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Michael E. Smith

Professor and Director, Teotihuacan Research Laboratory
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 2402
Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 2402
Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 2402
Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 2402
Affiliate Faculty
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 2402
Biography

Archaeologist, Arizona State University. Aztecs, Teotihuacan. Ancient & modern cities (planning, neighborhoods, scaling). Transdisciplinary, deeply historical, and occasionally musical.

 

AWARDS:

2017    Best book, popular category (Society for American Archaeology) for At Home with the Aztecs: An Archaeologist Uncovers their Dailyi Life).

2017    Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award. Arizona State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

2014    Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award (faculty category). Arizona State University, Office of the University Provost, Committee on Campus Inclusion.

2007    Catherine Bauer Wurster Prize for the “Best Scholarly Article on American Planning History” for paper, “Form and Meaning in the Earliest Cities: A New Approach to Ancient Urban Planning” (Society for American City and Regional Planning History).

Education:  Ph.D., 1983, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Bio

Michael E. Smith is an archaeologist with two research themes: The Aztecs, Teotihuacan, and other societies in ancient central Mexico, and comparative urbanism. He has directed fieldwork projects at numerous sites in the provinces of the Aztec empire in central Mexico. His fieldwork focuses on the excavation of houses and the study of daily life. He has published six books and numerous scholarly articles on the Aztecs; his books include the award-winning At Home with the Aztecs (2016), the textbook, The Aztecs  (3rd edition, 2012), Aztec City-State Capitals (2008), and Rethinking the Aztec Economy (co-edited by Nichols, Berdan & Smith, 2017)..

Dr. Smith’s second major theme—comparative and transdisciplinary research on urbanism—has developed since his arrival at ASU in 2005. By analyzing ancient cities using concepts and methods from contemporary urban studies, Smith is exploring the similarities and differences among cities throughout history and around the world. Neighborhoods, the provision of urban services, and patterns of scaling regularities are among the few urban universals, and Smith is part of a transdisciplinary research groups addressing these topics, He also participates in an informal working group at ASU and the Santa Fe Institute to determine whether the regularities of urban scaling (worked out for contemporary cities) also apply to ancient cities. This project investigates cities and urbanism at the most fundamental level: the interactions of people in built environments. Smith also publishes on comparative empires, economies, and systems of social inequality.

Research Projects:

Teaching:
Dr. Smith's teaching focuses on Mesoamerican archaeology, comparative urbanism, and archaeological method and theory.

 

Research Interests

Why did our Neolithic ancestors give up their lifestyles of relative freedom in order to live in crowded cities ruled by kings and elites? Why did Neolithic people who were used to relatively egalitarian village living assent to the social classes, inequality and poverty of early states and cities? This transition—called the Urban Revolution by archaeologists—was one of the most fundamental transformations in human history. Yet it remains one of the most poorly understood episodes of our past. I use four strategies to address these questions with my research:

  1. Reconstruct Aztec and Teotihuacan society.
  2. Focus on households and communities, not kings and elites.
  3. Analyze cities comparatively, from a transdisciplinary perspective.
  4. Use knowledge of the past to develop insights for the future.

Strategy 1: I study the Aztecs, the last rather than the earliest Mesoamerican urban society. I believe that archaeologists need to figure out what life was like in the early cities and states before we can address questions of their origin. I also do research at Teotihuacan.

Strategy 2:  My fieldwork emphasizes the study of houses and domestic conditions, not temples, palaces, and tombs. This “household archaeology” approach studies society from the bottom up, from the “ground level,” in order to avoid the biases that come from traditional emphases on kings and elites.

Strategy 3: I analyze cities (and other social institutions) in a comparative, transdisciplinary framework. All social historical research needs to be comparative in order to reach solid conclusions about conditions in the past; cities and societies are too complex to be understood by any single academic discipline.

Strategy 4: I am exploring ways to use knowledge from the past to develop insights for the future. The past as revealed by archaeology has lessons for us today, but these can only be discovered and applied if research is done in a rigorous fashion, with attention to social conditions today.

  • CLICK HERE for a non-technical introduction to strategies 1 and 2.
  • CLICK HERE for a non-technical introduction to strategies 3 and 4.

My lattest book is a general-audience introduciton to my research on Aztec households and communities:

At Home with the Aztecs: An Archaeologist Uncovers their Daily Life.

My publications on Academia.edu

Research Group

Service Access in Premodern Cities

The Social Reactors Project

Mesoamerican Archaeology Lab

Teotihuacan Mapping Project

Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Project.

