Department of Sociology and Anthropology

University of Mississippi

Carolyn Freiwald

Biography | Research | Student Projects | Publications | CV

Carolyn Freiwald

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Ph.D, University of Wisconsin
Archaeology, Maya and Mesoamerican, Bioarchaeology, Zooarchaeology, Archaeological Chemistry
Lamar Hall 544  |  662-915-6544

Office Hours
Mondays 2:00-4:00 & by appointment

Anth 101 Introduction to Anthropology
Anth 304 Biological Anthropology
Anth 320 Archaeozoology: Animal Use in History
Anth 326 Archaeology of Maya Civilization
Anth 342 Osteology Directed Study
Anth 391 Archaeological Field Session Abroad (in Belize)
Anth 405 Human Osteology
Anth 542 Osteology Directed Study
Anth 607 Seminar in Bicultural Anthropology
Anth 621 Readings in Anthropology I
Anth 622 Readings in Anthropology II



I received my PhD and MS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Anthropology, entering graduate school after earning a BA in History and International Relations in the great Badger State. Historic architecture – old buildings and ruins – have always fascinated me, so the allure of 19th century buildings eventually turned my curiosity about the past into a job where I get to solve mysteries about ancient people every day. I study ancient Latin American civilizations and have ongoing research projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras, though I have also worked on archaeology projects in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama, Romania, Denmark, and the Upper Midwest and Mississippi.


Biogeochemistry provides a unique way to reconstruct ancient migration patterns and understand the way that the Maya used their environment. Strontium and oxygen isotopes values in the tooth enamel of people who lived in Belize 1300 years ago show that population movement was common, and that migrants included men, women, and children living in urban and rural communities. The UM archaeology lab collaborates with the Forensic Chemistry Program to study migration and diet from Central Mexico to Honduras. My specialty is to create detailed maps of isotope values region by region, and site by site, so that we can better understand migration networks among the ancient Maya and neighboring populations. I also look at more specific questions: did the Maya practice of notching, filing, and placing precious stones like jade in their teeth relate to migration? Did migrants receive different burial treatment than people born in the community? We are examining funerary practices in ancestor shrines in and around houses at the site of Actuncan, Belize, as well as interments in caves and rock shelters in the region, to better understand burial treatment and how it related to origin and an individual’s homeland.

I also study ancient diet and conduct research on isotopes and animal use as part of multi-disciplinary project in the Petén Lakes region in Guatemala. My current zooarchaeological studies focus on changing patterns of animal use and consumption at the sites of Tayasal, Zacpetén, Nixtun Ch’ich’, and the early Colonial mission of San Bernabé. Were domesticated European animal species, such as cows, pigs, and horses, available to the Maya living outside the Colonial system, and how did they choose to use them? We also use bone chemistry to studying where animals were acquired, including the first cows, pigs, and horses in the region. Other research projects on animal use include work with faunal collections in North America, Denmark, and the Galapagos islands (as a collaborative effort with the UW-Madison Zoological Museum).

Student Projects

I advise students seeking Master’s degrees and on undergraduate thesis projects, including human osteology, zooarchaeology, and archaeological chemistry. I have projects in the US, Guatemala, and Belize and am happy to talk with prospective students about their ideas and interests.

Selected Publications

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

2018. Carolyn Freiwald & Timothy Pugh. “The origins of early Colonial Cows at San Bernabé, Guatemala: Strontium isotope values at an early Spanish mission in the Petén Lakes region of northern Guatemala.” Environmental Archaeology: The Journal of Human Paleoecology 23 (1):278-284.

2017. Gabriel D. Wrobel, Carolyn Freiwald, Amy Michael, Christophe Helmke, Jaime Awe, Douglas J. Kennett, Sherry Gibbs, Josalyn M. Ferguson, and Cameron Griffith. “Social identity and geographic origin of Maya burials at Actun Uayazba Kab, Roaring Creek Valley, Belize.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 45: 98-114. doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2016.11.004

2016. Timothy W. Pugh, Katherine Miller, Carolyn Freiwald, and Prudence M. Rice. “Technologies of domination at Mission San Bernabé, Petén.” Ancient Mesoamerica 27 (1):49-70. doi:10.1017/S0956536116000067

2014. Carolyn Freiwald, David W. Mixter, and Nick Billstrand. “Burial Practices at Actunctan: A Seated Burial and Ongoing Analysis from the 2001-2013 Field Seasons.” Research Reports in Belize Archaeology 11: 95-110.

2011. “Patterns of population movement at Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, and Baking Pot during the Late and Terminal Classic (AD 600-900).” Research Reports in Belize Archaeology 9: 89-100.

2009. Jason Yaeger & Carolyn Freiwald. “Complex ecologies: Human and animal responses to ancient landscape change in central Belize.” Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology” 8: 83-92.

Chapters in Edited Volumes

2017. “Barton Ramie and in-migration to the Belize River Valley: Strontium isotopes and burial patterns.” In M. Charlotte Arnold, Christopher Beekman, and Grégory Pereira (eds.), Ancient Mesoamerican Cities: Populations on the Move. University Press of Colorado.

2017. J. Hoggarth, Carolyn Freiwald, and Jaime Awe. “Evidence for Classic and Postclassic population movement at Baking Pot, Belize.” In M. Charlotte Arnold, Christopher Beekman, and Grégory Pereira (eds.), Ancient Mesoamerican Cities: Populations on the Move. University Press of Colorado.

2014. Carolyn Freiwald, Jason Yaeger, Jaime Awe, and Jennifer Piehl. “Isotopic insights into mortuary treatment and origin at Xunantunich, Belize.” In G. D. Wrobel (ed.), The Bioarchaeology of Space and Place: Ideology, Power and Meaning in Maya Mortuary Contexts. Springer Press.

2014. Gabriel D. Wrobel, Christophe Helmke, Carolyn Freiwald, and Jaime Awe. “Caves of the ancestors: A case study of reverential cave use from Je’reftheel, Central Belize.” In Gabriel D. Wrobel (ed.), The Bioarchaeology of Space and Place: Ideology, Power and Meaning in Maya Mortuary Contexts. Springer Press.