The University of Arizona School of Anthropology has over 100 years of history, with academic excellence at the forefront of its development.

Text excerpted, condensed, and adapted for the web from Raymond H. Thompson, "Anthropology at the University of Arizona, 1893-2005," Journal of the Southwest, Autumn 2005, 47(3): 327-347

Anthropology at the University of Arizona began in 1915 with the appointment of Byron Cummings as Professor of Archaeology and Director of the Arizona State Museum. He received his B.A. from Rutgers University in 1889 and his M.A. there in 1892.

In 1915, the University of Arizona community consisted of 70 faculty members and 463 students, and there were 24,045 books in the University Library. Arizona had become a state only three years before and the population of Tucson, still the largest city in Arizona, was about 15,000. When Cummings arrived on campus, University President von KleinSmid took him to an overflowing storage area, opened the door, and said something like, "Here's the museum, go to it!"

Cummings was vigorous in responding and quickly made the University of Arizona a center for archaeology. In 1928, three of his students, Clara Lee Fraps (Tanner), Florence M. Hawley (Ellis), and Emil W. Haury, received the first M.A. degrees in archaeology awarded by the University.

Emil W. Haury stayed at the University for one year to study dendrochronology with A. E. Douglass and then went to Globe to work with Harold S. Gladwin at the Gila Pueblo Archaeological Foundation. He earned a doctorate under Roland B. Dixon at Harvard University in 1934 and returned to the University of Arizona in 1937 to replace Cummings who retired in 1938.

One of Haury's first acts as Department Head was to ratify the breadth that Cummings had been developing in the Department of Archaeology by changing the name to the Department of Anthropology. Though Cummings worked diligently during his 22 years to establish a "program in anthropology," full success eluded him, in part because of the severe financial problems of the Depression that plagued the final years of his tenure.

Haury first made the argument in 1937-38 that a doctoral program was not possible without a larger faculty, much improved library holdings, and better equipment. To accelerate that change to include social anthropology and applied anthropology, he hired Edward H. Spicer in 1939, and Spicer provided leadership for the broadened ethnology field until his retirement in 1978.

It took a full decade of building these resources and adding personnel before Haury was willing and able to expand the graduate program to include the doctorate degree in 1948-49.

Developing areas of research for the Department

In the related areas of curriculum and faculty development, Haury made gains, but progress was slow. In biological anthropology, Haury brought on Norman E. Gabel, and later Frederick S. Hulse from the University of Washington, both providing the university with the vigorous leadership that the biological anthropology subfield needed.

Establishing linguistics proved to be much more difficult. In 1939-40 Haury enlisted the assistance of William Kurath of the German Department, who was collaborating with Spicer on the study of the O'Odham language. However, Kurath's death in 1949 meant that it was not until 1960-61 that Haury could stabilize the linguistics program by hiring Edward P. Dozier to set the tone for future growth in the subfield.

Haury promoted the importance of applied anthropology, and in 1952 assisted William H. Kelly in founding the Bureau of Ethnic Research, now the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology.

In 1940-41, he noted the need for training in museology, but it was fourteen years before the first course in museum studies was offered in 1953-54 by archaeologist E. B. Danson, who resigned two years later to become Director of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. Another decade was to pass before museum studies became a regular part of the curriculum.

Fostering cross-university collaborations

Haury fostered the already strong ties with the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research. He contributed directly to the Development of the Geochronology Laboratories, the Arid Lands Program, and the University of Arizona Press. One of the first efforts of the University Press involved the establishment of the Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona series. Many of these publications (almost a third) are based on master's theses and doctoral dissertations submitted to the Department.

When Haury turned the Department over to its third Head, Raymond H. Thompson, in 1964-65, he had the satisfaction of having presided over the conversion of the well-known but fledgling "program in anthropology" that Cummings had turned over to him 27 years earlier into a fully developed Department of Anthropology of national stature.

Whereas Haury and Cummings had to work in a world of shortages, Raymond H. Thompson was faced with a different problem, the management of abundance.

The explosive growth in American higher education peaked during the late sixties and early seventies. The impact on the Department was dramatic. For several years enrollment grew at the rate of more than 40 percent per semester, creating massive problems involving space, faculty, teaching assistants, student support, and the local social organization of the Department.