Quantitative studies of ancient inequalilty

Publications

Stay tuned for a more up-to-date list. See my page on Academia.edu for a better list and downloads.

Books:

Kohler, Timothy and Michael E. Smith (editors)  (2018)  Ten Thousand Years of Inequality: The Archaeology of Wealth Differences. University of Arizona Press (in press), Tucson.

Nichols, Deborah L., Frances F. Berdan and Michael E. Smith (editors)  (2017)  Rethinking the Aztec Economy. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Smith, Michael E.  (2016)  At Home with the Aztecs: An Archaeologist Uncovers their Domestic Life. Routledge, New York.

Smith, Michael E. (editor)  (2015)  Artefactos Domésticos de Casas Posclásicas en Cuexcomate y Capilco, Morelos. BAR International Series vol. 2696. Archaeopress, Oxford.

Arnauld, Marie Charlotte, Linda R. Manzanilla and Michael E. Smith (editors)  (2012)  The Neighborhood as a Social and Spatial Unit in Mesoamerican Cities. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Smith, Michael E.  (2012)  The Aztecs. 3rd ed. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.

Smith, Michael E. (editor)  (2012)  The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Smith, Michael E.  (2008)  Aztec City-State Capitals. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Smith, Michael E.  (2003)  The Aztecs. 2nd ed. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.

Smith, Michael E. and Frances F. Berdan (editors)  (2003)  The Postclassic Mesoamerican World. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Smith, Michael E. and Marilyn A. Masson (editors)  (2000)  The Ancient Civilizations of Mesoamerica: A Reader. Blackwell, Oxford.

Berdan, Frances F., Richard E. Blanton, Elizabeth H. Boone, Mary G. Hodge, Michael E. Smith and Emily Umberger  (1996)  Aztec Imperial Strategies. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC.

Hodge, Mary G. and Michael E. Smith (editors)  (1994)  Economies and Polities in the Aztec Realm. Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, Albany.

Smith, Michael E.  (1992)  Archaeological Research at Aztec-Period Rural Sites in Morelos, Mexico. Volume 1, Excavations and Architecture / Investigaciones arqueológicas en sitios rurales de la época Azteca en Morelos, Tomo 1, excavaciones y arquitectura. Memoirs in Latin American Archaeology vol. 4. University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.

 

Articles since 2013

2017 - Smith, Michael E.,  The Teotihuacan Anomaly: The Historical  Trajectory of Urban Planning in Central Mexico. Open Archaeology 3(1):175-193.

2017 - Smith, Michael E.,  Social Science and Archaeological Inquiry. Antiquity 91(356):520-528.

2017 - Smith, Michael E. and Carola Hein.  The Ancient Past in the Urban Present: The Use of Early Models in Urban Design. In Routledge Handbook of Planning History, edited by Carola Hein, pp. 109-120. Routledge, New York.

2017 - Smith, Michael E.  Cities in the Aztec Empire: The Interplay of Commerce, Imperialism and Urbanization. In Rethinking the Aztec Economy, edited by Deborah Nichols, Frances Berdan and Michael E. Smith, pp. 44-67. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

2017 - Letesson, Quentin, Carl Knappett and Michael E. Smith.  A Comparative Perspective on Minoan Urbanism. In Minoan Architecture and Urbanism: New Perspectives on an Ancient Built Envirionment, edited by Quentin Letesson and Carl Knappett, pp. 361-390. Oxford University Press, New York.

2016 - Stanley, Benjamin W., Timothy Dennehy, Michael E. Smith, Barbara L. Stark, Abigail York, George L. Cowgill, Juliana Novic and Gerald Ek,  Service Access in Premodern Cities: An Exploratory Comparison of Spatial Equity. Journal of Urban History 42(1):121-144.

2016 - Smith, Michael E., Timothy Dennehy, April Kamp-Whittaker, Benjamin Stanley, Barbara L. Stark and Abigail York,  Conceptual Approaches to Service Provision in Cities through the Ages. Urban Studies 53(8):1574-1590.

2016 - Smith, Michael E., Barbara L. Stark, Wen-Ching Chuan, Timothy Dennehy, Sharon L. Harlan, April Kamp-Whittaker, Benjamin Stanley and Abigail York,  Comparative Methods for Premodern Cities: Coding for Governance and Class Mobility. Cross-Cultural Research 50(5):415-451.

2016 - Smith, Michael E. and Frederic Hicks.  Inequality and Social Class. In Oxford Handbook of the Aztecs, edited by Deborah L. Nichols and Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría, pp. 425-436. Oxford University Press, New York.

