John K Millhauser

Picture of John K Millhauser

Assistant Professor

Teaching and Research Interests

I am an anthropological archaeologist interested how the kinds of work that people do shapes and is shaped by their social worlds, the environment, and the broader political economy. I focus on people who lived in central Mexico during the Aztec and Spanish empires and use archaeological methods to try to give a voice to these people who are typically voiceless in the historical record. By doing so, I hope to contribute to a more comprehensive and inclusive understanding of past societies, as well as our own.

My archaeological experience and interest is primarily in Mesoamerica, and particularly in central Mexico, although I have also worked at contact period sites in West Virginia and a Roman villa in Portugal. Methodologically I work from the widest scale of regional settlement survey to the micro-scale of mineralogy, all revolving around the axes of work, community, and environment.


My current research interests and projects include:

- Understanding the economic, social, and political lives of salt-makers who lived and worked in the northern Basin of Mexico. Like farmers, salt-makers based their work in the land, but unlike farmers, they could not subsist on the products of their work. My archaeological and ethnohistoric study of several saltmaking settlements provides a window into the risks and rewards of saltmaking, the ecological circumstances of the trade, and the nature of community organization and persistence. I draw especially on ideas from economic anthropology and political ecology to better understand these communities.

- The social, economic, and spatial organization of the city of Tlaxcallan, the capital of a republic that defied the Aztec Empire. I am part of a team of archaeologists who have mapped the ancient city and will soon begin excvating a sample of residential terraces. This project is especially relevant to the study of collective action in ancient states.

- The circulation of goods through markets, tribute, and less formal mechanisms of exchange. My archaeological focus has been on commodities like obsidian (a volcanic glass used to make the stone tools that were staples of Mesoamerican economies) and salt, but I am also interested in the value of objects, sites, and images of the past in the present day.




Millhauser, John K., Lane F. Fargher, Verenice Y. Heredia Espinoza, and Richard E. Blanton. 2015 “The geopolitics of obsidian supply in Postclassic Tlaxcallan: A portable X-ray fluorescence study.” Journal of Archaeological Science 58:133-146.

Brumfiel, Elizabeth and John K. Millhauser. 2014. Representing Tenochtitlan: Understanding Urban Life by Collecting Material Culture. Museum Anthropology 37:6-16.

Stoner, Wesley D., John K. Millhauser, Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría, Lisa Overholtzer, and Michael D. Glascock. 2014. Taken with a Grain of Salt: Experimentation and the Chemistry of Archaeological Ceramics from Xaltocan, Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 21:862-898.

Rodríguez-Alegría, Enrique, John K. Millhauser, and Wesley D. Stoner. 2013. Trade, tribute, and neutron activation: The colonial political economy of Xaltocan, Mexico. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32:397-414.

Millhauser, John K., Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría, and Michael D. Glascock. 2011. Testing the accuracy of portable X-ray fluorescence to study Aztec and Colonial obsidian supply at Xaltocan, Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Science 38:3141-3152.

Fargher, Lane, Richard E. Blanton, Verenice Y. Heredia Espinoza, John Millhauser, Nezahuacoyotl Xiutecuhtli, and Lisa Overholtzer. 2011. Tlaxcallan: the archaeology of an ancient republic in the New World. Antiquity 85:172-186.

Millhauser, John K. 2005. "Classic and Postclassic Chipped Stone at Xaltocan," in Production and Power at Postclassic Xaltocan. Edited by E. M. Brumfiel, pp. 267-318. Pittsburgh and Mexico, D.F.: University of Pittsburgh and Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.


  • PhD in Anthropology from Northwestern University, 2012
  • MA in Anthropology from Arizona State University, 1999
  • BA in Anthropology from Brown University, 1995