Weston C. McCool

Postdoctoral Scholar


  • Archaeology
  • Human ecology & evolution
  • Conflict
  • Farming
  • Settlement & abandonment
  • Risk
  • Quantitative methods
  • Environmental modeling
  • Peru
  • Colorado Plateau


Ph.D. - Archaeology, UCSB

M.A. - Archaeology, UCSB 

B.S. - Anthropology, University of Utah



I am interested in all the ways human beings adapt to challenging circumstances. Wether it be resource-poor environments, climate change, population pressure, or conflict, humans establish innovative, though not always successful, strategies for coping with hard times. My role as an archaeologist is to use our material remains to infer past behavior within a perspective of human ecology and evolution. This means I am interested in the archaeological record for what it can tell us about human behavior in relation to their social and ecological context and the forces of evolution. I am particularly interested in why humans so often resort to violence rather than cooperation. I explore this topic by investigating what conditions consistently lead to violence through a cost/benefit analysis, predicting that violence will arise when individuals think the expected payoffs outweigh the anticipated costs. Finally, I love archaeology because I enjoy nothing more than hiking surveys through the mountains or digging in a trench. 


My research incorporates models from human evolution and ecology to explain human behavior in the past and present. I am specifically interested in the socioecological conditions that drive conflict, subsistence transitions that occur during period of conflict, subsistence risk-management, and patterns of regional settlement and abandonment. My regional foci are the Nasca Highlands of Peru and the Colorado Plateau. Additional specialties include osteology, isotope chemistry, climate and environmental modeling, and quantitative methods.



Nasca Highlands Warfare Project
Nasca Highlands Life History Project
Fremont Subsistence Risk-Management Project


Under-review: McCool, Weston C., Kenneth Blake Vernon, Peter M. Yaworsky, Brian F. Codding. “Environmentally-mediated status competition drives lethal aggression among humans.” Nature Communications.                        

Under-review: McCool, Weston C., Amy S. Anderson, Douglas J. Kennett. “Using a multi-method life history approach to navigate the osteological paradox: A case study from the Nasca highlands”. American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

In-press: McCool, Weston C., Aldo Accinelli, Joan Brenner-Coltrain. “Patrones osteológicos de guerra endémica en la Sierra de Nasca durante el Intermedio Tardío (1000-1450 d.C.).” In: Actas del VI Congreso Nacional de Arqueología. Lima, Perú: Ministerio de Cultura.

2020: Daniel M. Fernandes, et al., Weston C. McCool, and David Reich. “A Genetic History of the Pre-contact Caribbean.” Nature.  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-03053-2

2020: McCool, Weston C., Joan Brenner-Coltrain, Aldo Accinelli, Douglas J. Kennett. “The Character of Conflict: a bioarchaeological study of violence in the Nasca                         highlands of Peru during the Late Intermediate Period (950– 1450 C.E.).” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.24205.

2020: McCool, Weston C., Daniel C. McCool. We must either protect him or destroy him. In: “Vision and Place: John Wesley Powell and reimagining the Colorado River Basin” (Eds. Robison, McCool, Minckley). University of California Press. 

2019: McCool, Weston C., Peter J. Yaworsky. “Fight or Flight: assessing Fremont territoriality in Nine Mile Canyon, Utah”. Quaternary International 518, pp.111-121. 

2017: McCool, Weston C. “Coping with Conflict: defensive strategies and chronic warfare in the Prehispanic Nasca Region.” Journal of Latin American Antiquity 28(3), pp.373-393.

2017: McCool, Weston C., Joan Brenner-Coltrain. “A potential oxygen isotope signature of maize beer consumption: an experimental pilot study.” Journal of Ethnoarchaeology, DOI: 10.1080/19442890.2018.1439300. 

2015: Parker, Bradley J., Weston C. McCool. “Indices of household maize beer production in the Andes: an ethnoarchaeological investigation.” Journal of Anthropological Research 71(3), pp.359-400. 


Human Evolution - S2016, S2017, W2018
Human Osteology - S2019