• Profile and Research Interests


I am interested in working with Ph.D. and M.A. students who are committed to anthropological archaeology, focusing on one or more datasets and approaches (lithics, fauna, intrasite and intersite variability, human behavioral ecology, GIS spatial modeling, etc.) to contribute to important anthropological questions such as high latitude adaptations, tracking coupled technological and economic change, human-environment interactions, and colonization of Beringia and the New World. 

Subarctic and Arctic archaeology, intersite variability, site structure and organization, spatial anlysis, geographic information systems, human-environmental interactions, field survey and excavation, cultural resource management, multivariate statistical analyses, lithic analysis, faunal analysis
Work Experience (academic)
2016-present    Professor and Department Chair, University of Alaska Fairbanks
2011-2016        Associate Professor and Department Chair, University of Alaska Fairbanks
2013                 Visiting Associate Professor, Minzu University of China
2006-2011        Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks
2005-2006        Adjunct faculty, University of Alaska Fairbanks
1997-2003        Lecturer and Teaching Assistant, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Work Experience (CRM)
2006-2008        Senior Associate Archaeologist, Northern Land Use Research, Inc. (summers)
1998-2006        Senior Staff Archaeologist, Northern Land Use Research, Inc.
1997                  Archaeologist, National Park Service
I have worked in Alaskan archaeology since 1995, receiving my Ph.D. in 2005 at University of Alaska Fairbanks. I have extensive field and laboratory experience in both CRM and academic archaeology and have worked for federal agencies (1997), private industry (1998-2006), and UAF (2005-present). Over the last 16 years, I have conducted surveys, site evaluations, and excavations throughout Alaska. My geographic interests include Subarctic and Arctic regions, particulary Interior and Northern Alaska. My research interests include intersite variability, site structure and organization, with a research program focusing broadly on the relationships among site structure, settlement, economy and technology among high latitude prehistoric hunter-gatherers. I also have considerable applied experience in field survey and excavation, spatial analysis, lithic and faunal analysis, intrasite and intersite modeling, and cultural resource management.

There are several elements of my active research agenda, focusing on site-based archaeology, GIS modeling, regional variability studies, and experimental techniques, and highlights are listed below:


Courses Taught
ANTH-111, Ancient Civilizations
ANTH-211, Fundamentals of Archaeology
ANTH-214, World Prehistory
ANTH-309, Circumpolar Archaeology
ANTH-405/605, Archaeological Method and Theory
ANTH-492/692, Modeling Archaeological Data
ANTH-492/692, GIS Modeling in Archaeology
ANTH-492/692, Archaeometry: Lithic Analysis
ANTH-692, Problems in High Latitude Archaeology
ANTH-495/695, Archaeological Field School

Current Projects


(1) Peopling of the New World (~14,000 years ago) (sponsors: National Science Foundation, Denali LLC)

I have focused recently on Late Pleistocene (last Ice Age) adaptations of humans in western Beringia (Alaska and Yukon). I have worked to relate subsistence activities, general economic strategies, settlement strategies, and technology into a robust analytical framework. I have obtained funding from NSF and Denali, LLC to excavate two sites with Late Pleistocene components: Mead (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) and Upward Sun River (2010-2011, 2013, 2014). The excavations are designed to evaluate site formation, post-depositional disturbance, technology, and subsistence economies (and change through time with successive occupations). Key findings include models of flexible human adaptive strategies during the most climatically unstable time (from Bolling-Allerod through Younger Dryas and Holocene Thermal Maximum) and establishing that pre- and post-Younger Dryas populations were the same.

    At Upward Sun River, our NSF-funded project provided data for two PhD students (Gelvin-Reymiller, Reuther). A truly unprecedented, spectacular find of the earliest human remains and residential structure in northern North America was discovered in 2010 and published in Science, has garnered world-wide attention to this site and our program (see New York Times , National Geographic). A series of articles are being written now on both sites (with students and colleagues). One M.A. student (Gilbert) has conducted geoarchaeological analysis of the Mead site, and another (Little) has examined lithics. I anticipate robust programs of continued excavation at both sites. The Mead site investigations are part of the Quartz Lake - Shaw Creek Flats Multidisciplinary Project.

