Barbara Voorhies


Professor Emerita of Anthropology
Research Professor: Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research (ISBER)

Department of Anthropology
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3210

My interests revolve around issues concerning the prehistory of the tropical coastal lowlands of Mesoamerica. Currently, I am juggling three projects that are described briefly below.

For more, click here to view a copy of my C.V.

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  Postclassic Soconusco Society Book Cover

Drawing by Helle Girey

Postclassic Soconusco Society: The Late Prehistory of Coastal Chiapas, Mexico. Barbara Voorhies and Janine Gasco. Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, University at Albany, New York. 2004.

The Soconusco region, in coastal Chiapas, Mexico, was the most distant province of the far-flung Aztec Empire in the late 15th century. Conquered only a mere three or four decades prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, this region was coveted for its cacao plantations, jaguar pelts and multi-colored feathers harvested from forest birds. Using available archaeological and archival evidence we reconstruct the nature of native society immediately prior to and during Aztec hegemony in the region.

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Codex Azcatitlan, Lám. XIII

Codex Azcatitlan, Lám. XIII

Coastal Collectors in the Holocene : The Chantuto People of Southwest Mexico. Barbara Voorhies, with contributions by Natalie Anikouchine, Richard G. Cooke, John G. Jones, Máximo Jiménez, Conrado Tapia, and Thomas A. Wake. University Press of Florida: Gainesville. 2004.

This book focuses on the earliest known people of the Soconusco, who lived in coastal Chiapas between 7500-3500 years ago. These Chantuto people, whose subsistence was apparently limited to wild plants and animals, practiced a pattern of logistical foraging that included sojourns in the coastal wetlands. There they left behind gigantic shellmounds as testaments to their former presence. Data from the shellmounds and other coeval sites reveal incremental changes in lifeways that culminated in the transformation of society into settled village farmers.

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Barbara and Douglas J. Kennett

Fort San Diego, Acapulco.
Photo by Sarah McClure.

Barbara Voorhies with Principal Investigator Douglas J. Kennett (pictured here) have completed the two NSF funded field seasons of the project “Transition to Maize Agriculture along the Pacific Coast of Mexico”.  The first field season (2003) centered on the area around Acapulco, coastal Guerrero, whereas the second season (2005) was spent on the coast of Chiapas.  Currently, we are analyzing our data and preparing field reports for the Mexican government.   

Sample of Publications


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By Arleen Garcia, e-mail:, with May 26, 2005 update by DL.