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Matthew Pailes

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Matthew Pailes

Associate Professor
Ph.D. University of Arizona, 2015

Office: Dale Hall Tower 805C

Laboratory:  Physical Sciences 412

Research Interests

  • Political Economy 
  • Origins of Farming
  • Trade and Exchange
  • Social Network Analysis
  • Petrography
  • Ceramic Analysis
  • Northwest Mexico
  • US Southwest


I received my Ph.D from the University of Arizona in 2015. I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of locations from Alaska to Morocco. My own research has focused on various locations in the US, mostly on the Southwest and Plains, and Mexico. Presently most of my research efforts are focused on the Sierra Madre Occidental of Northwest Mexico.
Issues of social organization and complexity are the principal focus of my current and recent research. I am most interested in how economic, demographic, and ecological parameters produce emergent properties that constrain or direct social organization. I am an experienced petrographer of ceramic materials. I also regularly employ various other archaeometric methods in the reconstruction of exchange systems. Currently, I am working on a multi-year binational project to investigate both commoner and elite economies of the Sonoran Sierra Madre Occidental. A principal goal of this project is to explain the unique demographic and political resilience of this region relative to all surrounding neighbors.

I have related interests in the environmental and demographic contexts that facilitated the spread of farming across Northwest Mexico to the US Southwest.

Recent/Significant Publications

Pailes, M.C. and Michael Searcy.

2022       Hinterlands to Cities: the Archaeology of Northwest Mexico and Its Vecinos. Society for American Archaeology Press, Washington, DC.
John Carpenter and Pailes, M.C. (editors).

2022       Borderlands Histories: Ethnographic Observations and Archaeological Interpretations. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Pailes, M.C.
2022     What's really important in the ethnohistory of Sonora? In Borderlands Histories: Ethnographic Observations and Archaeological Interpretations, edited by J. Carpenter and M. Pailes University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
2018     Steady inequality in changing times: An examination of regional patterns in Hohokam structure data. In Ten Thousand Years of Inequality: The Archaeology of Wealth Differences, edited by T. Kohler and M. Smith, pp.155-179. Amerind and University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
2017     Northwest Mexico: The Prehistory of Sonora, Chihuahua, and Neighboring Areas. Journal of Archaeological Research 25(4):373-420. doi:10.1007/s10814-017-9103-5
2017     Archaeology of the Sierra Madre Occidental: Research in the Moctezuma Valley of Eastern Sonora, Mexico. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series no 212, University of Arizona, Tucson.
2016     Exchange economies of late prehistoric eastern Sonora, Mexico: A reevaluation based on provenance data analyses. Journal of Field Archaeology 41(5):587-602. doi:10.1080/00934690.2016.1207492.
2015     Río Sonora Polities: A Reconsideration of Scale and Organization. Latin American Antiquity 26(4):530-549. doi:10.7183/1045-6635.26.4.530.
2014     Network Analysis of Early Classic Hohokam Corporate Group Inequality. American Antiquity 79(3):465-486.


Carpenter, John, Guadalupe Sánchez, Edson Cupa, Alejandra Abrego-Rivas, José Antonio López-Rivera, Claudia Elena León-Romero, Andrew R. Krug, Jaron T. Davidson, Dakota Larrick, Justin R. Lund, Delaney S. Cooley, Matthew C. Pailes.

2023       The Limits of Casas Grandes, Spatial and Temporal: Recent Research from the Fronteras Valley. Latin American Antiquity 34(2):235-258.


Carpenter, John, Guadalupe Sánchez, Patricia Olga Hernández-Espinoza, Claudia Elena León-Romero, Andrew R. Krug, Alejandra Abrego-Rivas, M. Steven Shackley, Jeffrey Ferguson, Matthew Pailes. 

2021       Recent Research in the Sahuaripa region of Sonora, Mexico. Kiva 87(4):461-485.

Courses Taught

  • Advanced Archaeological Theory (Anth-6803)
  • Introduction to Archaeological Theory, Anthropology (Anth-6713)
  • Lithic Technology and Analysis (Anth-5923)
  • Ceramic Analysis in Archaeology (Anth-5783)
  • The Origins of Complex Societies (Anth-5293)
  • Archaeological Sciences (Archaeometry), (Anth-4853)
  • Archaeology of the Greater Southwest, (Anth-4853)
  • North American Archaeology, (Anth-4813/5813)
  • Capstone (Anth-4113)
    • The Origins of Inequality
    • Climate Change: Human History        
  • What Makes Us Human (formally General Anthropology) (Anth-1113)