A.J. Vonarx

About A.J. Vonarx

I'm a PhD student, originally from central Pennsylvania, focusing on Southwestern Archaeology and a certificate in Heritage Conservation. Much of my research examines the human use of fire (in its many forms and products) in social traditions, ritual, affinity/boundary building, and placemaking. The archaeological record of fire use and burning is rich and fascinating, but complex to collect, document, analyze, and interpret. The topic's perfect for an interdisciplinary approach. My recent publications and collaborations tackle: the challenges of recognizing fire "points of origin" or utilizing the categorizes of "arson, accidental, or unknown" to evaluate burning in Ancestral Puebloan architecture; the use of micromophological sediment analysis of ceramic kiln wall samples and computer modeling to determine temperature range, fuels, and ventilation patterns in Formative Period kilns from central Mexico; and the social networks underlying collegiate-town "couch-burning" events in the mideastern US (2009-2014). My fieldwork background includes twelve seasons of survey and excavation in Mesoamerica (Central Mexico, Gulf Coast, and Guatemala) and the Southwestern US (AZ, CO, NM, and NV). At UA, I was fortunate enough to work four seasons in Winslow AZ as a Crew Chief for Arizona State Museum's Homolovi Research Program (directed by Dr. Charles Adams). In 2005 and 2006, Dr. Adams and I co-directed an Earthwatch High School Field School in which students helped to build an experimental two-room masonry 'pueblo' at Homol'ovi State Park. The burning and weathering experiments conducted in these rooms serve as the basis for my dissertation (target completion date: June 2016). Prior to returning to grad school in Anthropology, I attended the University of Michigan for a Masters in Secondary Education with Teaching Certification and worked as a high school science teacher. Stewardship of heritage resources on national and public lands, preservation planning (especially disaster preparedness/recovery), and community-centered research are areas of particular focus.


Areas of Study

Prehistoric Archaeology: Southwest US
Prehistoric Archaeology: Mesoamerica
Historical Archaeology: Southwest US (AD 1800 - 1960)
Archaeology of the Recent Past


Research Interests

(Currently): Fire and the human experience;
Burning, ash and smoke in placemaking and placeshaping;
Memorialization in the past and present: shrine and marker creation, visitation and alteration; cyber-shrines;
Archaeology of modern 'Communities of Transition' ( examples: migrant route sites, refugee camps, social service shelters, group homes in the U.S., cars used as homes during economic hardship, etc.) 
Public and community archaeology;
Preservation Planning;
Disaster and recovery preparedness for monuments, parks, and museums
World Heritage;
Traditional Cultural Landscapes (TCLs);
Adobe and earthen architectural traditions;
Experimental Archaeology;
GIS and photogammetric analysis;
Geoarchaeology and sediment analysis;






A.J. Vonarx's picture

Contact Information