Research, Development, and Hot Topic


Research of anthropology here at Michigan State University not only takes place in the Great Lakes region, but worldwide in places like Australia, Belize, South Africa, Greece, and Israel. One of the leading researchers here is Gabriel Wrobel, who also leads study abroad programs in Belize, has focused his research on studying ancient Mayan culture and daily life. One of his papers, entitled “Ancient Maya Stone Tools and Ritual Use of Deep Valley Rockshelter, Belize” focuses on the Mayans use of stone tools in their religious endeavors, such as sacrificing(human, animal, spiritual, etc.) as well as the different rock formations in Belize that were utilized by them.


Why did you decide to focus your research on Belize?

I did a field school there as a student and fell in love with the country and the people, including the archaeological community working there

I read that you help lead study abroad programs in Belize for anthropology students, what kind of work do these students do while there?

Each student is rotated through a series of sub-projects on which they assist project leaders with various tasks and in the process acquire skills related to basic archaeological methods, such as survey, lab analysis, bioarchaeology, speleo archaeology, etc

What was your goal in publishing this paper about the ancient Mayan tools and the Deep Valley Rockshelter?

We were trying to understand how the Maya were using these rockshelter sites. Was it just a shelter that they camped at occasionally? Were they religious sites used as shrines or the focus of ritual? If so, what kind of ritual? So, we took the data from one of these sites (DVR) and tried to see which of these the stone tools were most consistent with.

Example of an ancient Mayan Rockshelter

Hot Topics

  • Linguistic anthropologists were able to use technology to better understand the migrations made into the Americas, while also understanding Isolates(languages with no connection to any others) better. This article can be found here.
  • New research shows how heavy rainfall in East Asia, specifically China, was more than 400 km more north in the past then in present times, and how this rainfall altered the culture of China today. This article can be found here.
  • In the Baltic Region, it has been discovered that the Baltic hunter-gatherers were not taught agriculture from peoples from the Middle East as with the rest of Western and Central Europe, but acquired this knowledge through the interactions between them and other communities, not through the sharing of genes as it was thought before. This article can be found here.

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