photo: mckillopHeather McKillop

Thomas & Lillian Landrum Alumni Professor


Ph.D., University of California-Santa Barbara, 1987


I carry out archaeological field research on ancient Maya salt works flooded by sea-level rise and use 3D technology to preserve a record of the salt-waterlogged pottery and wood. The research has been funded by National Science Foundation grants since 2005. My current NSF is a collaborative, linked grant with LSU PhD grad E. Cory Sills, now an Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Tyler, “Labor Relations in a Traditional Complex Society.” Current grad students on the project include Cher Foster, Hollie Lincoln, and Heidi Mayeaux. I started the DIVA Lab (Digital Imaging and Visualization in Archaeology) in 2010 with a LA Board of Regents grant. I have expanded 3D imaging and 3D printing, including exhibits featuring 3D printed replicas of artifacts from the Underwater Maya project funded by a Site Preservation Grant from the Archaeological Institute of America. We hosted the 4th International Congress on the Anthropology of Salt at LSU October 12-17, 2022. 

Book Publications

  • McKillop, Heather. 2019. Maya Salt Works. University Press of Florida, Gainesville. 
  • McKillop, Heather. 2006. The Ancient Maya. Norton Publishers, New York 
  • McKillop, Heather. 2005. In Search of Maya Sea Traders. College Station: Texas A & M University Press
  • McKillop, Heather. 2002. Salt, White Gold of the Ancient Maya. Gainesville: University Press of Florida
  • McKillop, H. 2002. Precolumbian Jade and Stone Carvings from Costa Rica. Catalog for Exhibition. Baton Rouge: Museum of Art, Louisiana State University
  • McKillop, Heather and Paul F. Healy (editors). 1989.  Coastal Maya Trade. Occasional Papers in Anthropology, Dept of Anthropology, Trent University, Canada. 

Selected Articles in Journals and Edited Books

  • McKillop, Heather. 2024. “The Ancient Maya of the Caribbean Coast: A View from Wild Cane Cay, Belize.” In El Mar Caribe: The American Mediterranean, edited by Victoria Lyell, pp. 169-185. Mayer Center Symposium XIX, Denver Art Museum, Denver.
  • McKillop, Heather. 2024. “Apocalypto and the Ancient Maya: To Entertain or to Educate?” In A Critical Companion to Mel Gibson, edited by Adam Barkman and Antonio Sanna, pp. 213-231. Lexington books, Rowan & Littlefield, Laham, MD.
  • McKillop, Heather. 2023. “Flooded mangrove landscapes hide ancient Maya coastal sites in BelizeJournal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, published online Feb 14, 2023.
  • McKillop, Heather and E. Cory Sills. 2023. "Briquetage and Brine: Living and Working at the Classic Maya Salt Works of Ek Way Nal, Belize.” Ancient Mesoamerica 34: 24-46.
  • Cher Foster, Heather McKillop, and E. Cory Sills.2023. “Human-Environmental interactions at Ta’ab Nuk Na, a submerged Maya salt works site in Belize. Ancient Mesoamerica, published online, open access.
  • McKillop, Heather and E. Cory Sills. 2022. Household salt production by the Late Classic  Maya: underwater excavations at Ta'ab Nuk Na. Antiquity (2022). DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2022.106 
    McKillop, Heather. 2022. Empowering undergrads in 3D Digital Imaging, In Digital Heritage   and Practice in Archaeology. Edited by Ethan Watrall and Lynn Goldstein, University Press of Florida.  
    McKillop, Heather. 2021. Salt as a commodity or money in the Classic Maya economy. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 6. 
    McKillop, Heather.2021. Conclusion: The Quest for Salt, in Salt in Eastern North American and the Caribbean, edited by Ashley A. Dumas and Paul N. Eubanks, pp. 164-174. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa. 
    McKillop, Heather, George Harlow, April Sievert, C.Wayne Smith, and Michael C. Wiemann.  2019. “Demystifying Jadeite: Underwater Maya Discovery at Ek Way Nal, Belize.”  Antiquity 93 368: 502–518.  DOI:  10.15184/aqy.2019.35 
    Watson, Rachel and Heather McKillop. 2019. “A Filtered Past: Interpreting Salt Production and Trade Models from Two Remnant Brine-Enrichment Mounds at the Ancient Maya Paynes Creek Salt Works, Belize. Journal of Field Archaeology 44:1:40-51. 
    McKillop, Heather and Kazuo Aoyama. 2018. “Salt and marine products in the Classic Maya economy from use-wear study of stone tools.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115:10948-10952. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1803639115 
    McKillop, Heather. 2005 “Finds in Belize Document Late Classic Maya Salt Making and Canoe Transport.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102: 5630-5634. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0408486102 

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Archaeology 
  • Ancient Maya in the Media 
  • 3D Digital Scanning 
  • Advanced 3D Archaeology 
  • Mesoamerican Archaeology Seminar 

PhD Graduates

  • Cheryl Foster (PhD Geography & Anthropology, May 2024)
    “Human-Environmental Interactions in Coastal Belize: Insights into Sea-Level Rise and Ancient
    Maya Activities at the Paynes Creek Salt Works”
  • Hollie Lincoln (PhD Anthropology, May 2023)
    “Analysis of Imported and Local Chert from the Paynes Creek Salt Works, Belize Using 3D
    Technology and Traditional Methods”
  • Valerie Feathers (PhD Geography & Anthropology, May 2017)
    “Human-Environmental Interactions: Sea-Level Rise and Marine Resource Use at Eleanor Betty,
    an Underwater Maya Salt Work, Belize.”
  • Victoria Harrington (PhD Geography & Anthropology, May 2017)
    “Digital Osteology: 3D Surface Scanning the Ox Coxae”
  • Areerut Patnukao (PhD Geography & Anthropology, May 2017)
    “GIS Analysis of Dvaravati Dharmacakras and the Rise of Buddism in Thailand”
  • Rachel Watson (PhD Geography & Anthropology, Aug 2015)
    “Excavations and Interpretation of Two Ancient Maya Salt-Work Mounds, Paynes Creek
    National Park, Toledo District, Belize”
  • Elizabeth Cory Sills (PhD Geography, May 2013)
    “Underwater Excavations of Two Ancient Maya Salt Works, Paynes Creek National Park, Belize”
  • Mark Robinson (PhD Geography, May 2013)
    “Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Ancient Maya Wood Selection and Forest Exploitation
    at the Paynes Creek Salt Works, Belize“
  • Bretton Somers (PhD Geography, May 2007)
    “Spatial Analysis of the Preserved Wooden Architectural Remains of Eight Late Classic Salt
    Works in Punta Ycacos Lagoon, Toledo District, Belize”
  • Virginia Ochoa (PhD Geography, May 2004)
    “Places to Live: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Modern Maya Houses in Yucatan, Mexico”
  • Terance Winemiller (PhD Geography, May 2003)
    “Water Resource Management by the Ancient Maya of Yucatan, Mexico”
  • Cyndi Nance (PhD Geography, May 1999)
    “Gone But Not Forgotten: A GIS Approach to Cemetery Abandonment in Southeastern
    Louisiana from an Archaeological and Geographical Perspective”


Howe-Russell-Kniffen Geoscience Complex
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Phone: 225-578-6178
Fax: 225-578-4420



Publications for download