Dorothy Hosler

  • Professor of Archaeology and Ancient Technology
  • BA Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • PhD Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1986 (specialization Mesoamerican archaeology)

Material Culture

Dorothy Hosler


Prof. Hosler's research generally examines the extraction, processing and production of copper and copper based alloys in ancient Mesoamerica and South America and the relation of these technologies in the two areas to each other. Her primary research currently is at the site of El Manchón, Guerrero, in West Mexico, where extensive copper smelting activities took place. She and her colleagues are currently working on dating the smelting area of that site. They are also examining the production of a variety of unusual prehispanic copper-based alloy objects recently excavated in the state of Mexico. Her general interests in production extend to rubber and pottery production in ancient Mesoamerica and to construction technologies in Mesoamerica.

Current Research in Guerrero

Prof. Hosler's 1999 survey of the Balsas region of Guerrero identified six metalworking sites, the most significant of which is La Barrranca de la Fundiciones (see Hosler 2003a, b). This site is located at 1400 meters in the Sierra Madre del Sur de Guerrero. The site covers about 1 kilometer and consists of three physically distinct areas: two zones contain long low rectangular structures (3-8m long) that may have served as house foundations or for other activities. Copper smelting took place in a third physically separate area where large accumulations of slag and disturbed furnace structures appear. We have completed excavations at the site and have analyzed the slag in the laboratories at MIT. Initial dates from both the smelting area and from the mounds suggest occupation around 1200–1300AD. Ethnic affiliations of these people cannot  be determined. After four 8-12 week field seasons work at the site halted due to dangerous political/social circumstances in 2010. We have carried out extensive laboratory work on the pottery and smelting technologies and materials.  La Barranca de Las Fundiciones is the first ancient copper-smelting site yet identified in Mesoamerica.

Other Research

The Spring 2008 issue of the Journal of Anthropological Research reported research on oceangoing rafts and traderoutes in pre-Columbian South and Central America; this research was performed by Prof. Hosler and Leslie Dewan, former MIT undergraduate (see the MIT News Office for the full story, March 19, 2008). Leslie Dewan is currently a MIT Ph.D. student in the Department of Nuclear Science & Engineering.

A facsimile raft conforming to original dimensions and made from original materials was constructed at MIT as a component of the laboratory class, Materials in Human Experience. The raft was launched in the Charles River in Spring 2009.

In 2012 Prof. Hosler traveled to Sucre, Bolivia for a three month course in intensive Quechua to explore the possiblity of enthnographic field work among local mining communities. Work in indigenous Bolivian communities has become difficult in the last several years due to political concerns and presumably will resolve in the near future.


Recent News

Profs. Hosler, Lechtman, and Ortony receive J-WAFs awards

This year, seven new projects led by eleven faculty PIs across six MIT departments will be funded with two-year grants of up to $200,000, overhead free. The winning projects include a silk-based food safety sensor; research into climate vulnerability and resilience in agriculture using…