Joel Palka

Department Head


PhD, Vanderbilt University, 1995


Mesoamerica and the Caribbean

Topics of Interest

Archaeology and Ethnohistory, Classic Maya culture, Settlements, Dulture Change, Mayan hieroglyphic writing and art

Personal Statement

Professor Palka's research and teaching interests include the archaeology and history of Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, Classic Maya culture, Maya hieroglyphic writing and art, cultural evolution, social inequality and settlement patterns. His current research covers ancient Maya social differentiation, settlement archaeology and the collapse of Maya civilization along with his new historical archaeology project that examines Lacandon Maya culture change in Guatemala and Chiapas during the 19th century.

In the summers of 2006 and 2007, Professor Palka undertook surveys and excavations of Protohistoric to Conquest-era Maya sites in the rainforests of Chiapas, Mexico, and Peten, Guatemala, to study cross-cultural interaction and culture change.

On campus he continues his research on Classic Period hieroglyphic writing and the evolution of Maya political organization. He is also writing a monograph on residential excavations and the Classic Maya collapse at Dos Pilas, Guatemala, and the articles "Ancient Maya Ruins and Contemporary Lacandon Maya Beliefs" and "Archaeology Illustrated: the Importance of Seeing in the Discipline."

He is also editor of the publication Mesoamerican Voices.

Selected Publications
2005 Palka, Joel

Unconquered Lacandon Maya: Ethnohistory and Archaeology of Indigenous Culture Change. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

2003 Palka, Joel and Jeff Buechler

Monument to a Matriarch: A Classic Maya Stela at the Art Institute of Chicago. Mesoamerican Voices, 1:41-64.

2003 Joel Palka, Takeshi Inomta and Ron Webb, eds.

Social Rank and Differential Processes of Abandonment at the Classic Maya Site of Dos Pilas, Peten, Guatemala. In The Archaeology of Settlement Abandonment in Middle America, Takeshi Inomata and Ron Webb, eds. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

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Contact Information

Office Phone: (312) 996-0789