Graduate Students


Michael Aiuvalasit

Graduate Student

Heroy Hall 435

BA Archaeological Studies, Anthropology, and History, The University of Texas at Austin
MA Anthropology, Texas A&M University

I am a doctoral candidate in the Anthropological Archaeology program. My research examines the relationships between climate change, community resilience, and the ways in which natural resources are cooperatively managed. I am currently collecting data and analyzing geoarchaeological samples from prehistoric water reservoir features built by Ancestral Puebloans between the 14th and 17th centuries in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. Data from these features and new paleohydrological models of natural water availability will be integrated with existing archaeological and paleoclimatological data to evaluate whether or not droughts made Ancestral Puebloan communities vulnerable to water scarcity. Formal cost-benefit predictions derived from game theory will be tested against what appears to be a range of adaptive responses by prehistoric communities to "mega-droughts" experienced during the 15th and 16th centuries in the Jemez Mountains. The goal is to better understand what makes some communities vulnerable to droughts when others are resilient. Fieldwork is being conducted in the Santa Fe National Forest, Bandelier National Monument, and Los Alamos National Laboratory in consultation with descendant communities and managing federal agencies. Analytical costs are funded by a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation, while fieldwork is supported by smaller awards and grants. I am a Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute Graduate Fellow for 2014-15.

While my dissertation research focuses on environmental archaeology in the North American Southwest, I maintain research interests in other parts of North America as well. In Texas, I am interested in historical trends in archaeological research, prehistoric settlement patterns of the Gul Coastal Plain, and in assessing the impacts of sea level rise and coastal erosion to cultural resources. In the Southeastern United States, I am interested inthe potential for identifying paleoecological and sedimentological proxies for anthropogenic impacts to local vegetation communities adjacent to large Mississippian villages, while in the Tehuacan Valley of Central Mexico I have participated in research examining large-scale prehistoric water management systems. Prior to coming to SMU, I worked for 5 years as a consulting geoarchaeologist and authored or co-authored over 40 cultural resource management reports on investigations undertaken in 11 states. Many of these projects were large-scale endeavors or carried out in complicated urban settings, which necessitated predicative modeling of site potential and/or data recovery excavations.


Entered program in 2011

Region of Study:

US Southwest, Texas, Eastern North America, Mexico

Honors and Awards:

Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant awarded by the National Science Foundation, 2014-2015
Douglas C. Kellogg Award, Society for American Archaeology, 2014
Graduate Student Research Grant, Geological Society of America, 2014
Institute for the Study of Earth and Man Graduate Research Grant (SMU), 2014
William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies Interdisciplinary Research Grant (SMU), 2014
Texas Archaeological Society Donors Fund Research Grant and Council for Texas Archaeologists Student Research Grant, 2005


Neely, James A., Michael Aiuvalasit, and Vincent Clause
In review New Light on the Prehistoric Purrón Dam Complex: Small Corporate Group Collaboration in the Tehuacán Valley, Puebla, México. Journal of Field Archaeology.

Schuldenrein, Joseph and Michael Aiuvalasit
2011    Urban Geoarcheology and Sustainability: A Case Study from Manhattan Island, New York City, USA. In Geoarchaeology, Climate Change and Sustainability: Geological Society of America Special Paper 476. Edited by A. G. Brown, L. S. Basell, and K. Butzer, p. 153-172. Geological Society of America, Boulder.

Aiuvalasit, Michael, James A. Neely and Mark Bateman
2010    New Radiumetric Dating of Water Management Features at the Prehistoric Purron Dam Complex, Tehuacan Valley, Puebla, Mexico. Journal of Archeological Sciences 37 (6): 1207-1213.

Aiuvalasit, Michael
2007    The Geoarchaeology of the McNeill Ranch Site: Implications for Paleoindian Studies of the Gulf Coastal Plain of Texas. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 78: 47-64.