Archaeology of the Borderlands

Hit a paywall trying to access some of my work? Send me a direct message @nmathwich on Twitter or email, and I’ll send you a copy.

Recent publications

ihja network image
  • Mathwich, Nicole and Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman. (2018) “Bureaucratic Reforms on the Frontier: Zooarchaeological and Historical Perspectives on the 1767 Jesuit Expulsion in the Pimería Alta.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 10.1016/j.jaa.2018.07.002
  • Mathwich, Nicole, Alex Ruff, and Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman. (2019) “Applying indigenous knowledge to colonial livestock: Isotopic patterns in water and range resources in the desert landscapes of the Pimería Alta.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports: 27.


Rancho Johnson, Punta Colonet, Baja California

Working with my colleague, Dr. Carlos Figueroa Beltrán, we are expanding on his initial doctoral work in the Punta Colonet region of northwestern Baja California. Rancho Johnson is home to a historical ranch and dozens of pre-contact shell middens and seasonal encampments. We completed a pedestrian survey of the ranch area in 2022, and research and writing on the project are on-going.

Mission Dolores de Cosarí, Sonora

Faunal analysis

As part of colonial efforts to incorporate O’odham lands into New Spain, missionaries in the Pimería Alta built a system of religious agropastoral communities where their conversion efforts were contested, adapted, and mitigated by O’odham groups. One of the earliest sites in this system was Mission Dolores de Cósari. The O’odham village of Cósari was first visited by Father Kino in 1687. The site subsequently became the local cabecera, known as Misión de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Cósari, and became the administrative center of the Pimería Alta missions, to which all the missionaries operating in the region reported.  Dolores became an important source of cattle herd for Kino’s expansion north, and laid the foundations for other missions in the region.

My research at this site has been based on the faunal analysis of materials recovered from INAH Sonora excavations of this site in 2006. Three of my undergraduate students worked on digital analysis of the data as part of a research assistantships assigned during the Spring 2021 pandemic restrictions. Research and writing is ongoing.

Pimería Alta Isotope ProjectCow tooth sampled for tooth enamel
2014-Present: Exploration of range management using colonial livestock tooth enamel and bone collagen

With Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman and Alexander Ruff

Check out our article out from Journal Archaeology Science: Reports:

Media coverage

Mission Guevavi Archaeological Field School

Nicole Mathwich in field

Teaching Assistant and Faunal Analyst

2013-2015: Excavations of the mission midden, ranching features, historic adobe structures, and Hohokam pithouses in partnership with the National Park Service, University of Arizona, and Desert, Inc.

Mathwich, Nicole. “Prehistoric and Historic Vertebrate Faunal Remains from Mission Los Santos Angeles de Guevavi, AZ EE:9:1(ASM), Santa Cruz County, Arizona.” In Archaeology at the Mission of Sorrows: Archaeological Test Excavations at the Guevavi Mission, AZ EE:9:1(ASM), Santa Cruz County, Arizona, 103–25. Technical Report 2015–12. Tucson, Arizona: Desert Archaeology, Inc., 2016.

Slade Ruin [AZ Q:15:1(ASM)]

Faunal analysis of excavations of a Pueblo III site near Eager, Arizona.

Faunal analyst

Mathwich, Nicole (2017), “Zooarchaeological Analysis of Slade Ruin.” Technical report, on file, Arizona State Museum.

School of Anthropology Centennial Project

As part of the celebration of the University of Arizona Anthropology’s Centennial year in 2015, I created and distributed an online survey to UA Anthropology  Alumni and from the survey, I created a social network model showing the many links between the faculty and graduates of University of Arizona Anthropology and organizations, businesses, governments, and universities from around the world in a project called Centennial Connections.

Santa Clara Historical Archaeological Field School

2012 Excavations of  Mission Santa Clara’s neophyte quarters.

Teaching Assistant and Faunal Analyst

Panich, Lee M., Helga Afaghani, and Nicole Mathwich. “Assessing the Diversity of Mission Populations through the Comparison of Native American Residences at Mission Santa Clara de Asís.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 18, no. 3 (2014): 467–88. doi:10.1007/s10761-014-0266-1.
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