    In 2014, we reported on a double-infant burial at Upward Sun River directly below and associated with the upper child cremation. A special page has video and images from our work at Upward Sun River.

(2) Early Holocene Adaptations (~10,000 years ago) (sponsors: National Science Foundation, National Park Service, Denali LLC)

A longer-term research program in the Tanana basin explores how humans adapted to changing environmental conditions after the last Ice Age. My recent NSF and Denali-funded research at Gerstle River (2008, 2010) has yielded publications, and we uncovered very rare well-preserved organic tools. Another component of this research is a NPS-funded excavation at the Teklanika West site. I have worked with one of my Masters students (Coffman) to excavate the site in 2009 (with paid undergraduate students). A National Geographic film crew spent four days with us filming our work for the January 2010 program Naked Science (Surviving Ancient Alaska). We are working now on analysis and dissemination through publications and presentations.

(3) Subarctic Intersite Variability (sponsors: Wenner Gren Foundation, BLM)

This research relates to synthesizing large amounts of faunal, lithic, site structural, and spatial data to understand how human systems were conditioned by various factors (like habitat use) and  how humans interacted with past environments, particularly in the context of climate change. Five peer-reviewed articles on these topics have appeared in recent years (see publications), and results indicate remarkable technological continuity but significant economic changes. I'm interested in the organization of microblade/composite tool technology and the contexts of use, and particularly how technological organization, land use practices, and subsistence economies condition the variability we see in the archaeological record.

(4) Dene-Yeniseian hypothesis

This research, involving collaborators around the world from multiple disciplines, relates to linguistic ties between Na-Dene peoples of North America and Ket peoples of central Siberia, thousands of miles away, demonstrated by Ed Vajda, Western Washington University. I have co-edited a monograph (with James Kari) and contributed two articles, which will lead to additional work to explore the significant implications of this link. I co-organized a conference in 2012 to explore the significant implications of this link. This work and our monograph has received worldwide attention, and was the subject of several reviews, including a very positive one by Jared Diamond in Nature (2011).


(5) GIS Modeling (sponsor: Bureau of Land Management)

Geographic Information Systems are becoming more prevalent in the anthropological sciences, particularly in archaeology. I have established a GIS laboratory within the Anthropology Dept., and we have successfully completed several funded projects to develop predictive models for site location for land managing agencies. This has resulted in funding for graduate students (Gelvin-Reymiller, Smith, Little), who have incorporated this technology and spatial perspectives in their theses, and other students (Qu, Vaska) who aided in survey and ground-testing and development of these models.

(6) Chinese Late Upper Paleolithic

This is a research program I have initiated in Fall 2013. Using similar approaches I've used in eastern Beringia, I plan to explore the northern Chinese record. Both Beringia and northern China have similar technologies during the late Pleistocene (14,000-10,000 years ago), and both are at the extreme edges of microblade distributions, but in different environments, thus offering significant contrasts in human adaptive patterns during the Pleistocene/Holocene transition. I have spent four months in Beijing exploring this work, and plan to work in collaboration with Chinese researchers in the next few years.

(7) Other Projects

Other research involves experiments on different archaeological and forensic methods, in collaboration with a PhD student (Reuther). One relates to identifying taxon-specific proteins from residues on stone tools and from ancient bone (see JAS article). A second relates to evaluating different bone collagen pretreatments for radiocarbon dating using very high resolution archaeological data (from Gerstle River), yielding one article in American Antiquity and a second manuscript to be submitted in Spring 2012. Another project relates to geochemically sourcing rhyolite (a tool stone) from archaeological contexts. Most recently, I have been involved with other researchers at UAF and elsewhere in applying new biochemistry and geochemistry methods (stable isotopes, compound-specific, and amino acid analyses) to explore paleodiets and mobility.