Jennifer P. Mathews

Department of Sociology




(Photo by Trish Simonite)



Jennifer Mathews is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She is a specialist in Maya archaeology and has worked in the Yucatan Peninsula of southern Mexico since 1993, where she is the co-director of the Yalahau Regional Human Ecology Project. She teaches courses in archaeology, physical anthropology, sustainability, and ethics, and takes students to Mexico during the summer to conduct archaeological research.

Contact information:

For more information about courses, publications, expert witness testimony, or participating in summer archaeological field research in Mexico:

Jennifer Mathews, Associate Professor

Trinity University 

Department of Sociology and Anthropology

One Trinity Place

San Antonio, TX 78212-7200

Office: 210-999-8507



Ph.D., Anthropology, University of California, Riverside

M.A., Anthropology, University of California, Riverside

B.A., Anthropology, San Diego State University

Courses Taught:

  • Introduction to Prehistoric Archaeology
  • Human Evolution
  • Seminar on the Ancient Maya
  • Pre-Columbian Art of Mesoamerica
  • Anthropological Ethics
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Semianr on Primatology
  • America Latina: Sostenibilidad / Latin America: Sustainability

  Selected Publications:

Books and Edited Volumes:

Chicle - The Chewing Gum of the Americas:

From the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley 

Tucson: University of Arizona Press

(Spring 2009)

by Jennifer P. Mathews

with Gillian P. Schultz

Although Juicy Fruit® gum was introduced to North Americans in 1893, Native Americans in Mesoamerica were chewing gum thousands of years earlier. And although in the last decade “biographies” have been devoted to salt, spices, chocolate, coffee, and other staples of modern life, until now there has never been a full history of chewing gum.  Chicle is a history in four acts, all of them focused on the sticky white substance that seeps from the sapodilla tree when its bark is cut. First, Jennifer Mathews recounts the story of chicle and its earliest-known adherents, the Maya and Aztecs. Second, with the assistance of botanist Gillian Schultz, Mathews examines the sapodilla tree itself, an extraordinarily hardy plant that is native only to Mesoamerica and the Caribbean. Third, Mathews presents the fascinating story of the chicle and chewing gum industry over the last hundred plus years, a tale (like so many twentieth-century tales) of greed, growth, and collapse. In closing, Mathews considers the plight of the chicleros, the “extractors” who often work by themselves tapping trees deep in the forests, and how they have emerged as icons of local pop culture—portrayed as fearless, hard-drinking brawlers, people to be respected as well as feared. Before Dentyne® and Chiclets®, before bubble gum comic strips and the Doublemint® twins, there was gum, oozing from jungle trees like melting candle wax under the slash of a machete. Chicle tells us everything that happened next. It is a spellbinding story.

Link to the University of Arizona Press website:


See also:


Lifeways in the Northern Maya Lowlands:

New Approaches to Archaeology in the

Yucatan Peninsula

Tucson, University of Arizona Press. 2006

by Jennifer P. Mathews and Bethany A. Morrison, editors

The flat, dry reaches of the northern Yucatán Peninsula have been largely ignored by archaeologists drawn to the more illustrious sites of the south. This book is the first volume to focus entirely on the northern Maya lowlands, presenting a broad cross-section of current research projects in the region by both established and up-and-coming scholars. To address the heretofore unrecognized importance of the northern lowlands in Maya prehistory, the contributors cover key topics relevant to Maya studies: the environmental and historical significance of the region, the archaeology of both large and small sites, the development of agriculture, resource management, ancient politics, and long-distance interaction among sites. As a volume in the series Native Peoples of the Americas, it adds a human dimension to archaeological findings by incorporating modern ethnographic data. By exploring various social and political levels of Maya society through a broad expanse of time, Lifeways in the Northern Maya Lowlands not only reconstructs a little-known past, it also suggests the broad implications of archaeology for related studies of tourism, household economies, and ethno-archaeology. It is a benchmark work that pointedly demonstrates the need for researchers in both north and south to ignore modern geographic boundaries in their search for new ideas to further their understanding of the ancient Maya. 

