Mark Varien

Independent Researcher

Mark Varien (Ph.D. Arizona State University, 1997) is an Independent Researcher and served as Vice President of the Research Institute at Crow Canyon from 2014 to 2022. A preeminent Southwestern archaeologist, he is well recognized for his work in the Mesa Verde region. He has been a professional archaeologist since 1976, conducting fieldwork in Guatemala, New Zealand, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. He served as a crew chief for the Dolores Archaeological Project in southwestern Colorado and as a project director for the Zuni Archaeology Program, a Zuni Indian tribal enterprise in Zuni, New Mexico. At Crow Canyon he directed the Sand Canyon Archaeological Project Site Testing Program, which led to numerous publications.

Since 1987, he has furthered the Center’s mission of conducting archaeological research, delivering public education programs about the human past, and partnering with American Indians on the design and delivery of those research and education programs.

Mark has conducted and led archaeological research in collaboration with Native nations at Crow Canyon for over thirty years. The Village Testing Project was the foundation of Mark’s Ph.D. dissertation, which won the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) Dissertation Prize and was later rewritten and published as a book by the University of Arizona Press titled, Sedentism and Mobility: Mesa Verde and Beyond. Mark was a principal investigator of the Village Ecodynamics Project, where his research examines how population movement structures settlement patterns. In 2023, Mark and his collaborators completed the Maize Database Project, the first-ever comprehensive, publicly-accessible database of curated Ancestral Pueblo maize.

Mark’s professional interests include the archaeology of the southwestern United States, site formation processes, household and community organization, patterns of sedentism and mobility, settlement patterns and the formation of cultural landscapes, human impact on the environment, social theory, public education programs about archaeology, and Native American involvement in archaeology.

Mark is particularly noted for his innovative work that integrates archaeological and Indigenous knowledge in an effort to examine community organization and patterns of mobility in the ancient Pueblo world. During his tenure at Crow Canyon, Mark has established a reputation as a highly skilled instructor who can convey complex ideas in an engaging, intellectually stimulating manner.

Mark’s research has been published in many scientific journals and in books; he is the author of Sedentism and Mobility in a Social Landscape: Mesa Verde and Beyond (University of Arizona Press, 1999). Along with Tim Kohler and Aaron Wright, he edited Leaving Mesa Verde: Peril and Change in the Thirteenth-Century Southwest (University of Arizona Press, 2010). He was also a guest speaker at TedXSonoma County (2014) event where he presented, Lessons Learned from the Pueblo Indians of the Mesa Verde Region.