Mesoamerican archaeology; ancient lithic technologies; economic anthropology; social theory; epigraphy and iconography; ritual production, exchange, and deposition of lithic goods; comparative Mayan languages; Mayans; Western Native Americans; Pacific Northwest
I study the archaeology of both Mesoamerica and North America with specializations in the Maya area (southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras) and the American West (California, Nevada, and the Pacific Northwest). Of particular interest to me is Mesoamerican and Maya religion as it is materialized in the archaeological record through ancient Maya texts (epigraphy), art (iconography), and ritual deposits (caches and burials). At the forefront of Maya lithic studies, I have carried out obsidian and flint analysis at some of the most well-known Maya sites over the past twenty years. including Piedras Negras, El Peru-Waka, El Zotz, Holmul, Kaminaljuyu, and Motul de San Jose in Guatemala, Palenque, Pomona, Chunchucmil, and Vista Alegre in Mexico, and Copan and Rio Amarillo in Honduras. My goal is to understand broad economic patterns across the ancient Maya world and through time, as well as how lithic goods (jade, flint, and obsidian) were used in ritual contexts. Most recently I have studied the largest known obsidian cache, a deposit of over 600 obsidian macroblades, from Copan’s Great Plaza. When time permits I also run my own field project on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala searching for the lost Contact Period city of Nito.
Applied cultural (cognitive/environmental) anthropology; anthropological methods and theory; agriculture, conservation, and ritual; behavior and folk knowledge; technology and pedagogy; Belize, Internet, Madagascar, and the United States.
My core research interest is discovering how humans interpret their environment and how these interpretations influence their behavior both with the environment and with others in their social group. In short, I have focused on the ethnoecology of agricultural development and conservation, attempting to link agricultural and conservation knowledge with behaviors. I use both qualitative and quantitative methods to discover, describe and explain how cultural models vary within and between social groups.
My graduate work was focused on applied anthropological research of the transition from swidden to irrigated rice agriculture in Madagascar. In addition, I researched environmental knowledge variation among American bird watchers and college students (see my Curriculum Vitae for links to my publications).
After coming to NKU’s anthropology program, I continued my work in Madagascar. I also developed several applied research projects with students in Northern Kentucky and in California. In the process of working locally, I founded and now direct the Center for Applied Anthropology (CfAA) at NKU. The CfAA enables me to engage NKU’s undergraduate students in applying anthropology to prepare students for careers and graduate school in anthropology.
While I will continue my local work, I have now focused my international research in Northern Belize with sugar cane farming families, where I lead an ethnographic field school each summer.
Human-environmental interactions, tropical island chiefdoms, public archaeology, peace and conflict resolution, resource exploitation, foodways, hierarchy, political economy, zooarchaeology, ethnoarchaeology, gender; Fiji and Polynesia, the Caribbean, India.
My current research is focused on understanding long-term human environmental interactions in Fiji and elsewhere in the tropical Pacific. In particular I am interested in the way that Pacific Islanders have used and managed marine resources. My approach involves ethnographic work, ethnoarchaeology, and zooarchaeology. I have current NSF research projects in Fiji's Lau Islands and on Vanua Levu, Fiji. I am directing excavations at the Parker Academy site in New Richmond, OH. This was likely the first school in the US that offered an education to children and adults from all walks of life, no matter their age, gender race, or religious orientation in 1839.
Maya archaeology; Classic Maya in Belize; mortuary studies; osteoarchaeology; isotopic analysis of human bone; prehistoric diet and migration; Cultural Resource Management; contract archaeology, landscape studies
My most recent research utilized isotopic analysis to determine the diet of individuals from nine Classic Maya sites in northwest Belize. The comparison of plant and faunal remains from sites to the isotopic ratios found in bones helps to provide a more complete picture of ancient Maya diet and the importance of different foods within the culture.
Medical anthropology; feminist anthropology; intersectionality; gender and health; the anthropology of reproduction; the politics of reproduction; health disparities; anthropology of the United States, Latin America
My research uses narratives to illustrate lived experiences of reproductive negotiations and constraints among racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. I am interested in how structural inequalities (such as sexism and racism) affect the intimate worlds of reproductive negotiation, family formation, and pregnancy in cultural context. I use narrative to learn how women, in particular, mobilize their gendered identity and cultural norms to negotiate with social and structural limitations they experience as they become mothers (or push against that role). My dissertation explored these themes among heterosexual, middle-class Latinx couples in Dallas, Texas. As participants engaged with a middle-class identity and expectations, they leveraged various gendered ideals and the value of familismo to maintain social standing in their extended families. At NKU, I am continuing to explore the themes of identity and structural constraints in the context of reproduction in the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati region.
