Jason Yaeger, Ph.D.

Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, UTSA President's Endowed Professor, Anthropology

Jason Yaeger


I am an anthropological archaeologist who studies Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations, particularly the Maya and Inka. My research interests include the organization of ancient households and communities, urbanism, landscapes and environments, the relationship between climate change and culture change, material culture and identity, ethnohistory, the politics of archaeological research, and Maya epigraphy and iconography.

Much of my research has sought to understand the organization of Classic Maya rural communities and the practices, institutions, and constructs that linked rural householders into extra-community socio-political entities. I have surveyed the countryside in Belize's Mopan River valley, mapped hundreds of houses and agricultural terraces, and excavated several rural houses in detail. My investigations also have taken me to the larger centers like Xunantunich, where I excavated monumental temples and palaces.

I directed two other projects that addressed broadly similar questions but in different contexts. The multi-disciplinary San Pedro Maya Project combined archival research, oral histories, and archaeological investigations to understand how Maya immigrants from Mexico were incorporated into colonial British Honduras in the 19th century. The Tiwanaku Inka Settlement Program examined how the Inka Empire reconfigured sacred space at the ancient city of Tiwanaku to fit their religion and world view and to legitimize their dominion over their provinces.

My current research has two foci.  The first is documenting the changing relationships between Xunantunich and the rival center of Buenavista and understanding how competition between these two polities impacted the people who lived in the intervening countryside.  The current component of that research is reconstructing political authority at Buenavista through royal mortuary practices and the veneration of royal ancestors.  The second is understanding sustainability and resilience in Maya society by examining the complex relationships between community-level economic and agricultural adaptations, climate and environmental change, and political dynamics at multiple scales. This involves analysis of high-resolution LiDAR data from the region and excavation of household groups.


I enjoy teaching, and I use a variety of media and methods to teach students what we know about the past, how we know it, and how it can help us understand ourselves and the world around us. My research and teaching are interwoven:  I bring to the classroom the most recent interpretations and data from my research, as well as first-hand accounts of fieldwork and the process of interpreting archaeological data, and thinking through my courses and alongside my students brings insights back into my research.  I teach a variety of courses, from large lecture courses to small graduate and undergraduate seminars. These include introductory courses on archaeology and more advanced courses on Maya and Mesoamerican civilizations, ancient complex societies, indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica, and the ethnohistory and historical archaeology of New Spain.  Dr. M. Kathryn Brown and I also lead a summer archaeological field school in Belize that provides students with invaluable first-hand experience undertaking research on a long-standing archaeological project.

Prospective students: I am accepting MA and PhD students whose research interests align with mine. My current research in Belize holds particular opportunities for students who are interested in LiDAR, remote sensing, and settlement survey; the organization of Maya hinterland households and communities; Maya warfare and conflict; and the relationships between the human-environment interface and socio-political change, including the collapse.  Students with other research interests are also welcome to apply, as are those who have other fieldwork sites for their thesis or dissertation research.

Current Ph.D. Students: Anthony DeLuca, Michael Petrozza, Sebastián Salgado-Flores, Jason Whitaker


  • A.B., Anthropology, University of Michigan, 1991

  • Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, 2000

Honors and Awards

2023    Founding Member, University of Texas at San Antonio Chapter of Sigma Xi

2018    Phi Kappa Phi

2017   President’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Advancing Globalization, UTSA

2014    Richard S. Howe Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, UTSA

2007–09    Vilas Associate Award, University of Wisconsin

2003–04    NEH Resident Scholar, School of American Research

2000–05   Vilas Young Investigator Award, University of Wisconsin

1997–98    Junior Fellow in Pre-Columbian Studies, Dumbarton Oaks

1996–97    Dissertation Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences

1994    Sigma Xi

1991–94    National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship

1991–95    William Penn Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania

1991    Graduated with Highest Distinction and Highest Honors, University of Michigan

1991    Phi Beta Kappa

1987    National Merit Scholar


2024  An Early Classic Tomb and a Buried Preclassic Shrine at Buenavista:  The Results of the 2024 Mopan Valley Archaeological Project (J. Yaeger, B. Cap & M.K. Brown)  Paper proposed for the Belize Archaeology Symposium.

2024  Contested Landscapes: Classic Maya Competition and Warfare in the Mopan Valley of Western Belize (J. Yaeger, M.K. Brown, B. Cap, R. Horowitz & M. Petrozza)  Paper proposed for the 2024 Warfare, Environment, Social Inequality and Pro-Sociability (WESIPS) Biennial Conference, Seville, Spain.

