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 Mexico. She has conducted extensive fieldwork at Xaltocan, a Postclassic and Colonial period site in central Mexico, where she investigated the ways in which local household life was transformed under successive imperial conquests. By exploring the way in which 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

  • 2012 Overholtzer, Lisa. 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.
  • 2011 Fargher, Lane F., Richard E. Blanton, Verenice Y. Heredia Espinoza, John Millhauser, Nezahuacoyotl Xiutecutli, and Lisa Overholtzer. Tlaxcallan: the archaeology of an ancient republic in the New World. Antiquity 85(327):172-186.
  • 2009 Brumfiel, Elizabeth M. and Lisa Overholtzer. Alien Bodies, Everyday People, and Internal Spaces: Embodiment, Figurines and Social Discourse in Postclassic Mexico. In Mesoamerican Figurines: Small-Scale Indexes of Large-Scale Phenomena. Eds. Halperin, Christina T., Katherine A. Faust, Rhonda Taube, and Aurore Giguet. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.