Thompson took advantage of the growth to increase the role of women in the Department. Following the tradition of collaboration with other university units, he joined forces with the College of Nursing to obtain federal funds to help nurses earn anthropology doctorates, thereby rapidly increasing the number of women entering the job market. During his tenure, Anthropology set the pace for the Social Sciences at Arizona in hiring, retaining, and promoting women faculty members.

Haury had been able to address the needs of American Indian students by convincing the Board of Regents to establish scholarships for Indians and by assigning Harry T. Getty the responsibility of serving as an academic advisor to Indian students. However, it was during Thompson's headship that Anthropology became the seed bed for the development of specific University programs for American Indians: the Indian Student Advisor, the Coordinator of Indian Programs, and eventually American Indian Studies. Anthropology was also involved in the early stages of the development of Africana Studies and Mexican-American Studies at Arizona.

Ties between Department and Museum

When the new University Library was under construction, Thompson arranged for the Arizona State Museum to take over the existing University Library building. This arrangement included the commitment of that building for Anthropology when the Museum moved out.

The Department of Anthropology and the Museum shared various homes on campus until 1962 when the Anthropology Building (now the Emil W. Haury Anthropology Building) was completed. Connected to the south end of the Museum, it was one of the few buildings on campus to boast a fourth story, courtesy of the National Science Foundation. It was the first building at any American university to be planned from the start for the exclusive use of an Anthropology Department.

Cummings, Haury, and Thompson all served not only as Head of the Department of Anthropology but also as Director of the Arizona State Museum. Careful management of the resources of both units provided great stability and strength for the larger anthropological community at the University of Arizona.

As both the Department and the Museum grew in size and complexity, so did the administrative burden. Haury recognized this problem as early as 1954-55 when he suggested that the separation of the administration of the Department and the Museum should take place "within the next few years." In 1980 Thompson stepped down at the end of sixteen years as Department Head, but continued as Director of the Museum.

William A. Stini, 1980 to 1989

William A. Stini, a biological anthropologist, became the fourth Head of the Department and he and Thompson developed the policies, attitudes, and mechanisms that continued the long-standing cooperative and supportive relationships between the Department and the Museum into the new independent administrative environment.

William Stini assumed the leadership role during a period of declining resources and at the time of a major change in university administration. He successfully defended the resource base, continued the expansion of the faculty, developed computer facilities for both faculty and students, recruited new leadership for the Bureau of Ethnic Research, which became the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, and facilitated the establishment of the Laboratory of Traditional Technology.

Stini forged strong ties in both teaching and research with several departments in the College of Medicine, fostered the development of a strong program in medical anthropology, and spearheaded the establishment of a University program in gerontology. He also worked closely with the College of Engineering and its Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the development of the cooperative Culture, Science, and Technology Program.

William A. Longacre, 1989 to 1998

William A. Longacre, a member of the faculty since 1964, became the fifth Head of the Department in 1989. An archaeologist and former Director of the Archaeological Field School, he began his tenure by launching a series of activities celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Department.

These activities reinvigorated the Department, increased its resource base, established new ties to its alumni, reaffirmed and enhanced its status within the University, and created new energy and momentum for the years ahead. Under his leadership, younger scholars in sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics joined the faculty, several of them women and minorities.

John W. Olsen, 1998 to 2008

John W. Olsen assumed the departmental Headship in July 1998. Olsen joined the University of Arizona faculty as Assistant Professor in 1982, after receiving his Ph.D. at the University of California Berkeley in 1980 and pursuing postdoctoral training and research in England and China.

An Old World prehistorian by training, Olsen has devoted his career to the understanding of early Stone Age adaptations in the arid lands of Central Asia and China. Olsen's research agenda included Paleolithic field studies in Mongolia as well as in Tibet, Siberia, and several of the newly independent Central Asian republics.

In his role as Department Head, Olsen stressed the importance of reconfiguring anthropology in the 21st century. In particular, he shared the faculty's belief that an integrated, synergistic approach to teaching, minimizing the methodological and theoretical distinctions among anthropology's traditional subdisciplines, is the most effective way to prepare students for careers in anthropology and to invigorate future directions in anthropological research.

