I am an anthropological archaeologist who studies the development of sociopolitical complexity in ancient Mesoamerica with a focus on prehispanic Maya society. My research and teaching emphasize the sociohistorical connections of past material practices to investigate the dynamics of culture change. In particular, I am interested in how ritual and community organization shape political processes. My work is interdisciplinary and multi-scalar, applying archaeological fieldwork in Guatemala with quantitative studies of ceramic artifacts, settlement patterns, and hieroglyphic texts to develop a relational approach for studying the human past. Currently, I am an Assistant Professor of Latin American Archaeology at Lycoming College and Director of the Proyecto Arqueológico Altar de Sacrificios in Petén, Guatemala.


At its core, my research connects original quantitative methods with relational theories about social interaction and cultural relatedness to address fundamental questions about the ways in which people formed connections in the past. In particular, my research focuses on social networks, ritual displays, community organization, and the emergence of social inequality to explore intersecting dimensions of sociopolitical complexity in ancient Mesoamerica. I do this by conducting archaeological fieldwork in the western Maya lowlands and examining material culture variation and changes in ceramic artifacts, architecture, and hieroglyphic texts. Currently, I am involved in two interdisciplinary collaborations with colleagues in Guatemala, Ukraine, Germany, California, and Pennsylvania. I am a Co-PI on the interdisciplinary Maya Hieroglyphic Database Project supported by NSF and Director of the Proyecto Arqueológico Altar de Sacrificios supported by Wenner-Gren, the Archaeological Institute of America, and Lycoming College.

Selected Publications

  1. 2017 Jessica and Flory María Pinzón G. Building an early Maya community: Archaeological investigations at Caobal, Guatemala. Ancient Mesoamerica 28:265-278. pdf
  2. 2016 Munson, Jessica, Jonathan Scholnick, Matthew Looper, Yuriy Polyukhovych, Martha Macri. Ritual diversity and divergence of Classic Maya dynastic traditions: A lexical perspective on within-group cultural variation. Latin American Antiquity. 27(2):74-95. pdf
  3. 2015 Munson, Jessica. From metaphors to practice: Operationalizing network concepts for archaeological stratigraphy. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 22(2): 428-460. doi:10.1007/s10816-013-9181-8.
  4. 2015 Inomata, Takeshi, Jessica MacLellan, Daniela Triadan, Jessica Munson, Melissa Burham, Kazuo Aoyama, Hiroo Nasu, Flory Pinzón, and Hitoshi Yonenobu. Development of sedentary communities in the Maya lowlands: Coexisting mobile groups and public ceremonies at Ceibal, Guatemala. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(14):4268-4273. doi:10.1073/pnas.1501212112
  5. 2014 Munson, Jessica, Viviana Amati, Mark Collard, and Martha Macri. Classic Maya bloodletting and the cultural evolution of religious ritual: Quantifying patterns of variation in hieroglyphic texts. PLoS One 9(9): e107982. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107982.
  6. 2013 Scholnick, Jonathan B., Jessica Munson and Martha Macri. Positioning power in a multi-relational framework: A social network analysis of Classic Maya political rhetoric. In Network analysis in archaeology: New approaches to regional interaction, edited by Carl Knappett, pp. 95-124. Oxford University Press, Oxford. pdf
  7. 2012 Munson, JessicaTemple histories and communities of practice in early Maya society: Archaeological investigations at Caobal, Petén, Guatemala. PhD Thesis, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, UMI Proquest. pdf
  8. 2012 Aoyama, Kazuo and Jessica Munson. Ancient Maya obsidian exchange and chipped stone production at Caobal, Guatemala. Mexicon 34(2): 34-42. pdf
  9. 2011 Munson, Jessica and Takeshi Inomata. Temples in the forest: The discovery of an early Maya community at Caobal, Petén, Guatemala. Antiquity 85(328). Available at:
  10. 2011 Aoyama, Kazuo and Jessica Munson. Cambios diacrónicos de la lítica menor Maya en Caobal, Guatemala. U’tzib 4(8 y 9): 1-15.
  11. 2011 Munson, Jessica. Fundamentos de una pasada conmemorada: Arquitectura de un templo del período Preclásico Medio en Anonal. XXIV Simposio de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Guatemala, 2010. Editado por Barbara Arroyo. Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Ethnología.
  12. 2009 Munson, Jessica and Martha J. Macri. Sociopolitical network interactions: A case study of the Classic Maya.  Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 28(4): 424-438.  doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2009.08.002. pdf
  13. 2009 Munson, Jessica. “Bottlenecks in the production of homebrew.” Rev. of “Ancient beer and modern brewers: Ethnoarchaeological observations of chicha production in two regions of the North Coast of Peru.” Current Anthropology 50(5): 588.
  14. 2008 Garrison, Thomas G., Stephen D. Houston, Charles Golden, Takeshi Inomata, Zachary Nelson, and Jessica Munson. Evaluating the use of IKONOS satellite imagery in lowland Maya settlement archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Science 35(10): 2770-2777. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2008.05.003.Munson-etal-LAA27(1)


My approach to teaching emphasizes experiential learning and rigorous methodological training in anthropological archaeology. These education experiences include a wide range of opportunities for student involvement beyond the classroom including archaeological fieldwork in Guatemala, hands-on laboratory research, and independent projects.


List of Courses
Introduction to Archaeology
Patterns in Prehistory
Origins of Human Diversity
Field Archaeology
Mesoamerican Archaeology
History of Latin American Archaeology
Origins of Social Inequality
Archaeology of Ritual
Talking Trash
Coding and Decoding Maya Hieroglyphic Writing

Jessica L. Munson

Department of Sociology/Anthropology
Lycoming College
700 College Place
Williamsport, PA 17701