Theme for the 2020 Conference

The theme for the 17th Biennial Southwest Symposium Conference is “Thinking Big: New Approaches to Synthesis and Partnership in the Southwest/Northwest.” Paper/poster sessions and forums at the conference will showcase research and perspectives focused broadly on debates that go beyond individual regions, study areas, and typical research partnerships. This includes work focused on large-scale data compilation and analyses designed to provide new answers to old questions and to generate new questions from old data, research that spans the international border and grapples with the complexities of integrating research traditions and languages, comparative perspectives on research in the Southwest/Northwest helping to place locality based research in a broader context, and frank discussion of the need and prospects for partnerships among tribal, resource management, and academic partners that go beyond typical collaborative research. Across all of these topics, we ask participants to “think big” in terms of the spatial extent of research but also the range of topics and stakeholders that archaeology in the region can serve. What can we learn by breaking down boundaries between traditional research areas and thinking of the Southwest/Northwest as a whole? What are the new avenues for making archaeology relevant and responsive to different stakeholders in the twenty-first century? How can archaeology in the Southwest/Northwest be better integrated into debates in archaeology beyond this region or perhaps even in the social and physical sciences broadly?

Open Call for Abstracts

We are calling for abstracts for individual posters or posters sessions that fit within the conference theme or are focused on any other aspect of archaeology and history in the U.S. Southwest and Mexican Northwest. Check here for more information.


The conference will be hosting an opening reception on Thursday evening, January 30th at College Avenue Commons near the ASU campus. The conference presentations and posters will run from approximately 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Friday January 31st and Saturday February 1st. A full conference schedule will be available here in December.

Organized Sessions

Abstracts for the sessions organized by the 2020 Southwest Symposium organizing committee are provided below. Click on the session header for participants and abstracts of individual papers in each session. Note that papers will be presented in both English and Spanish and real-time translations services will be offered.

Download a PDF of all session and paper abstracts here or click below to view individual sessions.

Current Directions in Hohokam Archaeology
Organized by Caitlin Wichlacz
The Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and adjacent regions was for more than 1,000 years the location of some of the largest and most impressive agricultural communities in North America. Across this region, farmers constructed over 500 miles of irrigation canals and created a market system where ceramics and other goods were exchanged in complex and overlapping networks of interaction. Archaeologists refer to the related set of adaptations and material cultural patterns as  “Hohokam,” but the nature and scale at which people in the past may have reckoned cultural connections is much more difficult to discern. In this session, we present a range of recent research in the Hohokam region and adjacent areas focusing in particular on regional patterns and processes and the different ways that the Hohokam pattern played out through space and time. 

Data Compilation and Archaeological Synthesis in the Southwest/Northwest
Organized by Matt Peeples and Keith Kintigh
Archaeologists working in the greater Southwest are certainly not lacking data. The region has been the location of intensive research for more than a century and has been one of the largest centers of compliance and preservation activities for more than 50 years. It is estimated that more than one billion dollars are spent every year in the US conducting archaeological research and compliance activities and generating a veritable firehose of new information that needs to be analyzed, interpreted, and incorporated into broader research agendas. In recent decades, the Southwest/Northwest has been at the forefront of efforts to develop new approaches to archaeological syntheses. Researchers working in the region have made many important contributions including: 1) the creation of new archives which systematize and organize archaeological records from early large projects like excavations at Chaco Canyon, 2) the development of synthetic databases compiling regional-scale settlement and material cultural information, 3) the creation of CRM focused databases that allow companies to build decades long trajectories of research through compliance activities, and 4) the development of research programs that supplement field and lab research with the use of existing data and collections. In this session, we present a series of papers touching on these areas of research and ask authors in particular to describe the challenges they have faced in conducting such synthetic work as well as what they have learned about social processes and trajectories in the Southwest/Northwest past that they could not have learned without such efforts.

Recent Research from the Southern Half of the Greater Northwest-Southwest 
Organized by Guadalupe Sánchez, John Carpenter, and Matthew Pailes
Incorporating research from northern Mexico is essential to understanding macro-scale temporal and geographical processes in the Greater Northwest/Southwest. Northern Mexico shares a cultural and natural history with the region that presently constitutes the U.S. Southwest. Despite the frequently noted irrelevance of modern political boundaries to pre-colonial societies, there are stark differences in the intensity of archaeological research in the U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico. As a result, more than half of the “Greater Northwest-Southwest” remains very poorly known, hampering efforts at macro-scale reconstructions of political, ideological, and economic systems. This session presents a sampling of recent research from Northern Mexico that highlights current interests and methods. Topics covered range from investigations of hunter and gatherer groups to state level society interactions on the Mesoamerican frontier. The geographical breadth of the session spans from Durango to the international border and from the Baja states to Chihuahua.

FORUM: Transforming Archaeology for Tribal Nations
Organized by Lindsay Montgomery and Matt Peeples
Archaeologists working in the American West have had a long and diverse history of engagement with Native American Nations and stakeholders. Beginning with early collecting endeavors, like the Hemenway Southwestern Expedition of the Gila valley in 1886 which explored the link between archaeology and Pueblo migration stories, these interactions have often had complex impacts on and legacies for tribal communities. As we move further into the a post-NAGPRA era, scholars working across North America have begun to reflect on the relationship between archaeology and descendant communities and to seek ways to address the varying and sometimes disparate goals of researchers and tribal partners. Building on this growing moment of self-reflection, this forum seeks to explore how archaeology has benefited tribal communities in the broader Southwest and to identify those instances where the discipline has fallen short. Through critical dialogue we hope to develop strategies for building more effective partnerships between archaeologists working in academic and compliance sectors and tribes in order to facilitate the social, cultural, economic, and political empowerment of indigenous communities.

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