Barbara J. Mills, 2008 to 2013

Barbara J. Mills became the seventh department head in 2008 and was the first woman to serve in the role. Mills came to the University of Arizona in 1991 as an Assistant Professor to take on the directorship of the University of Arizona Archaeological Field School. Her research specialties include Southwest archaeology, ceramic analysis, archaeologies of inequality, migration, identity, and social memory.

As Department Head, Mills spearheaded a plan with heads and directors of the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA), Arizona State Museum (ASM), and Department of Classics to bring together faculty and programs with common interests in anthropology. With administrative backing, and Faculty Senate and Arizona Board of Regents approval, the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona was established in July 2009 and Mills was appointed Director.

Mills oversaw the transition from department to School, leading a faculty of 49 and a graduate program numbering almost 150 students.

Diane E. Austin, 2013 to present

In 2013 Diane E. Austin became the second Director of the School of Anthropology and the eighth head of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. She came to the university in 1994 as a Research Associate in the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology (BARA). She became a Research Scientist in 1997, and then Assistant Research Anthropologist in 2001. She served as Chair of Research Affairs for BARA from 2009 to 2013 after BARA was integrated into the School.

Austin’s work has focused on community dynamics amid large-scale industrial activity, impact and program assessment, alternative technologies to address environmental and social problems, and collaborative community-based research. She has developed and maintains long-term, multisectoral partnerships in Native American communities, U.S. and Mexican border communities, and coastal communities along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and has served as the principal or co-principal investigator on more than a dozen multiyear, multidisciplinary applied research projects for federal, state, and not-for-profit entities.

Austin has also served on more than a dozen advisory, planning, and review boards and committees aimed at addressing environmental and social problems, and has guided students in university-community partnerships with organizations across Tucson and into southern Arizona.

The Centennial

Austin assumed leadership of the School just in time to begin planning for the unit’s Centennial celebration, which was held throughout 2015. Working with a community board, faculty, staff, and students, she helped organize four themed clusters of events recognizing the contributions of Arizona Anthropology since its inception in 1915 and culminating with reflections on the unit’s first century and what lay ahead.

The Present

Despite improvement in the U.S. economy, the University and School experienced sustained budget cutting and contraction through 2020, resulting in reductions in the size of the faculty and graduate program. Following the 2017 Academic Program Review, Austin led School faculty in a series of sessions to identify program strengths that would build on the School’s legacy and guide the School in new directions.

The School of Anthropology currently has 35 voting faculty in five divisions: applied anthropology/BARA, archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology.

Eight program strengths crosscut the School’s divisions:

  • Anthropology of the Southwest
  • Anthrozoology
  • Community Based Research and Cultural Heritage in Arizona and the Southwest
  • Ecological and Evolutionary Anthropology
  • Health, Medicine, and Discursive Practice
  • International Migration, Borders, and Refugees
  • Mediterranean Studies
  • Sex, Gender, and Sexuality

In addition to the longstanding relationship between the School and the Arizona State Museum, Anthropology faculty have shared appointments in six campus units, including the Southwest Center, the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research, Classics, Art History, Geosciences, and the Center for Latin American Studies.

National Rankings

In the first national ranking of graduate departments of Anthropology by the American Council on Education in 1966 and again in 1971, Arizona was ranked 12th.

In 1983 and again in 1995, Arizona ranked fifth in a survey published by the National Academy of Sciences.

A survey conducted under the auspices of the Society for American Archaeology and published in the SAA Bulletin in 1993 ranked the Archaeology doctoral program at the University of Arizona second in the nation.

The graduate program was ranked 5th in the National Research Council rankings for several decades, with ranks as high as 2nd in the most recent (2010) rankings.

In two recent publications of graduate student placements (Speakman et al. 2017; Kawa, McCarty, and Clark 2016), UArizona Anthropology ranked from 2nd to 5th.

In 2020, in the QS World University Rankings Arizona was ranked 12th in the U.S. in Anthropology and 10th in the U.S. in Archaeology.

These rankings show that Anthropology at the University of Arizona, which had become one of the top ten producers of doctorates by the 1960s, remains one of the premier graduate programs in the nation qualitatively as well as quantitatively.


