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Department of Anthropology

Cornell University Cornell University Cornell Univeristy Department of Anthropology

Faculty Detail

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Henderson, John S.


room: Mcgraw Hall, Room 225


Department Appointments

  • Anthropology (ANTHR)
  • Henderson, John S.

Graduate Fields

  • American Indian Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Latin American Studies

Other Affiliations

  • Latin American Studies Program (LASP)
  • Religious Studies Program (RELST)
  • Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies (CIAMS)


Mesoamerica.  Andes.  Development of complex societies.  Writing systems.  Settlement archaeology.


My teaching and research revolve around early complex societies, especially in Mesoamerica.  My field work continues a long-term involvement in survey and excavation in the lower Ulúa valley in Honduras.


My research interests center on early complex societies and how archaeology can explore the processes through which they develop.  How do distinctions in status, wealth, and authority emerge within and between communities?  Under what circumstances do these distinctions intensify into stratification?  How does stratification relate to the centralization of political power, to the emergence of kings and states?
Another set of interests revolves around notions of identity.  How are the groups with which people associate themselves, the categories to which they see themselves as belonging, reflected in material remains?  How do these categories relate to the analytical categories archaeologists use?

I explore these issues through material remains, imagery, and written texts in Mesoamerica.  A long-term involvement in survey and excavation in the lower Ulúa valley in Honduras, a region in which the cultural affiliations of ancient populations and the emergence of social stratification are particularly salient, has intensified my interest in the ways that the data of settlement and household archaeology may be used to address these issues.




Ancient Peoples and Places

Ancient Mexico and Central America

Books of Fate, Books of the Ancestors: Astrology and History in Ancient Mesoamerica

Aztecs and Their Empire: Myth, History, and Politics

Maya History

Ancient Civilizations of the Andes

Inkas and Their Empire

Selected Publications