Lisa Overholtzer 

Anthropological Archaeologist, Assistant Professor


PhD, 2012, Anthropology, Northwestern University


Dr. Overholtzer is an anthropological archaeologist who investigates the everyday material practices of ordinary people living in ancient and colonial central Mexico. She has conducted extensive fieldwork at Xaltocan, where she investigated the ways in which local household life was transformed under the successive Aztec and Spanish imperial conquests. By exploring how ordinary people reconfigured their material surroundings and (re)formed their daily lives after two drastic military defeats, this research re-centers our understanding of Aztec and Spanish colonial empires around the lives of rural commoners. Dr. Overholtzer’s research employs a bottom-up perspective in theory and in practice, and she is committed to decolonizing archaeological practice through community archaeology and collaboration with descendant communities.

Her research works to bridge disciplinary chasms between archaeological theorists and archaeological scientists through the application of geoarchaeological and molecular archaeology analyses to research questions derived from social theories of materiality, agency and practice, and embodiment. Her research interests include the study of households and the articulation between the macro- and micro-scales of society; space and place; and gender, ethnic, and age-based identities in ancient Mesoamerica. Analytical specialties include analysis of ceramics, especially figurines and decorated serving vessels, geochemical provenance analyses, and ancient DNA analysis.


Selected Publications

  • 2015  Agency, Practice, and Chronological Context: A Bayesian Approach to Household Chronologies. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 37:37-47.
  • 2015  The Field Crew Symposium: A Model for Initial Implementation of a Collaborative Archaeology Project. Advances in Archaeological Practice 3(1).
  • 2014  A New Bayesian Chronology for Postclassic and Colonial Occupation at Xaltocan, Mexico. Radiocarbon 56(3): 1077–1092.
  • 2013  Archaeological Interpretation and the Rewriting of History: Deimperializing and Decolonizing the Past at Xaltocan, Mexico. American Anthropologist 115(3):481-495.
  • 2012  Mata-Míguez, Jaime, Lisa Overholtzer, Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría, Brian M. Kemp, and Deborah A. Bolnick. The Genetic Impact of Aztec Imperialism: Ancient Mitochondrial DNA Evidence from Xaltocan, Mexico. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 149(4):504-516.
  • 2012  So that the baby not be formed like a pottery rattle: Rattle Figurines and Aztec Household Social Reproductive Practices. Ancient Mesoamerica 23(1):69-83.
  • 2011  Overholtzer, Lisa and Wesley D. Stoner. Merging the Social and the Material: Life Histories of Ancient Mementos from Central Mexico. Journal of Social Archaeology 11(2):171-193.