2016 - Smith, Michael E.  Quality of Life and Prosperity in Ancient Households and Communities. In The Oxford Handbook of Historical Ecology and Applied Archaeology (book in press), edited by Christian Isendahl and Daryl Stump. Oxford University Press, New York.

2016 - Smith, Michael E.  How Can Archaeologists Identify Early Cities: Definitions, Types, and Attributes. In Eurasia at the Dawn of History: Urbanization and Social Change, edited by Manuel Fernández-Götz and Dirk Krausse, pp. 153-168. Cambridge University Press, New York.

2016 - Smith, Michael E.  Aztec Urbanism: Cities and Towns. In Oxford Handbook of the Aztecs, edited by Deborah L. Nichols and Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría, pp. 201-217. Oxford University Press, New York.

2016 - Ortman, Scott G., Kaitlyn E. Davis, José Lobo, Michael E. Smith, Luis M.A. Bettencourt and Aaron Trumbo,  Settlement Scaling and Economic Change in the Central Andes. Journal of Archaeological Science 73:94-106.

2016 - Olson, Jan Marie and Michael E. Smith,  Material Expressions of Wealth and Social Class at Aztec-Period Sites in Morelos, Mexico. Ancient Mesoamerica 27(1):133-147.

2016 - Cesaretti, Rudolf, Luís M. A. Bettencourt, Jose Lobo, Scott Ortman and Michael E. Smith,  Population-Area Relationship in Medieval European Cities. PLOS-One 11(10):e162678.

2015 - Smith, Michael E., Ashley Engquist, Cinthia Carvajal, Katrina Johnston, Amanda Young, Monica Algara, Yui Kuznetsov and Bridgette Gilliland,  Neighborhood Formation in Semi-Urban Settlements. Journal of Urbanism 8(2):173-198.

2015 - Smith, Michael E.,  How Can Archaeologists Make Better Arguments? The SAA Archaeological Record 15(4):18-23.

2015 - Smith, Michael E.,  Comment on Carrahar and Reinhard. Internet Archaeology ___:in press.

2015 - Smith, Michael E. and Clara Paz Bautista,  Las almenas en la ciudad antigua de Teotihuacan (versión corregida). Mexicon 37(5):118-125.

2015 - Smith, Michael E.  The Aztec Empire. In Fiscal Regimes and the Political Economy of Premodern States, edited by Andrew Monson and Walter Scheidel, pp. 71-114. Cambridge University Press, New York.

2015 - Smith, Michael E.  Sociedad y desarrollo económico. In Itinerario de Hernán Cortés, edited by Martín Almagro Gorbea and Cristina Esteras, pp. 65-70. Canal de Isabel II, Madrid.

2015 - Smith, Michael E.  Mesoamerican State Formation in the Postclassic Period. In Expanding Webs of Exchange and Conquest, 500 CE - 1500 CE, edited by Benjamin Kedar and Merry Wiesner-Hanks, pp. 598-624. Cambridge History of the World. vol. 5. Cambridge University Press, New York.

2015 - Smith, Michael E.  Las bodegas de museos como fuente de información arqueológica: Las contribuciones de Felipe Solís Olguín. In Homenaje al maestro Felipe Solís Olguín, edited by Roberto García Moll and Rafael Fierro Padilla, pp. 355-367. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

2015 - Huster, Angela C. and Michael E. Smith,  A New Archaeological Chronology for Calixtlahuaca, Toluca Valley, Mexico. Latin American Antiquity 26(1):3-25.

2014 - Smith, Michael E., Timothy Dennehy, April Kamp-Whittaker, Emily Colon and Rebecca Harkness,  Quantitative Measures of Wealth Inequality in Ancient Central Mexican Communities. Advances in Archaeological Practice 2(4):311-323.

2014 - Smith, Michael E., Jason Ur and Gary M. Feinman,  Jane Jacobs’s 'Cities-First' Model and Archaeological Reality. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 38(4):1525-1535.

2014 - Smith, Michael E.,  The Aztecs Paid Taxes, not Tribute. Mexicon 36(1):19-22.

2014 - Smith, Michael E.,  Peasant Mobility, Local Migration, and Premodern Urbanization. World Archaeology 46(4):516-533.

2014 - Smith, Michael E.,  Housing in Premodern Cities: Patterns of Social and Spatial Variation. International Journal of Architectural Research 8(3):207-222.