Link to the University of Arizona Press: http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/BOOKS/bid1672.htm

Quintana Roo Archaeology

Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 20055

by Justine M. Shaw and 

Jennifer P. Mathews, editors

Mexico’s southern state of Quintana Roo is often perceived by archaeologists as a blank spot on the map of the Maya world, a region generally assumed to hold little of interest thanks to its relative isolation from the rest of Mexico. But salvage archaeology required by recent development along the “Maya Riviera,” along with a suite of other ongoing and recent research projects, have shown that the region was critical in connecting coastal and inland zones, and it is now viewed as an important area in its own right from Preclassic through post-contact times. The first volume devoted to the archaeology of Quintana Roo, this book reveals a long tradition of exploration and discovery in the region and an increasingly rich recent history of study. Covering a time span from the Formative period through the early twentieth century, it offers a sampling of recent and ongoing research by Mexican, North American, and European archaeologists. Each of the chapters helps to integrate sites within and beyond the borders of the modern state, inviting readers to consider Quintana Roo as part of an interacting Maya world whose boundaries were entirely different from today’s. The contributions consider such subjects as ceramic controversies, settlement shifts, site planning strategies, epigraphic and iconographic materials, the impact of recent coastal development, and the interplay between ancient, historic, and modern use of the region. Quintana Roo Archaeology unfolds a rich archaeological record spanning 2,500 years, depicting the depth and breadth of modern archaeological studies within the state. It is an important touchstone for Maya and Mesoamerican archaeologists, demonstrating the shifting web of connections between Quintanarooense sites and their neighbors, and confirming the need to integrate this region into a broader understanding of the ancient Maya.

Link to the University of Arizona Press: http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/BOOKS/bid1635.htm

Selected Books Chapters and Journal Articles:


Jennifer P. Mathews and Ruben Maldonado Cardenas

2006 Late Formative and Early Classic Interaction Spheres Reflected in the Megalithic Styles. In Lifeways in the Northern Maya Lowland: New Approaches to Maya Archaeology in the Yucatan Peninsula, pp. 95-118, edited by Jennifer P. Mathews and Bethany A.Morrison. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. (See PDF below, "Late Formative and Early Classic")

Rissolo, Dominique and Jennifer P. Mathews 

2006 Archaeologists Working with the Contemporary Yucatec Maya. In Lifeways in the Northern Maya Lowlands: New Approaches to Archaeology in the Yucatán Peninsula, edited by Jennifer P. Mathews and Bethany A. Morrison, pp.198-209. University of  Arizona Press, Tucson. (See PDF below, "Contemporary Yucatec Maya")

Mathews, Jennifer P. and Lilia Lizama-Aranda

2005 Jungle Rails: A Narrow Gauge Railway in Quintana Roo, Mexico. In Quintana Roo Archaeology, edited by Justine Shaw and Jennifer Mathews, pp. 112-126. Tucson, University of Arizona Press. (See PDF below, "Mathews and Lizama -Q Roo Archaeology")

Fedick, Scott L. and Jennifer P. Mathews

2005 The Yalahau Regional Human Ecology Project: An Introduction and Summary of Recent Research. In Quintana Roo Archaeology, edited by Justine Shaw and Jennifer Mathews, pp. 33-50. Tucson, University of Arizona Press. (See PDF below, "Fedick and Mathews Chapter")


Mathews, Jennifer P. and James F. Garber 

2004 Models of Cosmic Order: The Physical Expression of Sacred Space Among the Ancient Maya. Ancient Mesoamerica Vol. 15: 49-59. (See PDF below, "Models of Cosmic Order")


Mathews, Jennifer P.

2001 Radiocarbon Dating of Mortar and Charcoal Inclusions in Architectural Mortar: A Case Study in the Maya Region, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Journal of Field Archaeology Vol. 28 (No. 3 and 4): 395-400, Fall and Winter, 2001. (Listed as 2001, but published in January of 2004). (See PDF below, "Radiocarbon Dating of Architectural Mortar")

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