More than you want to know about

Ed Sisson's Background

More than you want to know about Ed Sisson's Background

My undergraduate education was at the University of Mississippi where I received a B.A. degree in 1964 with a major in Sociology and Anthropology and a minor in Spanish. After my Sophomore year, I spent the summer at the University of New Mexico's archaeological field school which was working across the river from San Juan Pueblo at the site of Onate's first settlement. After my Junior year, Pat Culbert invited me to work with him at Tikal where I dug "telephone booths". My honorary memberships as an undergraduate included Phi Kappa Phi (Scholastic) and Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish).

With the support of a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, I enrolled in the graduate program in anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the spring semester of 1964. There I worked with Robert Rands and spent two long, enjoyable field seasons at the Maya site of Palenque. Our work took us to a number of outlying sites located on the Pleistocene terraces north of Palenque, on the Rio Usumacinta flood plain, and along the Tulija drainage in the highlands south of Palenque. In the fall of 1966, I left Chapel Hill having completed my course work and written exams for the M.A.

I enrolled in the graduate program at Harvard University that fall. My education was supported by a Graduate National Fellowship from Harvard, two teaching fellowships, and the work of my wife Penny who was employed in private schools in Cambridge and Brookline. In the spring of 1967, I received the A.M. degree in anthropology. Course work for the Ph.D. was completed in the spring of 1968. During the summer of 1967, I spent several weeks in the Chontalpa of northwestern Tabasco as a result of a grant from the Owens Fund administered by Gordon Willey. This experience led to my dissertation work. Fieldwork was conducted in the summer and fall of 1968 in the Chontalpa. The dissertation, Archaeological Survey and Excavation in the Western Chontalpa, Tabasco, Mexico, was finally completed in 1977.

At Harvard I had an opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant in a General Education class on Physical Anthropology taught by W.W. Howells, E. Mayr and xxx. In addition to attending all lectures, the teaching assistants led discussion sessions once a week. During the 1967-68 academic year, I was a tutor for sophomore majors. This involved leading weekly discussion sessions with a small group of majors. In the spring of 1970 while Mike Moseley was in Peru working at Chan Chan, I was Acting Head Tutor. This meant I read all Senior Theses and compiled data which the faculty used to decide upon honors for graduating seniors.

In the fall of 1970, I left Harvard without having finished my dissertation in order to take a job as Curator at the R.S. Peabody Foundation in Andover, Massachusetts. In spite of the title, my primary responsibility was to conduct field investigations of the Late Postclassic (A.D. 1250-1521) occupation of the Tehuacan Valley, Puebla, Mexico. With funding from the National Geographic Society and the Peabody Foundation, I spent three field seasons in Tehuacan. Research focused on the small city state or "cacicazgo" of Coxcatlan. During my time in Andover, I team taught a course on Mesoamerican archaeology with R.S. MacNeish who was the Director of the Foundation. One semester as outreach to the Andover community, I taught a course on anthropological films for laymen.

After leaving the Peabody Foundation, I spent several years out of academia. During this time I did finish by dissertation. In the spring of 1977, I was employed by the University of Utah to direct a cultural resource survey and test excavations in the Uinta Basin of northeastern Utah. The project was focused on public lands managed by the BLM that was to be exchanged for land owned by the Ute Tribe. Negotiations with the Ute Tribal Council was a real learning experience. Although I was only in Utah for a little over a year, I directed and conducted numerous small surveys which took me to almost every corner of the state. If I had grown up in Utah with its fantastic geological exposures, I'm sure that I would have studied geology.

From the University of Utah, I came to the University of Mississippi in the Fall Semester of 1978. Since returning to Mississippi, I have conducted a small number of local archaeological surveys within the state. But my real love remains Mexico. At the University of Mississippi, I have taught a wide variety of courses including - introduction to physical anthropology, introduction to cultural anthropology, anthropological films, introduction to Latin American studies, Mesoamerican art, and courses on the Aztec and the Maya.

During the 1989-90 academic year, I was on leave from the University of Mississippi in order to accept a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship at the Universidad de las Americas, Puebla in Cholula, Puebla. The following year (1991), I returned to Mexico on a Fulbright Research Grant to begin work at the Late Postclassic archaeological site of Teohuacan (Tehuacan Viejo). During that field season, Jerry Lilly, Tad Britt, and I excavated a room with a polychrome mural on its walls. The mural had been damaged prior to the Conquest. It originally featured nine shields with crossed lances behind them. The central shield has an atlatl and darts behind it. Holes in the wall above the painted shields had held wooden pegs from which actual shields were hung. The room has been interpreted as a vesting room for warriors and armory. Laboratory analyses were conducted during 1992; and during 1993 I was on sabbatical leave and mapped the entire site of Tehuacan Viejo.

I am now in the process of writing up the results of my fieldwork in the Tehuacan Valley and teaching courses at the University of Mississippi. This spring (1996) I will teach courses on the Maya and the Aztec.

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