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Ken Hirth

Ken Hirth

Professor of Anthropology

115 Carpenter Building
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 863-9647


  1. B.B.A., Marketing, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1971
  2. M.A., Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1972
  3. Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1974



I am interested in the structure and development of ancient economies in the pre-industrial world. My particular area of application is ranked and state level societies in the New World with a particular emphasis on Mesoamerica and Central America. My students study both domestic and institutional economies and how they led to the development of economic inequalities within society. My current research focuses on the development of pre-modern complex economies. This research is broadly comparative and global in focus with particular emphasis on the structure of exchange networks and the institutions that support them.

Topics of general interest include exchange systems, craft production, the household, and the development of pre-industrial urbanism. My methodological interests include lithic technology, ceramic analysis, GIS-spatial analysis, chemical sourcing, and lithic use.


Dr. Hirth has more than 35 years of active fieldwork in Latin America. He is currently directing the Basin of Mexico GIS project. This project is upgrading settlement pattern materials from the region to a GIS platform for reanalysis of prehispanic demographic trends in the Basin of Mexico. This research is being conducted at Penn State University and will continue through the 2011-2012 academic year. Hirth also is engaged in an ongoing study of prehispanic obsidian craft production at the site of Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala; paleo-environmental analysis of cave materials from Archaic and Paleo-Indian materials from the site of El Gigante, Honduras; and, the analysis of community level economic specialization in the area around Huexotzingo, Mexico using ethnohistoric materials. A project on the analysis of Thin Orange trade ware is planned for the summers of 2011 and 2012.


  • ANTH 009 - The Rise of Old World Civilization
  • ANTH 422 - Mesoamerican Archaeology and Ethnography
  • ANTH 426W - Laboratory Analysis: Lithics and Ceramics (Syllabus)
  • ANTH 451 - Economic Anthropology
  • ANTH 456 - Cultural Ecology
  • ANTH 497h - Ancient Economy
  • ANTH 545 - Publication in Archaeology
  • ANTH 588 - Method and Theory in Archaeology (Syllabus)




Craft Production in the Mesoamerican Marketplace, Ancient Mesoamerica 20:89-102.

Craft production, household diversification, and domestic economy in prehispanic Mesoamerica, In Housework: Craft Production and Domestic Economy in Ancient Mesoamerica, K. Hirth ed., pp. 13-32 Archaeological Publications of the American Anthropological Society No 19.

Exploring Formative Period Obsidian Blade Trade: Three Distribution Models, Ancient Mesoamerica 20: 113-128. (J. De Leon, K. Hirth, D. Carballo)


The Economy of Supply: Modeling Obsidian Procurement and Craft Provisioning at a Central Mexican Urban Center, Latin American Antiquity 19:435-457.

Incidental Urbanism: The Structure of the Prehispanic City in Central Mexico, In The Ancient City: New Perspectives in the Old and New Worlds, J. Marcus and J. Sabloff eds., pp. 273-297. School of American Research, SAR Publications, Sante Fe.



Housework: Craft Production and Domestic Economy in Ancient Mesoamerica. Archaeological Publications of the American Anthropological Society No 19, Washington

Urbanism in Mesoamerica/El urbanism en Mesoamérica, volume 2. A. Mastache, R. Cobean, A. García Cook, and K. Hirth. INAH and Penn State.


Ideología política y sociedad en el periodo Formativo. A. Cyphers and K. Hirth, Universidad Nacional Autonóma de Mexico, Mexico City.


Obsidian Craft Production in Ancient Central Mexico. The University of Utah Press.


Mesoamerican Lithic Technology: Experimentation and Interpretation, The University of Utah Press.


Pathways to Prismatic Blades. Studies in Mesoamerican Lithic Technology, K. Hirth and B. Andrews. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California.


Ancient Urbanism at Xochicalco. The Evolution and Organization of a Prehispanic Society. Archaeological Research at Xochicalco Volume 1. The University of Utah Press.

The Xochicalco Mapping Project. Archaeological Research at Xochicalco Volume 2, The University of Utah Press

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