Speakman, Robert J., Carla S. Hadden, Matthew H. Colvin, Justin Cramb, K.C. Jones, Travis W. Jones, Corbin L. Kling, et al. “Choosing a Path to the Ancient World in a Modern Market: The Reality of Faculty Jobs in Archaeology.” American Antiquity, 2017, 1–12. doi:10.1017/aaq.2017.36. 

Kawa, Nicholas, Chris McCarty, and Jessica Clark. “The Social Network of US Academic Anthropology.” Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN, 20 Nov. 2016.

IGERT Program, 2003 to 2008

In 2002 the National Science Foundation awarded the University of Arizona a grant of $2.9 million from its Integrated Graduate Research Education and Training (IGERT) Program for a five-year interdisciplinary training program in Archaeological Sciences. 

Between 2003 and 2008 some 30 faculty and scientists from Anthropology, Geosciences, Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry, Geography, the Arizona State Museum, the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research, and the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Radiocarbon Laboratory, as well as staff from two private archaeology companies (Statistical Research Inc. and Desert Archaeology Inc.) collaborated to educate and supervise students from five academic Departments (Anthropology, Geography, Geosciences, Materials Science and Engineering and Chemistry).

Students were funded by the program for periods ranging from one semester and two years. As a condition of support, students were required to take courses in archaeological method and theory as well as courses in science, to have interdisciplinary graduate committees, and to participate in the weekly IGERT seminar, which was addressed by many leading American and foreign scholars in the fields of archaeological sciences and paleoenvironmental studies. Each of them also spent 5 hours per week assisting a K-12 teacher to develop lesson plans in history, chemistry or environmental studies. In three of the years we also ran a 2-week summer school in archaeological science for Tucson K-12 teachers.

30 PhD dissertations had been completed as of December 2017 under this program.

Amy Clark (2015). Spatial structure and the temporality of assemblage formation: a comparative study of seven open air Middle Paleolithic sites in France. (Anthropology: Steve Kuhn). Amy was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toulouse, France, in 2016.

Jill Onken (2015). Late Quaternary climatic geomorphology, volcanism, and geoarchaeology of Carrizo Wash, Little Colorado River Headwaters, USA. (Geosciences: Vance Holliday). Jill is an independent consultant geoarchaeologist based in Tucson.

Randy Haas (2014).  Forager mobility, constructed environments and emergent settlement hierarchy: insights from Altiplano archaeology. (Anthropology: Steve Kuhn and Mark Aldenderfer). Randy is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis..

Andrew Kowler (2014). Radiocarbon-based paleohydrologic reconstructions and archaeological geochronology from paleo-lake and wetland successions in the Southeastern Basin and Range. (Geosciences: Vance Holliday).  Andrew is now an NSF Post-doctoral Fellow in the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, UCLA.

Erica Bigio (2014). Late Holocene fire and climate history of the San Juan Mountains, Colorado: results from alluvial stratigraphy and tree-Ring research.  (Geosciences/Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research: Tom Swetnam). Erica is currently a lecturer in the School of Geography and Development, Univerity of Arizona.

Joshua Reuther (2013). Geoarchaeology and terrestrial paleoecology inthe lowlands of the Middle Tanana Valley, SubArctic Alaska. (Anthropology: Vance Holliday). Josh is now an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, and a Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of the North.

Fumie Iizuka (2013). Early pottery in the tropics of Panama (4500-3200 BC): production processes, circulation and diagenesis. (Anthropology: Michael Schiffer and David Killick).  Fumie is now in Japan.

Tammy Buonasera (2012). Expanding archaeological approaches to ground stone: modelling manufacturing costs, analyzing absorbed organic residues, and exploring social dimensions of milling tools. (Anthropology: Mary Stiner). Tammy is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain.

Meg Blome (2012). Lacustrine paleoecological records and modern training sets from Lake Malawi: implications for African paleoclimate and connections to human prehistory. (Geosciences: Andrew Cohen). Meg is now a micropaleontologist for Shell Oil.

