Alessandra Villarreal ’14: Piecing Together Fragments

By Beth Walk

Alessandra Villarreal

The  Research

Drawing from her double major in archaeology and Latin American studies, Alessandra Villarreal’s research took her to Cahal Pech, an archaeological site in Belize, to analyze and interpret Pre-classic Maya architecture. Her specific focus is on round platforms, rare structures in the Maya area, which were abandoned before the civilization flourished in the Classic Period. The structures’ original function and why the Mayans may have stopped using them remain a mystery. Through analysis of ancient remains of a round structure found under a Classic Period ball court, Villarreal connects the presence of certain artifacts (like pottery or shell pendants) to theories about ritual use of architecture and the importance of ritual space over time.

In Her Own Words

“I was surprised how much information I was able to obtain from artifacts as seemingly simple as pottery fragments. Pottery is the most common artifact an archaeologist will find and is sometimes undervalued in the information it can reveal. However, domestic and ritual activity, as well as the time period of a building, can be determined through different types of pottery. This was unexpected for me and pushed ceramics to the forefront of my focus for the project.”

Adviser: Lisa DeLeonardis, Professor, History of Art