Holley Moyes

Professional Bio 

Holley Moyes earned an MA degree from Florida State University in Anthropology in 2001 and Ph.D. in Anthropology with a focus in Archaeology from The State University of New York at Buffalo, NY in 2006. At Buffalo she was funded by an NSF-sponsored IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training) interdisciplinary program for Geographic Information Science and Archaeology. She taught at Wichita State University and New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, and moved to UC Merced in 2010 where she is currently serving as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts. Her expertise is in the Archaeology of Religion and her regional specialization is in Mesoamerica. Her primary interest is in the role of ideologies and belief systems in human decision-making when societies are confronted with external pressures such as environmental stress. Her work on the ritual use of space supported by a field program researching ancient Maya sacred cave sites. She has been instrumental in developing methodologies to study religion in the archaeological record and has published 70 articles, book chapters, symposium proceedings, and reports. She received a Choice Award for her 2012 volume Sacred Darkness: A Global Perspective on the Ritual Use of Caves.

Area of Expertise 

I am a Mesoamerican archaeologist specializing in the Archaeology of Religion. Most of my field work is conducted in ancient Maya cave sites in Belize. Here the Maya made pilgrimages and petitioned their deities for rain during the most chaotic period of their 2000 year civilization, when drought ravaged the region. These cave sites provide a unique view of Maya religious life at that time. We know the end of the story- that the political system, which had been in place for centuries, eventually failed- but we know little about the processes that led to that result. My interest is in the role of ritual practice during this stressful time and how Maya ideologies, cosmologies, and religious practices played a role in people's lives and ultimately in the decisions that lead to the collapse of their governing bodies.

Workshop Locations 
Institutional Affiliation 
Professional Title 
Associate Professor