Alyson Thibodeau (2012). Isotopic evidence for the provenance of turquoise, glaze paints and metals in the southwestern USA. (Geosciences: Joaquin Ruiz and David Killick). Aly is currently an Assistant Professor of Earth Science at Dickinson College, Pennsylvania

Jessica Munson (2012). Temple histories and communities of practice in early Maya society: archaeological investigations at Caobal, Petén, Guatemala.  (Anthropology: Takeshi Inomata). Jessica is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lycoming College, Pennsylvania.

Jessica Conroy (2011). History and dynamics of climate variability in the Asian monsoon region and tropical Pacific during the late Holocene. (Geosciences: Jonathan Overpeck). Jessica is an Asssitant Professor in the Departments of Plant Biology and Geology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Sam Duwe (2011). The prehispanic Tewa world: space, time and becoming in the Pueblo southwest. (Anthropology: Barbara Mills). Sam is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma.

Deanna Grimstead (2011). Applications of evolutionary theory and stable isotope geochemistry shed light on North American prehistoric human behavior and regional procurement systems. (Anthropology: Mary Stiner and Jay Quade). Deanna is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Ohio State University.

Susan Mentzer (2011). Macro- and micro-scale geoarchaeology of the Ucagizli Caves I and II, Hatay, Turkey.  (Anthropology: Vance Holliday). Susan is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Zentrum für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters, Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany.

Britt Starkovich (2011). Trends in subsistence from the Middle Paleolithic through the Mesolithic at Klissoura Cave 1 (Peloponnese, Greece). (Anthropology: Mary Stiner) Britt is currently a Researcher in the Zentrum für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters, Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany.

Thomas Fenn (2011). Applications of heavy isotope research to archaeological problems of provenance and trade. (Anthropology: David Killick and Joaquin Ruiz). Tom is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma.

Troy Knight (2011). Dendrochronology on the Tavaputs Plateau, northeastern Utah: insights on past climate, woodland demography and Fremont archaeology.  (Geography: Tom Swetnam). Troy is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Jonathan Scholnick (2010). Apprenticeship, cultural transmission and the evolution of cultural traditions in historic New England gravestones. (Anthropology: Steven Kuhn and Mary Stiner). Jon is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor n the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lycoming College, Pennsylvania.

Lesley Frame (2009).  Technological change in southwestern Asia: metallurgical production styles and social values during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age. (Materials Science and Engineering: Pam Vandiver and David Killick). Lesley is currently an Assistant Professor of Engineering at the Univerity of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Caitlin O'Grady (2009). Journeys of our ancestors: Conservation Science approaches to the analysis of cultural material. (Materials Science and Engineering: Nancy Odegaard). Caitlin is currently a Lecturer in Conservation at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

Amanda Reynolds (2009). Geochemical investigations of mineral weathering: Quantifying weathering intensity, silicate versus carbonate contributions, and soil-plant interactions. (Geosciences: Jay Quade). Amanda is a staff scientist with Exxon-Mobil in Houston, Texas.

James Mayer (2009). Late Quaternary landscape evolution, environmental change, and Paleoindian geoarchaeology in Middle Park, Colorado. (Geosciences: Vance Holliday). James lives in Oregon and is an independent geoarchaeological consultant.

Kevin Jones (2009). Mollusc shell radicarbon dating as a paleoupwelling proxy. (Geosciences: Jay Quade and Greg Hodgins). Kevin is a staff scientist in the U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia.

Noah Thomas (2008). Seventeenth-Century Metallurgy on the Spanish Colonial Frontier: Transformations of Technology, Identity and Value. (Anthropology: David Killick). Noah lives in Ventura, California. He develops wind turbines with his father and plays trumpet and theraminwith the gypsy blues band D.on Darox and the Melody Joy Bakers.

Kevin Anchukaitis (2007). A stable isotope approach to neotropical cloud forest paleoclimatology.  (Geosciences: Michael Evans). Kevin is an Associate Professor in the School of Geography and Development, and a faculty member in the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research, at the University of Arizona.

Timothy Shanahan  (2006). West African monsoon variability from a high-resolution paleolimnological record (Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana). (Geosciences: Jonathan Overpeck). Tim is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, University of Texas, Austin.

Amy Margaris (2006). Alutiq engineering: the mechanisms and skeletal technologies of Alaska’s Kodiak Archipelago. (Anthropology: Steve Kuhn).  Amy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Oberlin College, Ohio.