2024  The Contributions of Belizean Archaeology to our Understanding of Ancient Maya Economies (J. Yaeger, B. Cap & R.A. Horowitz)  Paper to be presented in the "The Center and the Edge": How the Archaeology of Belize is Foundational for Understanding the Ancient Maya,” organized by J.J. Awe & A.F. Chase for the 89th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

2023    Inscribing and Centering Sacred Landscapes in the Middle Preclassic Period in Western Belize (M.K. Brown & J. Yaeger). Presentation at the Santa Fe Institute Fourth Session on Being Maya in Mesoamerica.

2023    Political Authority and Royal Mortuary Practices in Feature 385-30 at Buenavista del Cayo, Belize (J. Yaeger, B. Cap & M.K. Brown)  Paper presented at the 11th Annual South-Central Conference on Mesoamerica.

2023    Cuisine under Colonialism: New and Old Ceramic Strategies of the 19th-century San Pedro Maya (A. Villarreal, J. Yaeger, M. Church, & L. Nowakowsi)  Paper presented in the 3rd annual Belize KULCHA Symposium, hosted by the Heritage Education Network Belize.

2023    Modelling Classic Maya Agricultural Productivity in the Mopan Valley (B. Cap, J. Yaeger, & M.K. Brown)  Paper presented in  the 88th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

2023    Tangled Web: Political Pragmatics in the Mopan River Valley (L.J. LeCount, J. Yaeger, B. Simova & B. Cap)  Paper presented in the 88th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

2023    Ancient Maya Graffiti and Pedagogy: A Case Study from Xunantunich, Belize (M.K. Brown & J. Yaeger). Paper presented at the Archaeological Institute of America annual meeting,

2022    Community Engagement and Archaeological Research in the Mopan Valley, Belize (R.A. Horowitz, M.K. Brown, J. Yaeger, & B. Cap)  Paper presented in the 2nd annual Belize KULCHA Symposium, hosted by the Heritage Education Network Belize.

2022    Cycles of Life in the Preclassic: Integration and Creation of Sacred Landscapes (M.K. Brown & J. Yaeger). Presentation at the Santa Fe Institute Third Session on Being Maya in Mesoamerica.

2022    Two Late Classic Royal Burials from Buenavista del Cayo, Belize (J. Yaeger, B. Cap, G. Pérez Robles, C.R. Freiwald, C. Helmke, R. Friedel Juan, R.A. Horowitz & M.K. Brown). Paper presented in the Belize Archaeology Symposium.

2022    Large Lithic Layers: Ritual Lithic Deposits and the Preclassic to Classic Period Transition in the Mopan Valley, Belize (R.A. Horowitz, M. Kathryn Brown, J. Yaeger, & B. Cap).  Paper presented in the Belize Archaeology Symposium.

2022    Access and Equity in the Classic Maya Xunantunich, Belize, Marketplace (B. Cap, J. Yaeger, T. Lindley, K. Stephens & D. Keim) Paper presented in “Household Size, Wealth, and Inequality in the Maya Lowlands,” organized by A. Thompson & A. Chase for the 87th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

2022    Peopling the Mopan Valley Landscape: The Legacy of Wendy Ashmore’s Xunantunich Settlement Survey.  Paper presented in “In Memory of Wendy Ashmore: Landscapes of Meaning, Biographies of Place, and Archaeologies of Compassion, PART I,” organized by C. Halperin and E. King for the 87th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

2022    Early Maya Communities, Integration, and Creation of Sacred Landscapes: A View from the Mopan Valley, Belize (M.K. Brown & J. Yaeger)  Paper presented at the 87th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

2021    Mundane or Symbolic: Ritual use of Debitage in the Preclassic and Classic period Maya Lowlands  (R.A. Horowitz, M.K. Brown, J. Yaeger, & B. Cap). Paper presented at the 13th International Symposium on Knappable Materials. 

2021    Preclassic E Groups, Communities, and Sacred Landscapes in the Mopan Valley, Belize (M.K. Brown & J. Yaeger) Presentation at the Santa Fe Institute Workshop on “Being Maya in Mesoamerica.”