2014 - Smith, Michael E.  The Archaeology of Tezcatlipoca. In Tezcatlipoca: Trickster and Supreme Deity, edited by Elizabeth Baquedano, pp. 7-39. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

2013 - Smith, Michael E., Aleksander Borejsza, Angela Huster, Charles D. Frederick, Isabel Rodríguez López and Cynthia Heath-Smith,  Aztec-Period Houses and Terraces at Calixtlahuaca: The Changing Morphology of a Mesoamerican Hilltop Urban Center. Journal of Field Archaeology 38(3):227-243.

2013 - Smith, Michael E.  Calixtlahuaca: Capital del Antiguo Matlatzinco. In Patrimonio Arqueológico de Toluca: Herencia Milenaria, edited by Fernando Guerrero Villagómez and Ana Luisa Elias Moreno, pp. 91-106. H. Ayuntamiento de Toluca and Implan, Toluca.

2013 - Isendahl, Christian and Michael E. Smith,  Sustainable Agrarian Urbanism: The Low-Density Cities of the Mayas and Aztecs. Cities 31:132-143.

2013 - Huster, Angela C., Michael E. Smith and Juliana Novic.  Artefactos rituales de contextos públicos y domésticos en Calixtlahuaca. In Bajo el volcán: Vida y ritualidad en torno al Nevado de Toluca, edited by Silvina Vigliani and Roberto Junco, pp. 203-223. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.

Research Activity
  • These grants are supposed to show up automnatically, but my current NSF grant is not listed yet. 
  • Smith,Michael E*. Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Regional Interaction as World-System Inc. NSF-SBE(2/1/2015 - 1/31/2016).
  • Smith,Michael E*, Boone,Christopher G, Boone,Christopher G, Harlan,Sharon, York,Abigail. Service Access in Premodern Cities. NSF-ENG-BCS(6/15/2013 - 5/31/2016).
  • Smith,Michael E*. Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Effects of Aztec Conquest on Provincial Commoner Households at Calixtlahuaca Mexico. NSF-ENG-BCS(2/15/2012 - 1/31/2014).
  • Smith,Michael E*. Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Neighborhood Dynamics at Calixtlhuaca Mexico student: Juliana Novic. NSF-SBE(11/15/2011 - 10/31/2013).
  • Smith,Michael E*. The Urban Economy of Aztec-Period Calixtlahuaca Mexico. NSF-SBE(9/1/2009 - 9/30/2015).
  • Smith,Michael E*. Urbanization and Empire at the Aztec-period city of Calixtlahuaca (Toluca Valley, Mexico). NSF-SBE(7/1/2006 - 6/30/2009).
  • Smith,Michael E*. Curation of Archaeological Materials from Morelos, Mexico, Stage 1. NSF-SBE(3/15/2006 - 2/28/2007).
Fall 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 484Internship
ASB 490Earliest Cities
ASB 492Honors Directed Study
ASB 493Honors Thesis
ASB 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 580Practicum
ASB 584Internship
ASB 590Reading and Conference
ASB 592Research
ASB 790Reading and Conference
ASB 792Research
ASB 799Dissertation
Summer 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 595Continuing Registration
ASB 792Research
ASB 799Dissertation
Spring 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 223Aztecs, Incas and Mayas
ASB 484Internship
ASB 492Honors Directed Study
ASB 493Honors Thesis
ASB 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 580Practicum
ASB 590Reading and Conference
ASB 592Research
ASB 790Reading and Conference
ASB 792Research
ASB 795Continuing Registration
ASB 799Dissertation
Fall 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 484Internship
ASB 492Honors Directed Study
ASB 493Honors Thesis
ASB 499Individualized Instruction
ASM 579Proposal Writing
ASB 580Practicum
ASB 584Internship
ASM 590Reading and Conference
ASB 590Reading and Conference
ASM 592Research
ASB 592Research
ASM 790Reading and Conference
ASB 790Reading and Conference
ASM 792Research
ASB 792Research
ASM 799Dissertation
ASB 799Dissertation
Summer 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 595Continuing Registration
ASB 792Research
ASB 799Dissertation
Spring 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 223Aztecs, Incas and Mayas
ASB 484Internship
ASB 492Honors Directed Study
ASB 493Honors Thesis
ASB 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 580Practicum
ASB 590Reading and Conference
ASB 592Research
ASB 790Reading and Conference
ASB 792Research
ASB 799Dissertation
Fall 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 484Internship
ASB 490Earliest Cities
ASB 492Honors Directed Study
ASB 493Honors Thesis
ASM 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 580Practicum
ASB 584Internship
ASB 590Reading and Conference
ASM 590Reading and Conference
ASM 592Research
ASB 592Research
ASM 790Reading and Conference
ASB 790Reading and Conference
ASM 792Research
ASB 792Research
ASM 799Dissertation
ASB 799Dissertation
Summer 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 222Buried Cities and Lost Tribes
ASB 595Continuing Registration
ASB 792Research
ASB 799Dissertation
Spring 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 223Aztecs, Incas and Mayas
ASB 484Internship
ASM 484Internship
ASB 493Honors Thesis
ASM 493Honors Thesis
ASB 499Individualized Instruction
ASM 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 580Practicum
ASM 590Reading and Conference
ASB 590Reading and Conference
ASB 592Research
ASM 592Research
ASB 790Reading and Conference
ASM 790Reading and Conference
ASM 792Research
ASB 792Research
ASM 799Dissertation
ASB 799Dissertation
Fall 2014
Course NumberCourse Title
ASM 484Internship
ASB 484Internship
ASM 492Honors Directed Study
ASB 492Honors Directed Study
ASB 493Honors Thesis
ASB 497Honors Colloquium
ASM 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 560Theory and Archaeology
ASB 580Practicum
ASB 584Internship
ASM 590Reading and Conference
ASB 590Reading and Conference
ASB 592Research
ASM 592Research
ASM 790Reading and Conference
ASB 790Reading and Conference
ASM 792Research
ASB 792Research
ASM 799Dissertation
ASB 799Dissertation
Summer 2014
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 222Buried Cities and Lost Tribes
ASB 792Research
ASB 799Dissertation
Spring 2014
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 222Buried Cities and Lost Tribes
ASB 484Internship
ASM 484Internship
ASB 492Honors Directed Study
ASM 492Honors Directed Study
ASB 493Honors Thesis
ASM 493Honors Thesis
ASB 499Individualized Instruction
ASM 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 580Practicum
ASB 590Reading and Conference
ASM 590Reading and Conference
ASB 592Research
ASM 592Research
ASB 790Reading and Conference
ASM 790Reading and Conference
ASM 792Research
ASB 792Research
ASM 799Dissertation
ASB 799Dissertation
Fall 2013
Course NumberCourse Title
ASB 484Internship
ASM 484Internship
ASB 490Earliest Cities
ASM 492Honors Directed Study
ASB 492Honors Directed Study
ASM 493Honors Thesis
ASB 493Honors Thesis
ASM 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 499Individualized Instruction
ASB 580Practicum
ASB 584Internship
ASM 590Reading and Conference
ASB 590Reading and Conference
ASM 592Research
ASB 592Research
ASM 790Reading and Conference
ASB 790Reading and Conference
ASM 792Research
ASB 792Research
ASM 799Dissertation
ASB 799Dissertation
Spring 2013
Course NumberCourse Title
ASM 484Internship
ASB 484Internship
ASM 492Honors Directed Study
ASM 493Honors Thesis
ASB 493Honors Thesis
ASB 499Individualized Instruction
ASM 590Reading and Conference
ASB 590Reading and Conference
ASM 592Research
ASB 592Research
ASM 790Reading and Conference
ASB 790Reading and Conference
ASM 792Research
ASB 792Research
ASM 799Dissertation
ASB 799Dissertation
Presentations

