College of Liberal and Fine Arts

M. Kathryn Brown, Ph.D.

Lutcher Brown Endowed Professor

Department of Anthropology

Research area: Archaeology


Phone: (210) 458-6761

Office: MH 4.04.38

Research in Progress

My principal research focus is one of anthropology’s fundamental topics, the origins of complex societies. Because I am interested in the rise of complexity as a general phenomenon, I value cross-cultural comparisons. As my primary case study and focus of fieldwork, however, I examine the Maya Civilization of Central America. I have conducted research for over 25 years in the Maya Lowlands, especially in the Belize River Valley and Northern Belize. There, I have traced the development of social inequalities in early Maya communities. More recently, I have become interested in these processes at a regional scale, examining how early communities were placed across the ancient landscape and how they interacted through trade, competition, and warfare. Through these interactions, hierarchical structures came to bind these communities into more complex polities that formed the basis for the Maya states of the Classic period. These questions are the focus of my current fieldwork project, the Mopan Valley Preclassic Project, which examines the Preclassic components of sites in the Upper Belize River Valley including Nohoch Ek, Buenavista del Cayo, Xunantunich, and Las Ruinas de Arenal to understand both the roles of public architecture and ritual activities in sanctifying an emerging hierarchical social order, and how the interactions between competing communities shaped the development of complex polities.

Most of my research has focused on the Preclassic Maya, but I have a strong interest in Texas archaeology as well. I have directed eleven seasons of fieldwork in Texas, conducted as archaeological field schools. These projects investigated both historic and prehistoric sites, and the data collected have been relevant to several important topics in Texas prehistory and history, including prehistoric mobility patterns and the establishment of pioneer settlements in Texas.

Honors and awards: Member of the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars, UT System Regents Outstanding Teaching Award (2015), UTSA President's Distinguished Achievement for Excellence in Teaching (2014).


Ph.D., Southern Methodist University, 2003


I believe that an effective teacher must be enthusiastic about the subject matter and enjoy teaching. In all of the courses I teach, I emphasize the relevance of learning about past cultures in order to understand better the cultural and physical diversity in the modern world. I stress a four-field approach to anthropology and encourage the students to think critically and analytically about the subject matter. I try to create a dynamic and interactive classroom that serves as a comfortable environment conducive to learning. I have taught a number of courses in anthropology, including Introduction of Archaeology, Ancient Civilizations of Mexico, Ancient Maya Civilization, North American Archaeology, Frauds, Myths and Mysteries in Archaeology, In the Footsteps of Early Maya Explorers (graduate level), History, Method and Theory (graduate level), Origins of Civilizations (graduate level), Archaeological Methods (graduate level), as well as Texas Archaeological Field School and Belize Archaeological Field School.

Current Ph.D. Students: John Harrison, Madeline Synder, Alessandra Villarreal

Current MA Students: David Burns, Lauren Nowakowski, Marcos Reynoso

Representative Publications

2018.  Brown, M. K., and G. J. Bey III (Editors) Pathways to Complexity:  A View from the Maya Lowlands. University Press of Florida.

2017.  Brown, M. K.  E-Groups and Ancestors: The Sunrise of Complexity at Xunantunich, Belize. In Early Maya E-Groups, Solar Calendars, and the Role of Astronomy in the Rise of Lowland Maya Urbanism, edited by D.A. Freidel, A.F. Chase, D.Z. Chase, and A. Dowd.  University Press of Florida.

2017.   Brown, M. K., W. Lytle, Z. Rawski, V. Ingalls, and A. Villarreal. Understanding the Preclassic Ritual Landscape in the Mopan Valley: A View from Early Xunantunich. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 14: 53-64.

2016.  Yaeger, J., M. K. Brown, and B. Cap.  Locating and Dating Sites Using LiDAR Survey in a Mosaic Vegetative Environment in Western Belize. Advances in Archaeological Practice 4(3):339-356. 

2013.  Brown, M. K.  Missing Persons:  The Role of Ancestors in the Rise of Complexity. Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology 10:57-64.

2011.  Brown, M. K., Postclassic Veneration at Xunantunich, Belize.  Mexicon XXXIII: 126-131.

2003.  Brown, M. K., and T. W. Stanton (Editors) Ancient Mesoamerican Warfare. AltaMira Press.


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Main Office: MH 4.03.38

Department of Anthropology

University of Texas at San Antonio

College of Liberal and Fine Arts

One UTSA Circle

San Antonio, TX 78249-1644