2021    The Archaeology of San Pedro Siris (M.C. Church & J. Yaeger). Paper presented at the Symposium entitled “Ethnohistory and Afrohistory at the Ends/Center of the World:  Belize and its Neighbors,” organized by M. Restall, Pennsylvania State University.

2021    Los Grupos E, comunidades y paisajes sagrados en la época preclásica en el occidente de Belice.  (M.K. Brown & J. Yaeger)  Paper presented in the symposium “Sociedades tempranas y dinámicas sociopolíticas mayas en el Preclásico Medio,” organized by V.A.Vázquez López, Posgrado en Estudios Mesomaericanos, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

2021    Interpreting Maya Migration from Birth to Death: A Multi-Isotopic Case Study from Xunantunich and San Lorenzo, Belize (A.J. Rand, C. Freiwald, J. Yaeger, M.K. Brown & V. Grimes)  Paper presented at the Bioarchaeology Early Career Conference (BECC).

2021    Discussant for “A New Horizon: Reassessing the Andean Middle Horizon (600-1000 A.D.) and Rethinking the Andean State,” organized by Stephen Berquist for the 86th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Grants, Patents and Clinical Trials

2022-23   Alphawood Foundation Grant:  “The Roles of Religion, Economy, and Warfare in the Rise and Fall of Maya Polities in Western Belize” (Yaeger was Co-PI)

2019-21   Alphawood Foundation Grant:  “The Roles of Ancient Maya Religion, Economy, and Warfare: A Case Study from the Mopan Valley of Belize” (Yaeger was Co-PI)

2016    Alphawood Foundation Grant:  “Ancient Maya Religion, Economy, and Warfare: A Regional Study in the Mopan Valley of Belize” (Yaeger was Co-PI)

2012    Alphawood Foundation Grant:  “LiDAR Acquisition in Western Belize: Answering Socio-Political Questions in Maya Archaeology” (Yaeger was Co-PI)

2006    Heinz Foundation Latin American Archaeology Grant:  “Deer Hunting and Landscape Change:  Chemical Analysis of Deer Remains from the Belize Valley” (Yaeger was PI)

2003    Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc., Grant: “Interpersonal Interactions and Royal Authority in the Xunantunich Palace” (Yaeger was PI)

2002    Fulbright–Hays Faculty Abroad Research Grant: “The San Pedro Maya and the British Colonial Enterprise in Belize, 1847–1936” (Yaeger was PI)

2002    National Geographic Society: “Tiwanaku and Inka Imperial Ideology” (Yaeger was PI)

2001    H. John Heinz III Fund for Latin American Archaeology grant: “Tiwanaku and the Construction of Inka Imperial Ideology” (Yaeger was PI)

1996    National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant: “Changing Patterns of Community Structure and Organization: The End of the Classic Period at San Lorenzo, Cayo District, Belize” (Yaeger was Co-PI)

1996    Fulbright / IIE Grant for Research in Belize

1993    Sigma Xi Grant–in–Aid of Research for Belize


2020     Collapse, Transformation, Reorganization: The Terminal Classic Transition in the Maya World. In The Maya World, edited by S. Hutson & T. Ardren, pp. 777–93. Routledge.

2020     Monumental Landscapes, Changing Ideologies, and Political Histories in the Mopan Valley (M.K. Brown & J. Yaeger) In Approaches to Monumental Landscapes of the Ancient Maya, ed. by B.A. Houk, B. Arroyo & T.G. Powis, pp. 290–312. University Press of Florida.

2020     Landscapes of Strategic Mobility in Central America: San Pedro Siris during the Caste War. (M.C. Church, C. Kray, & J. Yaeger) In Handbook of the Archaeology of Indigenous-Colonial Interaction in the Americas, edited by L.M. Panich and S.L. Gonzalez. Routledge.

2018     Inca Sacred Landscapes in the Titicaca Basin. (J. Yaeger & J.M. Lopez Bejarano) In The Oxford Handbook of the Incas, ed. by S. Alconini & A. Covey, pp. 541–57. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

2016     Locating and Dating Sites using LiDAR Survey in a Mosaic Landscape in Western Belize (J. Yaeger, M.K. Brown & B. Cap) Advances in Archaeological Practice 4(3):339–56.

2010     Classic Maya Provincial Politics: Xunantunich and its Hinterlands (edited by L.J. LeCount & J. Yaeger) University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

2000     The Archaeology of Communities: A New World Perspective (edited by M.A. Canuto & J. Yaeger) Routledge Press, London.