For my professional talks and presentations, see my CV

Service
  • Neighborhoods Connect, Phoenix, Member (2014 - Present)
  • Arizona Archaeological Society, Invited public lecture (2013 - Present)
  • National Science Foundation, Interdisciplinary Social & Behavioral Sciences (IBSS) panel, Panel member (2013 - Present)
  • Shanghai Archaeological Forum, Corresponding member of the Advisory Committee (2013 - Present)
  • Arizona Science Center, Adult's Night Out program, Invited speaker (2011 - Present)
  • Pueblo Grande Auxiliary, Invited lecture (2011 - Present)
  • Sociedad Cultural Yautepec (Yautepec, Mexico), Invited public lecture (2010 - Present)
  • Science Cafe series, Arizona Science Center, Invited lecture (2010 - Present)
  • Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, Consultation with students and faculty on professional issues (2009 - Present)
  • Book series: "The Early Americas: Studies in History and Culture", Member, Editorial Board (2007 - 2015)
  • Arizona State University, Expert and consultant for high school research projects (2005 - Present)
  • Book Series: "Ancient Cities of the New World", Series Co-Editor (2005 - Present)
  • Ancient Mesoamerica, Member, Editorial Board (1990 - Present)
  • SHESC, Graduate Program, Director (2014 - 2017)
  • Archaeology Planning Committee, Member (2012 - 2013)