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About Gary M. Feinman

I co-direct two international archaeological field projects. My long-standing research area is Mesoamerica, where I currently am conducting excavations at Lambityeco. This is the fourth Classic period settlement where Linda Nicholas and I have led domestic excavations (following Ejutla, El Palmillo, and the Mitla Fortress). At the most overarching level, this research is designed to examine the Classic period economy in the Valley of Oaxaca, the functioning and eventual collapse of the Classic period polity centered at Monte Albán, and the reorganization of the region in the subsequent Postclassic period. Specifically, we are interested in how people made a living and were organized at nucleated settlements, such as Lambityeco, the Mitla Fortress, and El Palmillo, all situated in semi-desert environments. This household archaeology project fits into a career-long effort to contribute to our understanding of the prehispanic Mesoamerican economic and political organization through a multiscalar focus on highland Oaxaca.
For the last 18 years, I also have been involved in a systematic, full-coverage settlement pattern survey of two coastal basins in coastal Shandong Province, China. Here, Linda Nicholas and I, for much of the project, collaborated with Dr. Anne Underhill, and scholars from Shandong University and the Rizhao Museum. But we are now teaming principally with colleagues from Shandong University (mainly Dr. Fang Hui and his students) and the Jiaonan Museum and Qingdao Institute of Archaeology. This study is focused on the rise of hierarchical polities in the region, the eventual incorporation of this area into empires centered to the west of Shandong, and the documentation of settlement and demographic change in this coastal setting over millennia. We also aim to illustrate through our findings the key role that a systematic regional perspective can have for our understanding of the past, and how this approach can be useful for documenting China’s significant history.
In Chicago, I am collaborating on several ongoing investigations that are focused on Field Museum collections. In conjunction with Dr. Dean Arnold (Wheaton College), my colleague, Dr. Ryan Williams, and others, one project is studying the production of Maya Blue pigment. Another collaborative effort, with Dr. Mark Golitko, Ryan Williams and others, is sourcing the obsidian from J. Eric Thompson's excavations at the San José site (Belize). With Mark, Linda Nicholas, and other colleagues, we expanded this study to the sourcing of archaeological obsidian samples from the Valley of Oaxaca and pan-Mesoamerican patterns of exchange.
In conjunction with Dr. Jonathan Haas, I am co-curator of the Field Museum's permanent Ancient Americas exhibition, which highlights the history of peoples in the Western Hemisphere prior to the late 15th century. I curated the museum's small temporary exhibition, Traditions Retold, which featured pieces from artisanal nativity scenes from different regions of Mexico. I also was the curator of a small temporary exhibition that focused on the Day of the Dead and co-curated a larger temporary exhibition that delved into the Aztec World . The later is represented in a book that I co-edited with Dr. Elizabeth Brumfiel.
In addition, I co-curate the Museum show on Chocolate that has traveled around the country and was displayed again as 'Chocolate Around the World' at the Field Museum in October 2011. This exhibition is now being opened globally at museums on several continents. In Chicago, I am a co-curator of a permanent exhibition that will explore the History and Culture of China.
The focal threads that link my research include ancient economies, human political and economic networks and coalitions through history, human-environmental interactions over time and space, inequality and its underpinnings, and comparative/cross-cultural approaches that endeavor to account for societal diversity, parallels, and change.


Present Faculty Member, Field Museum of Natural History

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