James Brady


Dr. Brady joined the Cal State L.A. faculty in 1998. He is widely recognized as having founded the self-conscious sub-discipline of Mesoamerican Cave Archaeology. His research interests include the role of ideology in complex societies, cultural landscapes, religion, cave use, and archaeological method and theory. While living in Guatemala from 1979-1982, Dr. Brady became interested in caves after visiting Naj Tunich. He conducted two seasons of work there before entering UCLA for his doctorate. His dissertation was an investigation of Maya ritual cave use and focused on this work at Naj Tunich. He returned to Guatemala in February of 1988 on a Fulbright Fellowship and lived there until September of 1993 when he moved to Washington, D.C. to take a Dumbarton Oaks Fellowship.

Teaching Interests

While Dr. Brady teaches a wide range of courses, he was brought to Cal State L.A. to be the department's Mesoamerican archaeologist. He feels that there are two very different levels of interest in Mesoamerica and both should be served. Survey courses should be fun and informative and impart an appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of Pre-Columbian cultures to those who wish to know something about the history and development of the Olmec, Maya, Toltecs and Aztecs. On another level, there are students with a serious academic interest in the area. For these, Dr. Brady conducts seminars and directs the Archaeology Field Program Mesoamerica. Students are offered the opportunity to participate in cutting edge research and expected to present professional papers and publish on their results. Since the program was initiated in 2001, projects have been carried out in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.

Research Interests

Dr. Brady has led an active program of field research in Central America and elsewhere for over 30 years. He directed the investigation of Naj Tunich Cave [National Geographic, Aug. 1981;Archaeology Magazine Nov/Dec 1986] in Guatemala from 1981 to 1989. He returned to the site in 1993 and again in 1998 to carry out conservation work. In 1991 he directed excavations at Gordon's Cave in Copan, Honduras. From 1990 to 1994 he directed the Petexbatun Regional Cave Survey as part of the Petexbatun Archaeological Project [National Geographic, Feb. 1993]. In 1994 and 1995 he was field director of two projects for Archaeological Consultants of the Pacific in Hawaii. From 1994 to 1996 he returned to Honduras to direct the Talgua Archaeological Project that investigated the famous Cave of the Glowing Skulls [Archaeology Magazine May/Jun 1995]. In 1997 he was once again in Guatemala to work at the Cobanerita Caves. In 1999 and 2000 he worked with the Mesoamerican Research Foundation in Puebla, Mexico and in 2001, 2002 & 2004 he led the Cal State, L.A. expedition to the Balam Na Caves in Guatemala. From 2003-2004, the Field Program concentrated on studying the indigenous ballgame in Sinaloa, Mexico [Archaeology Magazine Sept/Oct 2003; Smithsonian, April 2006]. From 2005 – 2007 the Anthropology Department’s Project was focused on the site of Quen Santo in Guatemala.  The results of this research were published in a monograph, Exploring Highland Maya Ritual Cave Use, published by the Association for Mexican Cave Studies in 2009.  The Field Program then moved to Belize from 2008 – 2010 to investigate Midnight Terror Cave which had been the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary on Bone Detective. A final report on this project is now being prepared.

For information on Naj Tunich Cave Archaeology.
For information on Talgua Archeological Project.


Dr. Brady's research has been supported since 2006 by a five-year grant from the Cotsen Foundation.  The grant was renewed for another five years in 2011.  Brady has won three grants from the National Geographic Society, in addition to grants from the Center for Advanced Study of the Visual Arts, Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, the National Science Foundation, two Exploration Fund Grants from the Explorers Club and four grants from the Asociación Tikal in Guatemala.

Honors and Awards

Dr. Brady was named Outstanding Professor at Cal State L.A. in 2008-2009 and Distinguished Faculty Alumnus by the Alumni Association in 2006-2007.  He was a Samuel H. Kress/Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study of the Visual Arts in the National Gallery of Art in the winter of 1999. In the fall of 1998 he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. During the summer of 1998 he worked as a Cultural Specialist in Guatemala for the U.S. Information Agency. He spent the 1993-1994 academic year as a Fellow in Pre-Columbian Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Center in Washington, D.C. Dr. Brady has won two Fulbright Fellowships to Guatemala in 1987 and again in 1992. Upon receiving his Ph.D., he was named the Outstanding Graduate Student of the 1989 graduating class at UCLA.

A list of Dr. Brady's publications.

Educational Background

Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles 1989

M.A. California State University, Los Angeles 1974

B.A. University of California, Berkeley 1970

James Brady

Photo of Dr. Brady

Office: KH D3069
Phone: (323) 343-2024 
FAX: (323) 343-2446 
Email: [email protected]

Science News Magazine cover stories on Dr. Brady's projects:

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