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221

Christina Elson

OLogy Series
ologist
card
221

Christina Elson

OLogy Series
ologist

Christina was always fascinated by archaeology because it combined her love of history with her interest in world cultures. After high school, she left her hometown in Virginia to go to college in Mexico. There, she learned Spanish, took classes in archaeology, and went on her first digs. She returned to the U.S., went to graduate school, and today she's an archaeologist whose expertise is the ancient cultures of Mexico.

Fantastic Finds of the Field
Christina's first field experience was in Mexico, just a few miles away from her school. The site, called Cacaxtla, (ka-ka-shla), featured large mounds. These mounds were buried ruins of temples and other buildings built by a culture that lived there over a thousand years ago. Christina was assigned to excavate a mound that turned out to be a temple. During her excavation, her team discovered three offering boxes. Offering boxes often held objects that were left in places of worship. The boxes Christina found were filled with exotic goods like obsidian (volcanic glass), jade, and shells. In one of the boxes, some pieces were arranged in the shape of a face. Christina believes they may have been placed this way to represent the face of a god called Tlaloc (tla-lock).

Christina and her team found a tomb at the site of Cerro Tilcajete that had been looted, which means someone:

had stolen artifacts

had destroyed the site

both A and B

Are you right?

Correct!

The looters did not just steal the tomb’s contents, they destroyed a window into ancient Zapotec life. The tomb's design, offerings, and even its human remains would have provided a lot of information about how important people were buried.

Christina Elson, archaeologist

I like the feeling I get when I can go in the field with a problem and come out with a solution. When I make unexpected discoveries, the work becomes even more exciting.

Now that Christina works for the American Museum of Natural History, she does all of her work in New York City.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

As an archaeologist, Christina still does fieldwork. Every fall, she goes to Mexico to excavate a site where the Zapotec people lived over a thousand years ago.

Hometown: Lynchburg, Virginia
Education: Ph.D., University of Michigan
Job: Curatorial Associate of the Anthropology Division at the American Museum of Natural History
Known for: her studies of the ancient Aztec and Zapotec cultures of Mesoamerica

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH; Christina Elson: courtesy of AMNH.