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Dr. Claire E. Ebert

Claire obtained her PhD from the Department of Anthropology at The Pennsylvania State University in 2017. Her research explores the causes and consequences of social, economic, and political inequality, and the role of the environmental change in these developments, with a focus on Formative Period (2000 BC-AD 300) Mesoamerica. She has also worked on archaeological projects at the Maya sites of Palenque (Mexico) and Uxbenká (Belize), as well as in Croatia, the US Southwest, and Hawaii.

Claire began working with BVAR in 2012, conducting excavations in residential groups around the site of Cahal Pech. Based on AMS radiocarbon dating of materials from the Tzutziiy K’in Group, she produced the first absolute chronology for a household spanning the occupational sequence at Cahal Pech. The analyses indicate that Tzutziiy K’in was first settled by the Late Preclassic (325–110 cal BC) as a small farming household, as population was expanding around Cahal Pech and throughout the Belize Valley. Multiple masonry platforms were constructed in the main plaza at Tzutziiy K’in during the Early Classic period (cal AD 350–650), perhaps in response to changing social and economic conditions in the Cahal Pech site core. Limited evidence for occupation of the group during the Terminal Classic period, between cal AD 850–900, may indicate that the political “collapse” of Cahal Pech may have similarly impacted large high-status house groups like Tzutziiy K’in.

As an Assistant Director on BVAR, Claire currently oversees settlement research and excavations at Cahal Pech. Her dissertation project examines the mechanisms driving social and economic inequality during the Preclassic Period (1200 BC-AD 300) and its long-term effects upon the Maya society. She is using radiocarbon dating of organics and human and faunal remains in conjunction with paleoclimate proxy records to document the timing of initial settlement and socio-economic at Cahal Pech in relation to periods of climate change. Stable isotope data from human remains indicates that a diverse diet that included allowed the local community to be more resilient in the face of a major drought at the end of the Preclassic Period (~cal AD 150-300). She is also examining the role of household craft production in the development of economic inequality during the Preclassic at Cahal Pech through geochemical sourcing of obsidian and ceramic artifacts from Preclassic contexts. This research is supported by an NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant and funding from the Penn State College of Liberal Arts and Department of Anthropology.

Claire also directs GIS and LiDAR-based settlement research for BVAR. In 2014, she conducted settlement survey based on spatial analysis of high-resolution LiDAR data for Cahal Pech and the nearby sites of Baking Pot, and Lower Dover. She worked with field school students in 2015 to ground truth a sample of these features and to test the precision and accuracy of LiDAR data among different types of land cover (urban, agricultural, forest). The results of this research were recently published in Advances in Archaeological Practice. She is also conducting more spatially focused analysis of lidar data to explore a water management system composed of a lattice system of ditches located in the southwestern periphery of the site of Baking Pot. Future research, in collaboration with Dr. Julie Hoggarth (Baylor University) and Dr. Jaime Awe (Northern Arizona University), will focus on applying models of settlement and migration derived from human behavioral ecology to understand the role of the ditch system as an adaption that allowed the inhabitants of Baking Pot become more resilient in the face of changing social and natural ecological systems.

In addition to research duties, Claire serves as instructor in excavation, survey, and laboratory methods for the BVAR field school. She has a strong commitment to mentoring students, and has guided Master’s students at Penn State and Northern Arizona University in developing their own independent research projects as a part of BVAR.

A list of her recent publications can be found here.