Southwestern Archaeology and Indigenous Technologies Lab

The Southwestern Archaeology and Indigenous Technologies Laboratory, under the Direction of Karen Harry, serves dual but related functions: it is home to research associated with archaeological field projects conducted in the Virgin Branch Puebloan region of the northern American Southwest, and it is the locus of various experimental and materials science research projects designed to better understand indigenous technologies.


Dr. Karen G. Harry
Phone: 702-895-2534
Office: WRI-B 106

Virgin Branch Puebloan Research

Since 2006 the laboratory has been home to research conducted relating to the Virgin Branch Puebloan culture. Research has focused on understanding the causes and nature of interregional trade ties, examining how and why shifts in social identities occurred in these areas, exploring the adaptive strategies used by the prehistoric inhabitants, and investigating the reasons why the area was abandoned at about 1200 or 1250 A.D. Numerous field schools and volunteer field sessions are regularly held in connection with this research, which has been supported financially and logistically by the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, National Park Service; and the Parashant National Monument, Bureau of Land Management.


Indigenous Technologies Research

Experimental archaeological research is a second major focus of the laboratory. Undergraduate and graduate students regularly participate in replicative studies designed understand prehistoric material culture and work in conjunction with specialists of other fields to characterize and interpret artifacts.

Research Opportunities and Collaborations

Numerous research opportunities are available for interested students. In addition to research projects generated from projects overseen by this laboratory, large numbers of unanalyzed artifacts from legacy projects conducted in the Virgin Branch region are available to study from the UNLV Collections Laboratory. As well, students and researchers from the laboratory regularly collaborate with other departments on campus and with off campus agencies and museums. These collaborations have included:

  • UNLV Chemistry Department: which has provided students with training in and access to Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry for conducting residue analysis on prehistoric ceramics
  • UNLV Mechanical Engineering Department: which has provided access to the Universal Testing Machine to enable the measurement of tensile strength of ceramics
  • UNLV Geosciences Department: which has provided assistance with the Scanning Electron Microscope and X-ray Diffraction to enable characterization of various materials
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area, National Park Service: In addition to supporting the research conducted on lands they manage, this agency has provided internship opportunities for numerous of our students
  • Lost City Museum: The Lost City Museum houses numerous Virgin Branch Puebloan collections available for study, and regularly provides internship opportunities for our students. Such interns have included analyzing the museum collections, assisting
  • Las Vegas Springs Preserve: The Springs Preserve manages several Virgin Branch Puebloan sites and houses collections from their properties. As with the Lost City Museum, students affiliated with the Southwestern Archaeology and Indigenous Technologies Laboratory have participated in research and internship opportunities with the preserve.

Student Publications and Reports Associated with the Lab

Students working in the Southwestern Archaeology and Indigenous Technologies laboratory are encouraged to become professionally engaged by presenting at local and national conferences, writing portions of archaeological site monographs, and publishing in professional and peer-reviewed venues. Below is a listing of publications that have been authored by students affiliated with the laboratory. In addition to the peer reviewed publications listed here, students regularly co-author portions of archaeological monographs submitted to permitting agencies and give poster and oral presentations at professional meetings.

  • Bowen, Kayla and Karen G. Harry.
    • 2019, Evaluating the Relationship Between Vessel Thickness and Heating Efficiency. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 44(3):259-275. DOI: 10.1080/01461109.2019.1647948
  • Horton, Shannon M. and Karen G. Harry
    • 2017, Examining Style in Virgin Branch Corrugated Ceramics. North American Archaeologist 38(1): 3-23.
  • Harry, Karen G., Timothy J. Ferguson, James R. Allison, Brett T. McLaurin, Jeff Ferguson, and Margaret Lyneis
    • 2013, Examining the Production and Distribution of Shivwits Ware Pottery in the North American Southwest. American Antiquity 78(2):385-396.
  • Britt J. Betenson, Karen G. Harry, and Spencer Steinberg
    • 2012, GC-MS and Attribute Analysis of Intermountain Brownware from the Southern Great Basin of North America. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 32 (1): 65-75.
  • Harry, Karren, Lauren W. Falvey, Brett McLaurin, and Jennifer Durk
    • 2011    Exploratory Studies into Possible Uses of Calcareous Dolostone on the Shivwits Plateau, Arizona. Ethnoarchaeology 3(1): 5-28.
  • Harry, Karen G., L.Frink, Andreas Charest and Brendan O’Toole
    • 2009, How to Make an Unfired Clay Cooking Pot: Understanding the Technological Choices Made by Arctic Potters. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 16(1): 33-50.
  • Charest, Andreas
    • 2008, Defining Grinding Slicks- An Experimental Approach. In Proceedings of the 2007 Three Corners Conference, ed. by Mark C. Slaughter, Steven Daron, Eva Jensen, and Kathleen A. Sprowl, pp. 21-42. Nevada Archaeological Association, Boulder City.
  • Stephanie Henrickson and Angela Peterson
    • 2008, Explaining the Absence of Hearths at the Lava Ridge Ruin. In Proceedings of the 2007 Three Corners Conference, ed. by Mark C. Slaughter, Steven Daron, Eva Jensen, and Kathleen A. Sprowl, pp. 137-142. Nevada Archaeological Association, Boulder City.
  • Shane Rumsey and Patrick J. Drohan.
    • 2011, Cultural Implications of Architectural Mortar Selection at Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. Geoarchaeology 26(4):544-583
  • Ferguson, Timothy J.
    • 2015   Behavioral Ecology and Optimality: Seeking Alternative Views. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 5:632–639.
  • Karen G. Harry, Jodi Dalton, and Mark C. Slaughter.
    • 2003, Gender and Archaeological Research: A Look at Past and Current Trends. The SAA Archaeological Record 3(1):25-28.

Students Currently Associated with the Lab

Graduate Students

  • Daniel Perez - Lab Director
  • Ben Van Alstyne
  • William Willis