Sarah Clayton

Position title: Professor


Phone: 608-262-7391

5440 Sewell Social Science Hall


Sarah Clayton CV

Areas of Focus

Archaeology, Mesoamerica, Teotihuacan


American Indian Studies Program (AIS)
Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies (LACIS)


I am an archaeologist interested in the development, social structure, and decline of the world’s earliest urban states. In particular, I study the interactions between urban and rural sectors of society and the ways in which the evolution of cities transformed surrounding landscapes and ways of life. I am an active field researcher in central Mexico, where I investigate the regional organization and cultural legacy of Teotihuacan, one of the earliest complex states and the largest city of its time in the western hemisphere. Migration, identity, and ethnogenesis are major themes of my work, much of which explores the salience of social diversity in processes of state formation and dissolution.

I currently direct research at Chicoloapan, a large site located on the outskirts of Mexico City that has a settlement history of more than 2000 years. Funded by the National Science Foundation since 2012, my project examines daily life, demographic change, and rapid urbanization in an ancient community. A major objective is to understand how local communities shaped, rather than simply responded to, broad sociopolitical transformations such the collapse of central governments. My research is interdisciplinary and collaborative, involving partnerships with scholars from institutions in Mexico and employing methods including excavation, geophysical prospection, artifact analysis, and soil chemistry.

At UW-Madison, I regularly teach large undergraduate courses for majors and non-majors, including “Origins of Civilization” and “Principles of Archaeology,” as well as graduate seminars and capstone seminars for advanced undergraduates. I embrace the Wisconsin Idea by extending my teaching beyond campus and I regularly involve students in both field and laboratory components of my research.


  • Anthro 102: World Prehistory
  • Anthro 212: Principles of Archaeology
  • Anthro 310: Mesoamerican Landscapes and Environments
  • Anthro 490: Seminar, Archaeology of Migration
  • Anthro 490: Seminar, Archaeology of Urbanism and Sustainability
  • Anthro 942: Seminar, Archaeology of Mesoamerican States

Select Publications

Clayton, Sarah C. (2021) Contextualizing commerce at Teotihuacan: pottery as evidence for regional and neighborhood-scale markets. Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association Volume 32: 43-53. Special Issue, Urban Commerce in Ancient Mesoamerica, edited by Elizabeth H. Paris.

Clayton, Sarah C. (2021) Coalescence at Chicoloapan, Mexico: Migration and the Making of a Post- collapse Community. In Mobility and Migration in Ancient Mesoamerican Cities, edited by M. Charlotte Arnauld, Christopher Beekman, and Gregory Pereira, pp. 189–207. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Clayton, Sarah C. (2020) The Collapse of Teotihuacan and the Regeneration of Epiclassic Societies: a Bayesian Approach. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 59:101203.

Clayton, Sarah C. (2019) Reexamining ‘Uniformity’ at Teotihuacan: Identity, Handcrafting, and Mass Production in Household Ritual. RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, Volume 71- 72:16-24.

Clayton, Sarah C. (2016) After Teotihuacan: a View of Collapse and Reorganization from the Southern Basin of Mexico. American Anthropologist 118(1): 104-20.

Clayton, Sarah C. (2015) Teotihuacan: an Early Urban Center in its Regional Context. In The Cambridge World History, Volume 3: Early Cities in Comparative Perspective, 4000 BCE–1200 CE, edited by Norman Yoffee, pp. 279-99. Cambridge University Press.

Clayton, Sarah C. (2013) Hinterland Diversity and Ancient Maya Political Economy in Northwestern Belize. In Classic Maya Political Ecology: Resource Management, Class Histories, and Political Change in Northwestern Belize, edited by Jon C. Lohse, pp. 171-92. Cotsen Institute, University of California, Los Angeles.

Clayton, Sarah C. (2013) Measuring the Long Arm of the State: Teotihuacan’s Relations in the Basin of Mexico. Ancient Mesoamerica 24(1): 87-105.

Clayton, Sarah C. (2011)
Gender at Ancient Teotihuacan: a Mortuary Study of Intrasocietal Diversity. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21(1):31-52.

Clayton, Sarah C. (2006)
Ritual and Residence: the Social Implications of Classic Mimbres Ceremonial Spaces. Kiva 72(1):73-94.

Clayton, Sarah C. (2005)
Interregional Relationships in Mesoamerica: Interpreting Maya Ceramics at Teotihuacan. Latin American Antiquity 16(4):427-48.

Clayton, Sarah C., W. David Driver, and Laura J. Kosakowsky (2005)
Rubbish or Ritual? Contextualizing a Problematical Deposit at Blue Creek, Belize. A Response to “Public Architecture, Ritual, and Temporal Dynamics at the Maya Center of Blue Creek, Belize,” by Thomas H. Guderjan. Ancient Mesoamerica 16(1):119-30.