Cultural anthropology; applied anthropology; Celtic Europe; Afro-Caribbean; North American Indians; psychological anthropology; culture change; gerontology; peasant studies; religion; teaching on the web.
My current research is a qualitative longitudinal study of aging in the north west of Ireland. I have followed the same group of people (or their living relatives) through twenty five years of their life courses as the country and social matrix has experienced recession, inflation, economic boom times, and reversal of emigration that includes new populations in the Irish census. The effects that these contextual variables have had on the lives of my respondents is exemplified, not only in my descriptions of life in the north west of Ireland and my research on institutionalization in a County Mayo nursing home, but in their own stories elicited through in-depth taped interviews that led to a series of life history autobiographies, with a focus on one family in particular in the style of Oscar Lewis' work in The Children of Sanchez and La Vida.
My other research interests have been focused on the origins and migrations of ancient Celtic peoples just prior to and during the Iron Age. My current view in this regard is a rapprochement of those of Barry Cunliffe (mobile warrior elite with expanding sphere's of influence) and Simon James (the current 'Celtic' people may not be the direct descendents of the original Iron Age Celts). Rather, I have tried to use a combination of ancient history, linguistics, oral literature, and archeology to trace the movements of two culturally and geographically related peoples across Europe by different routes to end up as neighbors on the other side of the continent, where they setled among a much larger (demographically) and hostile indigenous population.
In recent years I have sometimes taken students to Ireland in order to expand their knowledge of Celtic culture.
Currently, my textbook, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, has just been published (in 2012).
Archaeology; cultural anthropology; museums; Southeast Asian archaeology; cultures of Southeast & East Asia; ceramics; ethnoarchaeology; women in prehistory; prehistoric ecology; ancient civilizations; teaching honors courses; teaching on the web.
Dr. Judy Voelker (associate professor) is an archaeologist at Northern Kentucky University where she also serves as the Director of the Museum of Anthropology. Although she has worked on archaeological projects in several regions of the United States including the Great Basin, western New York and the Southwest, she specializes in the prehistoric ceramics of Southeast Asia. Her research interests include ceramic production and technology as well as prehistoric trade and exchange. She is a co-principal investigator on the Thailand Archaeometallurgy Project (TAP). Funding for her research has come from many sources including a Fulbright fellowship to conduct an ethnoarchaeological study in northeast Thailand with women potters who use wooden paddles and ceramic anvils rather than the wheel to make earthenware vessels, and more recently from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Henry Luce Foundation. She has also received external grants (ASIANetwork) and internal grants from NKU for undergraduate student participation on her research projects both in Thailand and Highland Heights. She actively promotes undergraduate research and has encouraged student presentations at conferences within the discipline as well as venues such as Posters-at-the-Capitol. Voelker is also active in civic engagement and service learning projects. She currently serves on the governing board of the Kentucky Academy of Science as a representative for Social & Behavioral Sciences.
Biological anthropology; primate behavioral ecology; great ape socioecology; hominin evolution; primate cognition; primate conservation; reproductive ecology; field methods in primatology; human evolutionary biology.
My research interests are in the area of primate socioecology, specifically the evolution of social relationships among female primates and the adaptive value of friendships. Humans are the most behaviorally flexible and diverse species on the planet, and this has contributed significantly to our success as a species. To understand the origins and evolution of behavioral diversity, my research turns to our nearest living relatives, the chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus). Until recently, very little was known about the behavior, especially social behavior, of female chimpanzees. For my research, I seek to help fill this gap in our knowledge. Thus, my current research focuses on understanding the dynamics of social relationships and social networks among wild female chimpanzees. I am examining both the costs and benefits of gregariousness among females to explore the underlying ecological, demographic, and physiological causes of variation in social behavior within females of the same population. In addition, I am collaborating with other researchers to conduct comparative research across populations. In the near future, I will expand my research to include studies on wild female bonobos. I plan to collect data on social relationships among female bonobos to be able to address cross-species comparisons in the Genus Pan.