Medieval Studies

Medieval Studies Medieval Studies

Timothy R Pauketat

Professor of Medieval Studies

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I am an archaeologist interested in the broad relationships between history and humanity, materiality and agency, affect and ontology, and religion and urbanism. My focus in on North America, and my concerns range from local historical ones, particularly in the central Mississippi valley, to pan-American and big-historical ones, especially as they involve Mesoamerican-Southwestern-Mississippi valley connections. I have conducted most of my field research at and around the American Indian city of Cahokia or related complexes, having held posts at the University of Oklahoma, the State University of New York (Buffalo) and the University of Illinois.

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • Materiality, affect and agency; Religion and ontologies; Cities and landscapes; Global medievalism; Climate change; North American archaeology; Woodland and Mississippian cultures; Indigenous Prairie-Plains history; Pottery.

Research Description

  • Among the most enduring yet pressing social-scientific and humanistic concerns of great significance to the contemporary world is the relationship between belief and history. Why do people believe what they do? My archaeological research interrogates that ultimate question by focusing on proximate how questions. How are religion, ontology, urbanism, materiality, affects, and power in the past related? Or how are space, matter, and time entangled and to what effect? I seek answers to such questions in the beginnings of urbanism, city life, and organized religion, specifically in North America through fieldwork in the pre-Columbian Mississippi valley. My approach has always been one that blends social theory with thick historical descriptions rich with the things, houses, foods, stimulants and the varied experiences of everyday agrarian life. These are the contexts wherein people and other-than-human agencies might be subsumed within larger social, political and cultural orders in ways that profoundly alter social futures. Understanding them necessitates an archaeology that bridges the humanities and social sciences, and that takes seriously its mission to positively affect our global future. This is the goal to which I aspire through my research, teaching, and everyday engagements in the world.

    In 2008, I began to write my most recent theory book, An Archaeology of the Cosmos (Routledge, 2013), a significant departure for me both theoretically and methodologically. That book defines my current thinking on questions of agency, religion, and history. There, I began to build my own version of a “relational approach” in archaeology (drawing from Bruno Latour, Gilles Deleuze and others) by developing what can be labeled a theory of “bundling” (see also a co-edited volume, Big Histories, Human Lives, SAR Press, 2013). The result is both a less-anthropocentric approach to religious movements and a less landscape-tethered approach to social experience, where agency is a consequence of the convergences of phenomena and beings in social fields that stretch into the sky. This is the rapprochement of agency-based approaches, which tend to focus on short-term microhistories, with the traditional long-term changes covered by archaeologists. This book was the basis for my current field research as well, which targets the beginnings of organized religion at the Emerald Acropolis and other early Cahokian shrine complexes. All of this was also a necessary precursor to my current book project (tentatively retitled Dragons and Affects in the Ancient City), funded by a 2015-2016 NEH fellowship.


  • Ph.D. 1991, Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (UM). M.A. 1986, Anthropology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIU-C). B.S. 1983, Anthropology and Earth Science, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville (SIU-E).



  • Medieval Mississippians: The Cahokian World. . Comp. Susan M. Alt. Ed. Timothy R. Pauketat. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press, 2015.
  • An Archaeology of the Cosmos: Rethinking Agency and Religion in Ancient America. . London: Routledge, 2013.
  • Big Histories, Human Lives: Tackling Problems of Scale in Archaeology. . Comp. Timothy R. Pauketat. Ed. John Robb. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press, 2013.
  • The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology. . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Pauketat, Timothy R. Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi. . New York: Viking-Penguin, 2009.
  • Pauketat, Timothy R. Chiefdoms and Other Archaeological Delusions. . Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press, 2007.
  • North American Archaeology. . Ed. Timothy R. Pauketat and Diana D. Loren. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.
  • Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians. . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • The Archaeology of Traditions: Agency and History Before and After Columbus. . Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.
  • Cahokia: Domination and Ideology in the Mississippian World. . Comp. Thomas E. Emerson. Ed. Timothy R. Pauketat. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
  • The Ascent of Chiefs: Cahokia and Mississippian Politics in Native North America. . Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1994.
  • Lords of the Southeast: Social Inequality and the Native Elites of Southeastern North America. . Comp. Timothy R. Pauketat. Ed. Alex W. Barker. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association, 1992.

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