Anthropology undergraduate Dan Hansen is compiling mortuary data on Oaxaca in an effort to build a comprehensive data set that's useful for future research.

Up next in the Museum’s Student Research Spotlight series are three articles focusing on undergraduate research. The first undergraduate student profiled in this series is Dan Hansen.

Hansen is a senior undergraduate in the Department of Anthropology who is focused on archaeology and is also pursuing a minor in medieval and early modern studies. Hansen is conducting his research on the Postclassic Monte Alban V phase (AD 800–900) in the Valley of Oaxaca of southern Mexico, under the supervision of UMMAA curator Joyce Marcus.

Hansen’s research focuses on mortuary data from burials dating to the Monte Alban V phase. He will use this data—including styles of associated artifacts, sex ratios, burial position, and architecture—to understand how group identities were understood, expressed, and maintained ca. AD 800–1000, following the decline and abandonment of the region’s capital at Monte Alban. Scholars have often assumed the primary ethnic distinctions in the region existed between relatively static and homogenous Zapotec and Mixtec groups, a view that may overlook some of the complexity and heterogeneous expressions of identity throughout the region’s later history. Hansen explores such variability, specifically how people conceived of in- and out-group identities in the newly decentralized Valley of Oaxaca in the Monte Alban V phase.

Much of Hansen’s research has involved collecting mortuary data from excavations throughout the Valley of Oaxaca. To do this, he has had to consult numerous different publications, some of which are from the first half of the twentieth century. Much of the data had not been previously compiled. Organizing this mortuary data into a comprehensive data set is a central component of Hansen’s project. The results of his work should facilitate future research in the region.

Story by Martin Menz (