Arthur Joyce’s research focuses on two interrelated issues:
His geographical focus is Mesoamerica, especially the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Joyce directs two interdisciplinary archaeological projects in Oaxaca: A regional project in the lower Río Verde Valley that examines the history of complex societies from ca. 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1522 and an interdisciplinary project investigating the history of human impact on the environment along the Río Verde drainage system. He draws on theoretical and methodological inspirations ranging from the social sciences and humanities to the natural sciences.
An important component of Joyce’s research is the training of graduate students who collaborate with him on field projects and carry out independent research in Oaxaca. His MA and Ph.D. students have carried out research involving excavations of residences and public buildings, geoarchaeological studies of agricultural terraces, archaeological survey, and laboratory studies of ceramics, figurines, and lithics. His two most recent Ph.D. students have gone on to tenure track positions at research universities.
Joyce’s research on complex societies uses theories of practice, power, ideology, and materiality to consider how social relations within societies as well as external factors like interregional interaction and ecology drive social changes such as political centralization and societal collapse. His research on ancient landscapes uses both ecological and cultural theoretical approaches.