islamic burials in prehistoric megalithic tombs, such as at Alberite, Menga, and Viera in Spain, and the Anta de S. Gens I in Portugal. Islamic peoples were also aware of and wrote about Roman and Visigothic cultures and their material remains in Southeast Iberia, particularly in the areas of Córdoba and Sevilla. In other areas of the Islamic world, such as the Arabian Peninsula (Shalem 2018, 2019) and Morocco (Ennahid and Ross 2017), scholars have begun to demonstrate far more Islamic engagement with pre-Islamic objects and sites than previously recognized.