Kitty F. Emery, Ph.D.

Associate Curator of Environmental Archaeology

Florida Museum of Natural History

2015 Awardee

Kitty Emery is an environmental archaeologist whose research focuses on the ancient relationship between the Maya peoples and their megadiverse landscape.  Emery’s specialties are the analysis of animal remains from archaeological sites (zooarchaeology) and the integration of ancient environmental and archaeological data to provide holistic interpretations.

The Maya world encompasses parts of the modern countries of Belize, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras, an area settled by the Maya over 5000 years ago and occupied by them today. This region houses one of the world’s richest faunal and floral diversity.  Emery’s research program emphasizes the deep history and entanglement of human decision-making and the environment, particularly in fragile forest lowlands and volcanic uplands.

Emery directs the Motul de San Jose Eco-Archaeological project, a collaborative assessment of ancient Maya politics and natural resource economics. This project coordinates studies of traditional knowledge, geology, botany, and zoology to understand how natural resources were perceived, managed, and impacted over time by the ancient Maya. Insight into ancient decision-making provides important lessons for current conservation efforts by highlighting the link between resource availability and the day-to-day needs imposed by community living in a complex social system.

Emery’s “Zooarqueología del Area Maya” research project extends her work from the biological to the social. She uses animal remains to evaluate Classic period cultural collapse, to reveal the diversity of animal domestication strategies, and to understand the complexity of animal product crafting, and display, emphasizing that animals were much more than just food for the ancient Maya.