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Photo of LaMotta, Vincent M.

Vincent M. LaMotta, PhD

Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Anthropology, Archaeology


Building & Room:

BSB 3128B

Office Phone:

(312) 413-8189


I am a Southwestern archaeologist with broad-based theoretical interests and an expansive, cross-cultural outlook. I specialize in zooarchaeology and ceramic analysis.

My research focuses on religion and ritual in ancient non-state societies, particularly among ancestral Pueblo cultures of the American Southwest. I am especially interested in understanding the role of ritual in the emergence of sociopolitical complexity in such societies. One aspect of my research concerns the emergence and elaboration of ritual sodalities in aggregated pueblo communities of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries AD. In collaboration with the Arizona State Museum’s Homol’ovi Research Program, my investigations have focused in particular on the development of ritual complexity in villages of the Homol’ovi settlement cluster, a group of seven major pueblo villages in northern Arizona occupied from approximately AD 1250 to 1400. As these are ancestral Hopi sites, my work on Homol’ovi is especially pertinent to the study of Hopi history and culture.

I am also concerned with building method and theory for discerning the impact of ritual behaviors on the archaeological record—a field one might call ritual formation processes. For example, my work in the Pueblo Southwest has explored site and structure termination rituals, and ritual processes impacting zooarchaeological and human osteological assemblages. I have also done work on variability in mortuary deposition in the Southwest and cross-culturally. I am interested in expanding these inquiries through ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological research, to better understand how people manufacture, use, reuse and discard or abandon sacred objects and places, and to construct middle-range theory for building interpretations of ritual processes in antiquity.

My current fieldwork interests focus on clarifying issues concerning the internal organization of aggregated, early Pueblo IV period (AD 1250–1400) villages and settlement clusters in northern Arizona; their external relationships; and their developmental history and abandonment. I am organizing a number of survey and excavation projects geared toward elucidating these issues in the Homol’ovi and Anderson Mesa regions of northern Arizona, in particular. I am also interested in understanding the organization, affiliations and developmental history of communities in these areas in the centuries leading up to the Pueblo IV period, and how this earlier history may have shaped the later communities. Along these lines, I am currently planning excavations at a late twelfth-century AD pueblo east of Chevelon Creek. This research, combined with planned regional survey work, promises to shed light on the nature and history of communities in the greater Homol’ovi region in the period just prior to Pueblo IV aggregation.

My current research also continues to explore the nature of ritual activities and ceremonial organization in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Homol’ovi pueblos, drawing on several decades-worth of data collected through the Arizona State Museum’s excavations at these sites. In the laboratory, I am actively pursuing new research on previously unanalyzed zooarchaeological remains from ceremonial contexts at Homol’ovi to expand and elaborate upon my previous investigations into the ritual life of these communities and its impact on the archaeological record.

I am also playing a lead role in a new, collaborative research project with the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, the goal of which is to analyze and publish materials from the Peabody Museum’s 1939 excavations at Pink Arrow, an ancestral Hopi site on Antelope Mesa in northern Arizona. Pink Arrow is unique in that, with 50-100 rooms, it is among the smallest of the late prehistoric Antelope Mesa pueblos, which include the much larger and more well-known sites of Awatovi and Kawaika-a. Analysis of artifacts and field notes from Pink Arrow offers a rare opportunity for refining the Pueblo IV period chronology of northern Arizona and for understanding the role of small sites within Pueblo IV settlement clusters, using existing museum collections.

Graduate and undergraduate students are welcome to inquire about participating in laboratory and field research projects.

Selected Publications


Ritual Zooarchaeology at Homol’ovi. Archaeology Southwest 21(2):10.

(with Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman) Missionization and Economic Change in the Pimería Alta: The Zooarchaeology of San Agustín de Tucson. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 11:241-268.

(with Michael B. Schiffer) Formation Processes and Behavioral Archaeology. In Formation Processes and Indian Archaeology, edited by K. Paddayya, Richa Jhaldiyal, and Sushama G. Deo, pp. 3-14. Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Pune, India.


(with E. Charles Adams) New Perspectives on an Ancient Religion: Katsina Ritual and the Archaeological Record. In Religion in the Prehispanic Southwest, edited by Christine S. VanPool, Todd L. VanPool, and David A. Phillips, Jr., pp. 53-66. AltaMira Press, Lanham, MD.


(with Michael B. Schiffer) Archaeological Formation Processes. In Archaeology: The Key Concepts, edited by Colin Renfrew and Paul Bahn, pp. 121-127. Routledge, London, U.K.


(with E. Charles Adams and Kurt Dongoske) Hopi Settlement Clusters Past and Present. In The Protohistoric Pueblo World, A.D. 1275-1600, edited by E. Charles Adams and Andrew I. Duff, pp. 128-136. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ.


(with William L. Rathje and William A. Longacre) Into the Black Hole: Archaeology 2001 and Beyond…. In Archaeology: The Widening Debate, edited by Barry Cunliffe, Wendy Davies, and Colin Renfrew, pp. 497-540. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.


Behavioral Variability in Mortuary Deposition: A Modern Material Culture Study. Arizona Anthropologist 14:53-80.

(with Michael B. Schiffer) Behavioral Archaeology: Toward a New Synthesis. In Archaeological Theory Today, edited by Ian Hodder, pp. 14-64. Polity Press, Cambridge, U.K.


(with William H. Walker and E. Charles Adams) Katsinas and Kiva Abandonment at Homol’ovi: A Deposit-Oriented Perspective on Religion in Southwest Prehistory. In The Archaeology of Regional Interaction: Religion, Warfare, & Exchange Across the American Southwest & Beyond, edited by Michelle Hegmon, pp. 341-360. University Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO.


(with Michael B. Schiffer) Formation Processes of House Floor Assemblages. In The Archaeology of Household Activities, edited by Penelope M. Allison, pp. 19-29. Routledge, London, U.K.


PhD, University of Arizona, 2006