Human Adaptation in Ancient Mesoamerica

Empirical Approaches to Mesoamerican Archaeology

edited by Nancy Gonlin and Kirk D. French

​"[R]eadable, accessible​. . . . the​ ​book transcends the limitations of its genre​."

Journal of Anthropological Research


This volume explores the dynamics of human adaptation to social, political, ideological, economic, and environmental factors in Mesoamerica and includes a wide array of topics, such as the hydrological engineering behind Teotihuacan’s layout, the complexities of agriculture and sustainability in the Maya lowlands, and the nuanced history of abandonment among different lineages and households in Maya centers.

The authors aptly demonstrate how culture is the mechanism that allows people to adapt to a changing world, and they address how ecological factors, particularly land and water, intersect with nonmaterial and material manifestations of cultural complexity. Contributors further illustrate the continuing utility of the cultural ecological perspective in framing research on adaptations of ancient civilizations.

This book celebrates the work of Dr. David Webster, an influential Penn State archaeologist and anthropologist of the Maya region, and highlights human adaptation in Mesoamerica through the scientific lenses of anthropological archaeology and cultural ecology.

Contributors: Elliot M. Abrams, Christopher J. Duffy, Susan Toby Evans, Kirk D. French, AnnCorinne Freter, Nancy Gonlin, George R. Milner, Zachary Nelson, Deborah L. Nichols, David M. Reed, Don S. Rice, Prudence M. Rice, Rebecca Storey, Kirk Damon Straight, David Webster, Stephen L. Whittington, Randolph J. Widmer, John D. Wingard, W. Scott Zeleznik


Nancy Gonlin is a Mesoamerican archaeologist who specializes in daily and nightly practices, household studies, and inequality. She serves as co-editor of the Cambridge journal Ancient Mesoamerica. Her publications include the co-edited volumes Commoner Ritual and Ideology in Ancient MesoamericaAncient Households of the Americas, Human Adaptation in Ancient Mesoamerica, and Archaeology of the Night. She is co-author of Copán: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Maya Kingdom. Watch her TEDx talk "Life After Dark in the Ancient World" here.

Kirk D. French is lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on complex societies in Mesoamerica and relies on an analytical approach to better understand human adaptations to environmental change through a combination of field-based archaeology, watershed modeling, and documentary film.

Imprint: University Press of Colorado

Book Details

  • Hardcover Price: $60.00
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60732-391-4
  • Ebook Price: $48.00
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $9.99
  • EISBN: 978-1-60732-392-1
  • Publication Month: December
  • Publication Year: 2015
  • Pages: 400
  • Illustrations: 69
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: edited by Nancy Gonlin and Kirk D. French
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-391-4