Professor Rosemary Joyce

"From Kitty Litter to Granite: The Archaeology of Nuclear Waste"
UC Berkeley Anthropology & Hearst Museum

Rosemary Joyce is internationally recognized as a specialist in sex and gender in the past, basing her analyses on art, burials, and the remains of households. In her book, Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives (Thames and Hudson 2008), she presents the results of global research on sex and gender by archaeologists for interdisciplinary scholars. As an anthropological archaeologist, she conducted field research in Honduras for more than 30 years. She has excavated some of the earliest villages in Central America, dating to 1500-500 BC; the largest settlement in the region, dating 500-1000 AD; and most recently (2008-2009), an 18th century Spanish fort on the Caribbean coast.

Her research on early villages resulted in the identification of traces of cacao (the plant yielding chocolate) dating to at least 1100 BC and led to reassessment of the role of this plant in the cultures of Central America. An important and continuing part of her work has been the exploration of the ethics and political contexts of archaeological research. This includes work assessing the impacts on cultural heritage policy of the 2009 coup d'etat in Honduras. Part of her cultural heritage research involves contributing to the creation of new museums and interpretive centers in Honduras. Her two most recent books, Painted Pottery from Honduras: Object Lives and Itineraries (Brill 2017) and Material Relations: The Marriage Figures of Prehispanic Honduras (with Julia Hendon and Jeanne Lopiparo; University Press of Colorado 2014) are products of her field and museum research.

Rosemary Joyce currently directs a major project supported by a multi-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to improve scholarly access to a microfilm collection that duplicates the main colonial archive for Central America, the Archivo General de Centroamérica.

Her work in cultural heritage is in part based in her history as a museum anthropologist, a field in which she teaches at Berkeley. She was Assistant Director of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University (1986-1989), and Director of the Hearst Museum of Anthropology at Berkeley (1994-1999). She has published essays on contradictions in the definition of world heritage sites and the way archaeologists evaluate the significance of archaeological sites; on the role of nationalism in archaeology; and the way expertise is mobilized in international consulting. She is completing research on antiquities collecting by North American and European museums and histories of archaeology in Central America.

Her forthcoming book from Oxford University Press (expected in December 2019) builds on all of these strands applied to understanding proposals made by the US Government to mark nuclear waste repositories over the long term, which she likens to the curation of archaeological sites as World Heritage, and compare to Land Art projects created in the US West.

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