Dr Julie K Wesp

Assistant Professor

Picture of Dr Julie K Wesp


I am a bioarchaeologist that is interested in understanding people’s daily life in the past and social, cultural, and environmental changes may have impacted their experiences. I analyze indicators from skeletal remains to reconstruct aspects of a person’s identity like age and sex, daily activities, health or disease indicators and then draw on other contextual or historical information to make meaningful interpretations about what it was like to live in a particular time or place. My recent co-edited volume, Exploring Sex and Gender in Bioarchaeology (UNMP, 2017) focuses on how bioarchaeologists can better understand how sex is analyzed from skeletal remains and how we can make more meaningful interpretations of sex/gender systems in different cultures. 

My research has focused on Pre-European and Colonial Mesoamerica, with archaeological experience in Central Mexico, Honduras, and the Yucatan peninsula.  I am particularly interested in how social and political changes of emerging colonial life during the 16th, 17th, and 18th century caused a reorganization of daily activities, particularly in the urban capital of New Spain. For this work, I analyzed skeletal remains associated with the Hospital Real San José de los Naturales (HSJN), a royally financed colonial hospital established in 1553 to care for the local indigenous population in the historic downtown of Mexico City. My current research expands this research of daily colonial life to other parts of the Spanish Americas, with a particular focus on the impact of changing demographics as a result of the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific slave trade.

Teaching and Research Interests

Bioarchaeology; Mesoamerica; Colonial Latin America; Labor and Activity; Women, Gender, and Sexuality; African Diaspora in Latin America


Africans and their descendants in Colonial Mexico

This project reconstructs the daily life of people with African heritage that are part of the HSJN skeletal collection. Even though the hospital’s official designation was to care for the indigenous population, colonial society was much more diverse and mixed than it is often portrayed. In collaboration with Mexican colleagues, we are analyzing bioarchaeological, historical, and genetic data to better understand the diversity of Africans that were forcibly brought to New Spain and the role these people and their descendants played in colonial society. This project developed out of my Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from UC MEXUS/CONACYT.

Templo de San Ignacio Archaeological Project

This project is a collaboration with colleagues in Bogotá, Colombia to analyze the construction, funerary practices, and architectural remodeling of the 17th century Jesuit church the Templo de San Ignacio. Located a block from the main plaza in the historic downtown of Bogotá, this church was one of the earliest to be built and continues to be in use today. In 2016 and 2017, we conducted excavations in various areas of the church and patio during a planned remodeling project and recovered a skeletal collection that totals over 100 individuals with well-preserved funerary textile remains.  We are currently conserving the textiles and conducting bioarchaeological analyses to better understand how funerary practice changed over time in this sacred space.

Extension and Community Engagement

Interview with the Women in Archaeology Podcast, October 2018. 


Wesp, Julie K. In Press 2019. Working in the City: a historical bioarchaeology of activity in urban New Spain. Historical Archaeology. 53(4).

Agarwal, Sabrina C. and Julie K. Wesp (eds.) 2017. Exploring Sex and Gender in Bioarchaeology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Wesp, Julie K. 2017. Embodying Sex/Gender Systems in Bioarchaeological Research. In Exploring Sex and Gender in Bioarchaeology, Sabrina C. Agarwal and Julie K. Wesp, eds. Pp. 99 – 126, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Wesp, Julie K. 2016. Caring for Bodies or Simply Saving Souls: the emergence of institutional care in Spanish Colonial America. In New Developments in the Bioarchaeology of Care: Case Studies and Extended Theory, Lorna Tilley and Alecia Schrenk, eds. Pp. 253 – 276, New York: Springer Press.

Wesp, Julie K. 2015. Bioarchaeological Perspectives on the Materiality of Everyday Life Activities. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association. 26: 139 – 148.

Menéndez Garmendia, Antinea, Jorge A. Gómez-Valdés, Francisco Hernández, Julie K. Wesp, and Gabriela Sánchez-Mejorada 2014. Long Bone (Humerus, Femur, Tibia) Measuring Procedure in Cadavers. Journal of Forensic Sciences. 59(5): 1325 – 1329.

Ardren, Traci, T. Kam Manahan, Julie K. Wesp, and Alejandra Alonso 2010. Cloth Production and Economic Intensification in the Area Surrounding Chichén Itzá. Latin American Antiquity. 21(3): 274 – 289.


Faculty Affiliate - Science, Technology, and Society


  • PhD in Anthropology with Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality from UC Berkeley, 2014
  • MA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley, 2009
  • BA in Latin American Studies and Anthropology from University of Miami, 2007