Archaeologist and Anthropologist: Dr. Lisa J. Lucero

Archaeologist and Anthropologist: Dr. Lisa J. Lucero

This archaeologist is studying how the ancient Maya used cenotes and other features of their tropical landscape.


5 - 12+


Anthropology, Geography, Human Geography, Physical Geography

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Early Work
Lisa developed an interest in anthropology and archaeology from reading historical novels and fiction. "I would read voraciously anything I could get my hands on," she says. "I just remember being fascinated by humans and how we work as a society versus as individuals."

She didn’t have many hands-on experiences related to her future career while growing up in the United States city of Lakewood, Colorado. “We didn’t have a lot of money to travel, so I traveled through books.”

Most Exciting Part of Your Work
Lisa loves traveling and talking to other archaeologists about what they do. She gets enthusiastic about unearthing new artifacts. "I still get excited at finding stuff, whether it’s a broken piece of pottery, a shirt or anything."

Most Demanding Part of Your Work
"Applying every year all around for funding."

How Do You Define Geography
"Geography is how we engage with the landscape ... How people use the landscape and perceive it. And interact with it. And engage with it. Use it. Abuse it. Live with it. You name it."

Lisa says the Maya didn’t separate their landscape from their society. She attempts to view the natural world the way the Maya did. "I see geographic features as cultural features," she says.

Over the years, Lisa has discovered—particularly through the work of cave archaeologists—that the hardest geographic features to reach often contain the greatest artifacts. "They’ll [cave archaeologists] see a ledge that looks impossible to get to," she says. "They learned early on to get to it because the Maya sure as heck did."

Lisa uses modern geographic tools including GIS and GPS technology in her work, but she pores over maps to determine the patterns of Maya settlements within certain regions.

So, You Want To Be an Anthropologist or Archaeologist
Lisa suggests that students should learn languages and how to use GIS technology in addition to taking anthropology and archaeology courses.

Get Involved
For families interested in learning about Maya culture firsthand, Lisa suggests traveling to Belize and taking one of many tours of the country’s historic sites.

Media Credits

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Evelyn L. Kent
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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