Claire Ebert

  • Assistant Professor

Claire Ebert is an environmental archaeologist interested in the complex dynamics between people and their local ecologies throughout the Holocene in Mesoamerica. Based on field work in western Belize, she examines the emergence of complexity among the earliest Maya agricultural communities and the fluctuating environmental and climatic contexts in which they appeared. She is a co-director of the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance (BVAR) Project and offers graduate and undergraduate student research opportunities in the field in Belize and in the Tropical Paleoecology and Isotope Geochemistry Lab in the Department of Anthropology at Pitt. Her current projects based in the Maya region include exploring relationships between the environmental and subsistence practices of early Maya farmers, human-animal relationships in ancestral Maya communities, lidar remote sensing analyses and survey of Maya polities in western Belize, and pottery and obsidian geochemical sourcing analyses. Other projects include meta-analyses of human and animal isotopic data to address significant questions about the origins of agriculture, urbanism, and movement and migration in Mesoamerica, the Caribbean, and Central America.

Prospective Students

I will not be accepting new students for AY 25-26.

Current PhD students working in the lab apply environmental archaeology, human ecology, and/or stable isotope analysis to research questions within Mesoamerican archaeology. Students are also welcome to design studies related to ongoing projects in the lab, focusing on questions about environmental change, diet, and commensal relationships between people, plants, and/or other animals in Mesoamerica or elsewhere in the ancient world.



  • Mesoamerica Before Cortez (taught annually in spring)
  • Environmental Archaeology
  • Molecular Archaeology
  • Alcohol in the Ancient World
  • Unraveling the Anthropocene
  • Floods, Famine, and Flus: Archaeology of Disaster
  • The Art of Publication (graduate seminar)


Selected Publications

Ebert, Claire E., Sean W. Hixon, Gina M. Buckley, Richard J. George, Sofía Pacheco-Fores, Juan Manuel Palomo, Ashley E. Sharpe, Oscar R. Solís-Torres, J. Britt Davis, Doughlas J. Kennett, and Ricardo Fernandes. 20204. The Caribbean and Mesoamerica Biogeochemical Isotope Overview (CAMBIO). Scientific Data 11:349.

Ebert, Claire E. 2023. The Formative Period in Mesoamerica. In Encyclopedia of Archaeology, 2nd ed., edited by Thilo Rehren and Efthymia Nikita. Vol. 3, pp. 313-326. Academic Press, Oxford.

Ebert, Claire E., James McGee, and Jaime J. Awe, 2021. Early Monumentality in the Belize River Valley: Excavations of a Preclassic E-Group at Cahal Pech, Belize. Latin American Antiquity 32:209-217.

Ebert, Claire E., Asta Rand, Kirsten Green-Mink, Julie A. Hoggarth, Carolyn Freiwald, Jaime J. Awe, Willa R. Trask, Jason Yaeger, M. Kathryn Brown, Christophe Helmke, Rafael Guerra, Marie Danforth and Douglas J. Kennett, 2021. Sulfur Isotopes as a Proxy for Human Diet and Mobility from the Preclassic through Colonial periods in the Eastern Maya Lowlands. PLOS ONE 16(8):e0254992.

Life and Death Among the Earliest Maya: A Review of Early and Middle Preclassic Burials from the Maya World. Ancient Mesoamerica 32:545-557.

Ebert, Claire E., Julie A. Hoggarth, Brendan J. Culleton, Jaime J. Awe and Douglas J. Kennett, 2019. The role of diet in resilience and vulnerability to climate change among early agricultural communities in the Maya Lowlands. Current Anthropology 60(4):589-601.

Ebert, Claire E., Daniel Pierce and Jaime J. Awe, 2019. Preclassic ceramic economy in Belize: neutron activation analyses at Cahal Pech. Antiquity 93:1266-1283.

Ebert, Claire E., Nancy Peniche May, Brendan J. Culleton, Jaime J. Awe and Douglas J. Kennett, 2017. Regional response to drought during the formation and decline of Preclassic Maya societies. Quaternary Science Reviews 173:211-235.

You can find a full list of publication and links to the papers here.