Program: Anthropology, Ph.D.
Advisers: Ron Towner, Barbara Mills
Ben's research is focused on applying cross-media approaches to understand how Ancestral Pueblo peoples used clothing and depictions of clothing in other media to signal group affiliation and social position in the socially turbulent tenth through thirteenth centuries A.D.. By analyzing changes in both technological and decorative stylistic attributes of special types of yucca sandals and sandal depictions in building murals and rock art, he is trying to determine how people signaled individual and group identities, often simultaneously, across the San Juan Basin in the northern Southwestern US. Over the last five years, Ben has created a seriation of mural styles through time using dendroarchaeological techniques to date the construction and remodeling events of structures with decorated plaster murals in the Bears Ears National Monument area and larger region. Sandal depictions are the most common decorative motif in these murals during the A.D. 1200s. With the help of an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, in 2017 & 2018 he will analyze high and low visibility attributes of the actual sandals from Ancestral Pueblo sites in the region, to understand how their styles varied across space. By sampling 45 of the 300 known twined yucca sandals from the region for AMS dating, Ben will date variation of sandal stylistic attributes across both space and time. Then, using a feature-vector analysis, he will compare similarities and differences of attributes of the actual sandals to a large data set of over 500 rock art and almost 100 mural depictions of sandals. He hopes to determine whether decorative attributes of these sandals were used to signal group affiliation or positions in the social hierarchy of Ancestral Pueblo socialites, during the turbulent Chaco and post-Chaco eras.