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Photo of Hernandez, Christopher

Christopher Hernandez, PhD

Adjunct Research Associate

Department of Anthropology


Building & Room:

BSB 2152A


1007 W. Harrison Street

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I am a scholar interested in issues of conflict, power, and the role of archaeology in contemporary social life. As an anthropological archaeologist, I examine the interplay of landscape, fortifications, and community life in Mensabak, Chiapas, Mexico in order to understand how martial practice relates to the institutionalization of socioeconomic hierarchy.  The results of some of this research can be found in "Maya Warfare, Sacred Places, and Divine Protection".

My research on warfare and socioneconomic organization has led to a more in-depth analysis of how scholars examine past social conflict. The presence of fortifications is often treated as an indicator of the presence and frequency of war. However, I examine how the construction and detection of martial archictecture is affected by tactics, strategy, and archaeological formation processes. This research is ongoing.

Developing from my research on conflict and power in the past, I examine how academic practice affects contemporary people. My investigations are conducted in collaboration with the indigenous Maya community of Puerto Bello Metzabok. Therefore, locals partner with me in the design, implementation, and dissemination of the research conducted in Metzabok. This collaboration has led me to think critically about the relationship between research and teaching. Classrooms, similar to anthropological fieldwork, are active places where teacher/anthropologist and student/interlocutor learn from each other in order to relate information to one another. Therefore, I am collaborating with Dr. Kristin Landau (Alma College) to develop educational programs that more effectively relate scholarly insights to non-academic audiences.

Selected Grants

National Science Foundation, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Principal Investigator

National Science Foundation, Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, Principal Investigator

National Science Foundation, Graduate Research Fellowship, Principal Investigator

National Geographic Society, Young Explorers Grant, Principal Investigator

Selected Publications

In Press   Maya Warfare, Symbols and Ritual Landscapes. In Seeking Conflict: Understanding Ancient Maya Hostilities Through Text and Image, edited by S.G. Morton and M.M. Peuramaki-Brown. Boulder: University Press of Colorado. With Joel Palka.

2018   Is Bearing Witness Enough? American Anthropologist, 120 (3):543-544.

2017   Maya Warfare, Sacred Places, and Divine Protection. In Proceedings of the 45th Annual Chacmool Conference, edited by A. Benfer. Calgary: Chacmool Archaeological Association, University of Calgary. With Joel Palka.

2014   Maya Defensive Barricades. In Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, edited by H. Selin. New York: Springer.

Notable Honors

2009, Joshua J. Terry Award, UIC Anthropology Department


PhD Northwestern University 2017
MA Northwestern University 2014
BA University of Illinois-Chicago 2009

Selected Presentations

2018   “Archaeology, Pedagogy, and Participant Observation.” 116th American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, San Jose, CA.

2018   “Examining Environment, Ecology and Patterns of Maya Culture at Mensabak, Chiapas, Mexico.” Society for American Archaeology 83rd Annual Meeting, Washington DC.

2017   “Dismantling the Ivory Tower: Community Archaeology as a Practice of Demystification.” 115th American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Washington DC.

2017   “Walls, Ditches, and Spoil: Methodological Issues in the Study of Pre-Columbian Fortifications.” Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

2016   “Organización social y el paisaje de Tzunun: estudios preliminares de la guerra y el estatus socioeconómico maya.” 10° Congreso Internacional de Mayistas, Izamal, Yucatán, México.

Research Currently in Progress

As part of my current NSF postdoctoral fellowship, I am investigating the principles of fortification construction in the region of Mensabak, Chiapas, Mexico. My goal is to understand the relationship between how Maya peoples built martial architecture and practiced war. This research highlights the links among strategy, tactics, landscape, and architecture in the examination of past social conflict.