Michael W. Spence
Department of Anthropology

Western University

(519) 661-3430

Fax: (519) 661-2157
e-mail: spence@uwo.ca
Address: Department of Anthropology
University of Western Ontario
London, ON
N6A 5C2


Academic Background
Professor Emeritus (University of Western Ontario, 2006-present)
PhD (Anthropology, Southern Illinois University, 1971)
Research Interests

Since I am active in two areas (Ontario and Mexico) and in two subfields of anthropology (archaeology and physical anthropology), my ongoing research projects are rather diverse. I shall briefly outline each below:

  • Hopewell Silver: I have recently completed and have in press work involving the identification of native silver sources used on Middle Woodland Hopewell and Hopewell-related sites and the implications of that sourcing for our understanding of Middle Woodland trade and social networks.
  • Praying Mantis. This small Iroquoian village (ca. 1000 AD) in the Byron area of London was completely excavated by the London Museum of Archaeology. Working with a number of my students, I excavated the two burials that were found. The resulting data will be combined with data from three other similar sites that I have analyzed to reconstruct the social structure and burial practices of these early farming residents of Ontario. I have prepared a detailed technical report on the Praying Mantis burials, to satisfy government and professional requirements. I will now write a general, publicly oriented version of that report, leaving out the technical jargon, tables of measurements, etc. Both reports, technical and general, will be given to Oneida nation, which will assume responsibility for the reburial of the bones.
  • Tlailotlacan Teotihuacan (0-750 AD), with a population of over 100,000 people, was the largest city of its time in the New World. Like any major city, it attracted immigrants from a wide area. About 1000 Zapotecs came to Teotihuacan about 200 AD from the Valley of Oaxaca, some 400 kms. to the southeast. They settled in an enclave (Tlailotlacan) at the edge of the city, and somehow managed to maintain a distinct ethnic identity over five centuries of residence there. I have completed two seasons of excavation in the enclave, with the objective of discovering how, and why, they remained so persistently Zapotec despite the overwhelming presence of Teotihuacan. The results are presently being analyzed. The work has been funded by two SSHRC research grants and one SSHRC Internal grant.
  • Isotopic Analysis of Teotihuacan Skeletons. Christine White, Fred Longstaffe (Geology) and I have a three year SSHRC grant, with Christine as PI, to determine the areas of origin of immigrants to Teotihuacan through an analysis of the isotopic composition of their bones. Samples from several areas of the ancient city, including two believed to have been inhabited by people from Veracruz and Oaxaca, are now being processed. We will also be able to make some conclusions about the diet of the people.
  • Quetzalcoatl Sacrifices. At about 200 AD, when the Temple of Quetzalcoatl was built in Teotihuacan, more than 200 individuals were sacrificed in a single massive event. This year I joined a team of Mexican physical anthropologists in a thorough analysis (funded by NSF) of the 160 skeletons recovered to date. Using a wide array of evidence (nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, bone isotopes, epigenetic traits, etc.), we expect to shed some light on the statuses, health, nutrition, places of origin, and social relationships of the victims. Christine White's SSHRC project is also using material from this series of skeletons, and the findings of both projects will be integrated.
  • Obsidian Industry. Obsidian, a fine-grained volcanic stone, was used in the production of a wide variety of items in Teotihuacan (projectile points, knives, scrapers, drills, figurines, etc.). For several years I have been analyzing this industry: the quarrying of the raw material, its distribution to the craft specialists, the role of the Teotihuacan state in the industry, and the identity of the consumers (some of whom lived over 1000 kms from the city).
Select Publications:
2012    Finding a Balance. Ancient Mesoamerica 23:1-7.
2011    The Mortuary Features of the Tillsonburg Village Site. Ontario Archaeology 91:3-20.
2009    Mesoamerican Bioarchaeology: Past and Future. Ancient Mesoamerica 20:233-240. (with C. D. White)

2007    The Human Skeletal Remains of the Moon Pyramid, Teotihuacan.  Ancient Mesoamerica 18:147-157. (with G. Pereira)

2002    Geographic Identities of the Sacrificial Victims from the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, Teoitihuacan: Implications for the Nature of State Power. Latin American Antiquity 13(2):217-236. (with C. White, F. Longstaffe, H. Stuart-Williams and K. Law)
2000    Testing the nature of Teotihuacan imperialism at Kaminaljuyu using phosphate oxygen-isotope ratios. Journal of Anthropological Research 56:535-558 (with C. D. White, F.J. Longstaffe and K. R. Law) 
1999    Craniocervical injuries in judicial hangings: an anthropologic analysis of six cases. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 20:309-322 (with M. Shkrum, A. Ariss and J. Regan).
1999    An Anthropological Investigation of a Rural Homicide Scene. IN: S. Fairgrieve (ed.), Forensic Osteological Analysis: A Book of Case Studies, pp.173-182. Charles C. Thomas, Springfield.
1998    La cronología de radiocarbono de Tlailotlacan. IN: R. Brambila and R. Cabrera (eds.), Los ritmos de cambio en Teotihuacán: reflexiones y discusiones de su cronología, pp.283-297. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico.
1994    Mortuary Practices and Skeletal Analyses at Teotihuacan. University of Utah Press, Provo (with M. Sempkowski
1994    Mortuary Programmes of the Early Ontario Iroquoians. Ontario Archaeology 58:6-20.
1990    Cultural Complexes of the Early and Middle Woodland Periods. In C.Ellis and N. Ferris (eds.), The Archaeology of Southern Ontario to A.D. 1650, pp.125-169. Occasional Publications of the London Chapter, Ontario Archaeology Society, No. 5 (with R. Pihl and C. Murphy).