Michael Callaghan

I am an archaeologist and Assistant Professor. I focus on the study of Mesoamerican complex societies with an emphasis on the ancient Maya. My primary area of methodological interest is ceramic analysis and how the study of ceramic artifacts informs scholarship related to prehistoric complex societies. I currently conduct archaeological research at the ancient Maya site of Holtun located in the Central Peten Lakes area of Guatemala. With artifacts recovered from Holtun, I am using type-variety-mode classification, optical microscopy, petrographic analysis, pXRF analysis, INAA, and experimental ceramic production studies to inform scholarship about the relationship between ceramic material culture and the development of complex society during the Preclassic period.

Working with Dr. Callaghan:Michael Callaghan

I believe advanced undergraduate and professional degrees in archaeology should:

  • Expose students to fundamental theoretical concepts in anthropology and archaeology
  • Teach students a transferable methodological specialization
  • Give students experience in first-hand data collection, analysis, and interpretation
  • Professionally prepare students for a career within, or related to, the archaeological sciences

To these ends I am seeking self-motivated students with a desire to conduct primary field and/or laboratory research related to the ancient Maya. Students who choose to work with me will have the opportunity to perform research at my current research site in Holtun, Guatemala and/or in the laboratory here at UCF. I hope to guide students in the creation of theoretically informed theses founded upon the analysis and interpretation of an original dataset of archaeological material. As part of the Holtun Archaeological Project, students will have the opportunity to conduct archaeological research; write, present, and publish archaeological papers; and network with international colleagues and senior members of the Mesoamerican archaeological community.

Dr. Callaghan is looking for graduate students with an interest in:

  • Mesoamerican and Maya archaeology
  • Social complexity
  • Ritual and feasting
  • Ancient technologies
  • Ceramic classification, analysis, and interpretation
  • Experimental ceramic production
  • Ceramic ethnoarchaeology
  • Monumental architecture

Examples of research projects conducted by Dr. Callaghan’s students:

  • Mapping and GIS analysis of Holtun, Guatemala
  • Experimental ceramic production using different temper types
  • Production and long-distance exchange at the site of Holtun, Guatemala
  • Paleo-climatological data and collapse in the eastern Maya area
  • Dr. Callaghan and former Guatemalan Co-Director, Licenciada Patricia Rivera Castillo, studying ceramic material in the Yaxha archaeological laboratory

  • Decorated unslipped Middle Preclassic period ceramic sherds from Holtun, Guatemala

  • Digital photo taken using a Dino-lite portable microscope showing crystalline calcite inclusions in Middle Preclassic period pottery from Holtun, Guatemala

  • Dr. Kovacevich and project personnel standing in a mound group overlooking the central Maya lowlands from the edge of the Holtun escarpment

  • Graduate student, Dawn Crawford, (foreground), Dr. Callaghan (background), and excavators from the town of La Maquina performing plaza excavations at Holtun

  • Dr. Callaghan taking the elevation of a Preclassic-period household sub-structure at Holtun

  • UCF graduate student, Rodrigo Guzman, taking shelter from a rainstorm and calibrating his mapping equipment in the field at Holtun

  • Looters’ tunnel located inside a pyramid at Holtun

  • Preclassic sub-structure platform with painted mask within a pyramid at Holtun

  • Painted detail of a jaguar fang adorning a Preclassic period mask on a sub-structure within a pyramid at Holtun

  • Dr. Callaghan, Dr. Kovacevich, UCF graduate student Rodrigo Guzman, and Holtun project personnel standing in front of a pyramid platform in 2011