Jen Birch

Dr. Jennifer Birch is an archaeologist who specializes in the archaeology of Eastern North America. Her research is underpinned by the desire to understand the relationship between long-term processes of cultural change and the lived experience of individuals and communities. The major impacts of her research have been on understanding the nature of organizational complexity and diversity in Pre-Columbian Eastern North America. The theoretical frameworks she employs draw upon concepts of historical process and contingency, theories of practice, and a broadly-conceived materialism. These necessitate multi-scalar research designs that interrogate the interactions between top-down and bottom-up processes, structure and agency, institutions and individuals. Her most current research projects employ a range of methodologies including integrative analyses of settlement data, geophysical prospection, social network analysis, and chronology-building. She is co-director of the Singer-Moye Archaeological Settlement History Project (SMASH) and team lead for Dating Iroquoia, an NSF-funded project which seeks to refine archaeological chronologies for Northern Iroquoian archaeology.


Megan Anne Conger is a Ph.D. candidate.  Her current research considers how relationships between Native communities in Southern Ontario changed over the course of the 16th and 17th centuries.  In particular, she is investigating the differential timing of early interactions between European settlers and Native communities, considering the possibility that Native communities engaged in these interactions in a variety of ways other than simple acceptance or rejection.  This incorporates traditional analyses of trade goods (glass beads, metal artifacts) with the construction of Bayesian Chronological Models using high-precision AMS radiocarbon dates. Her research bridges prehistoric and historic archaeologies and is rooted in both world-systems and postcolonial intellectual frameworks. 


Travis Jones is a PhD student trained in anthropological archaeology and archaeological science. Travis’ theoretical interests include applications of time in archaeology, organizational complexity, cooperation and competition, landscapes, and identity. His methodological expertise is in chronological modeling, materials analysis (isotopic and elemental), and the application of large datasets.

His dissertation research investigates the timing and tempo of settlement formation and social organization among the earliest villagers in the Middle Missouri region of the Northern Plains (North and South Dakota). The goal of this research is to: 1) create a durable, high-resolution settlement chronology for early Plains Village groups using Bayesian modeling of new and legacy radiocarbon dates; and 2) explore the relationship between village-making and the evolution of social organization among middle-range societies transitioning to sedentism.

Travis is also currently collaborating with other researchers at the Center for Applied Isotope Studies, the Smithsonian Institution, and various regional institutions and agencies on the first pan-regional obsidian provenance database for the Great Plains.


Jon Micon is a third-year PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia. He specializes in anthropological archaeology with a regional focus in northeast North America. Prior to attending the University of Georgia, Jon was an undergraduate student at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana where he dual-majored in history and anthropology. Each summer he excavated at archaeological sites located in Illinois, Indiana, Virginia, and Georgia. These experiences shaped his interests and ultimately introduced him to the study of Northern Iroquoian populations in the Lower Great Lakes region.

Jon’s current research explores topics related to borderlands, interactions, and identity. Specifically, he is investigating a group of Iroquoian horticulturalists who traditionally inhabited the upper St. Lawrence river valley and their role in regional polity formation during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. This research is related to a growing discourse in the social sciences focused on the permeability of borderlands. It also promotes understandings of Iroquoian culture across international and linguistic boundaries, bridging research traditions in the United States and Canada and the French and English language communities


Sarah Nowell is an archaeologist who specializes in the Canadian Plateau and Pacific Northwest regions of North America.  Her research interests have involved understanding the processes that influence socioeconomics and demography at the household level.  This includes an interrelated set of activities that comprise group decision making, economic, political, and spatial organization.  Methodologically, Sarah uses lithic and spatial analyses to understand household activity.

For her dissertation research, she plans to adapt her interests and methodological strengths to village and regional scales.  In a region that has long been the center of projects designed to understand the emergence of inequality and status hierarchy, it is important gather more information about the relationships between large aggregate villages as well as those between large settlements and smaller ones within the region.  By doing so, she hopes to contribute to a broader understanding of the social organization and group identity in the Mid-Fraser.


Edgar Alcarón’s research centers individual lifetimes and past communities as lenses through which to examine wider ecological and social contexts. Edgar attempts to understand aspects of the lived-experience of past individuals through an Osteobiographical approach when considering the diets, physical activity and subsistence practices of individuals at snapshots in time. Edgar’s research is situated on the cusp of Spanish colonization near what would become Mexico City.  

Edgar plans to apply radiogenic and stable isotope analyses of Strontium, Carbon and Nitrogen to for paleodietary reconstruction, while keeping a reflexive point of view on traditional study of diet, health and disease in bioarchaeology. Edgar’s research plans to cross-examine archaeological assumptions early colonial diets - based primarily on agricultural products - through both Carbon/ Nitrogen isotope analysis, as well as 88Sr/86Sr ratio analysis to provide an independent source of evidence to cross-examine the narratives of past diets. Edgar’s research will examine skeletal samples from a peri-urban site as an example of a colonial population. Farming communities near Mexico City subsisted through agriculture and in some cases engaged in surplus production for larger cities. The evidence of dietary change and disease susceptibility in the decades following European contact will substantiate an understanding of social structure and social inequality during a time of significant change.  

In the future, Edgar plans to further archaeological and bioarchaeological research in Mesoamerica by addressing challenges to the field and the region: accessibility of archaeological information to scholars and the general public, creation of local-level biogeochemical standards, refinement of chronologies, and partnership with stakeholder communities.