Stephen Douglas Houston (// HOW-stən; born November 11, 1958) is an American anthropologist, archaeologist, epigrapher and Mayanist scholar, who is particularly renowned for his research into the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Mesoamerica. He is the author of a number of papers and books concerning topics such as the Maya script, the history, kingships and dynastic politics of the pre-Columbian Maya, and archaeological reports on several Maya archaeological sites, particularly Dos Pilas and El Zotz.
Houston has collaborated with many of his students and colleagues on projects and publications. He has led investigations at Piedras Negras, Kaminaljuyu and El Zotz, Guatemala. These projects have resulted in new information on the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica.
Stephen Douglas Houston was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and graduated from Carlisle High School. In 1976 he commenced undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia in anthropology. From 1978–79 he spent a year as an exchange student at Edinburgh University, Scotland, where he participated in his first field trips, excavating Mesolithic and Neolithic bog sites in Offaly and Mayo counties, Ireland, and at a Bronze Age henge near Strathallan, Scotland.
Returning to Penn, Houston graduated summa cum laude in 1980 with a B.A. in Anthropology. He then entered the graduate studies program at Yale University, undertaking a Master of Philosophy (Anthropology) research degree, which was awarded in 1983. During this time he took a position of curatorial assistant at the Peabody Museum of Natural History, followed by a position as a Teaching Fellow at Yale. Specialising in archaeological and epigraphic Maya studies, Houston participated in several field trips recording Maya stelae and inscriptions in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico (Bonampak), and held the first of various research Fellowships.
After completing his M.Phil., Houston worked towards completing his Ph.D in Anthropology at Yale, which was awarded (with Distinction) in 1987. During this period he worked as an epigrapher on an archaeological project at the site of Caracol, Belize, and served as Director on a project mapping the Dos Pilas site in the Petexbatun region, Pasión River, Guatemala, spending several months at a time in fieldwork for these positions. The work at Dos Pilas was expanded into his dissertation, The Inscriptions and Monumental Art of Dos Pilas, Guatemala: A Study of Classic Maya History and Politics.
Before joining Brown University's faculty Houston held the Jesse Knight chair at Brigham Young University.
On 21 July 2011 Houston was awarded the prestigious Order of the Quetzal by the President of Guatemala in recognition of his contributions to the study of Maya culture and for promoting knowledge of ancient Mayan culture in the English speaking world.
He is married to Nancy Dayton Houston and has two children.