William Atlas Longacre, II (December 16, 1937–November 18, 2015)

William (Bill) Longacre died November 18, 2015 after a brief illness. With his passing the end of an era in anthropology is near. He was among a group of archaeologists, including Lewis R. Binford, who transformed Americanist archaeology in the 1960s and early 1970s by integrating anthropological theory with archaeological practice. Longacre was born in Hancock, Michigan, and raised in Houghton, Michigan, where his father was a professor of physics at Michigan Technological University. His college education began at Michigan Tech; he then completed his baccalaureate degree at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (1959), before entering the graduate program at the University of Chicago. It was at Chicago that Bill met Binford, who was appointed as visiting professor in 1961; by all accounts Binford led a group of graduate students to challenge conventional or “traditional” archaeology.

Processual Archaeology, also known as New Archaeology, transformed the nature and scale of archaeological research, the kinds of questions or hypotheses that were examined, and the relationship of archaeology to the larger discipline of anthropology. Longacre was the first of these students to earn a doctorate, in 1963, in which he applied concepts from cultural anthropology (e.g., lineage organization and post-marital residence theory) to construct hypotheses about archaeological variability at the Carter Ranch Site, a 12th–mid-13th century pueblo in east-central Arizona. From analyses of painted design elements on black-on-white pottery, along with burials and architecture, Longacre concluded that the pueblo had been organized into two residence groups, each occupying a different room block, differentiated by ceramic designs, and having distinct burial areas. Not only did Longacre publish these results in Science in 1964, but his and other graduate students’ innovative studies appeared in a series of Field Museum monographs between 1962 and 1967, which published the findings of Paul Martin’s annual Southwest Archaeology Expedition. In 1966 Longacre published an article in American Anthropologist that assessed the evidence for changes in 11th–14th century social integration through ritual practices and exchange of goods in the same region, using patterning in secular and kiva architecture as well as ceramic vessels and other artifacts.

Hours before he attended his Ph.D. commencement ceremony at the University of Chicago in 1964, Emil W. Haury telephoned Longacre, inviting him to become an assistant professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Arizona (UA). He would devote much of his professional career to the UA, where he rose in rank to professor, served as Department Head, and in 1998 was appointed Fred A. Riecker Distinguished Professor. In 1966, Longacre assumed the directorship of the UA Archaeological Field School, which had been recently established at Grasshopper Pueblo in east-central Arizona. Following Martin’s example and with support from the National Science Foundation, Bill turned the field school into one of the premier programs for graduate students in the US. Between 1966 and 1979, more than 300 students (including Lynda Bird Johnson, daughter of President Johnson) passed through Grasshopper under his direction, and participated in a research-focused field training program. Many went on to professional careers in anthropology and archaeology. Grasshopper was notable for its experiments in new field and analytical techniques, the latitude given to graduate students in designing and implementing research for their dissertation projects, its thorough recovery and documentation of cultural materials and ecofacts, and its impressive roster of publications.

Beginning in the late 1960s, myriad challenges arose to the assumptions, analyses, and conclusions reached by Longacre and his New Archaeology colleagues. These critiques inspired Bill to design a new research program to address some issues, using ceramic ethnoarchaeology, working with the Kalinga in northern Luzon (Philippines). Edward Dozier, a prominent anthropologist known for his Puebloan ethnography, had studied Kalinga social organization. Dozier advised Bill that Kalinga women potters still manufactured pots for domestic consumption, and so offered a useful comparative case for understanding prehistoric Puebloan societies. Bill and several generations of his students found Kalinga to be an ideal setting to test New Archaeology assumptions that linked aspects of social organization and ceramic variability. What they found was considerably more complex but no less satisfying in terms of demonstrating a variety of systemic linkages among pottery manufacture (including design and morphological variation), measures of standardization, use-life, function, discard, specialized production, dynamic ceramic distributional networks, and community and regional organization, as well as exchange, wealth, and irrigated rice cultivation.

After a summer visit to Kalingaland in 1973, Bill began a long-term project there in 1975. He and his students continued Kalinga research through the 1980s, a time of great political turbulence and armed conflict between the Kalinga and the Marcos government. Another generation of his students, several trained as behavioral archaeologists, worked in Kalinga through the mid-1990s, making the Kalinga Ethnoarchaeological Project (KEP) one of the longest-running ethnoarchaeology research projects. By offering longitudinal perspectives on material culture variability, KEP studies comprise one of the largest and most varied research programs in the ethnoarchaeological world.

Like many American anthropologists before him, Bill fell in love with the Philippines. Soon after his first Kalinga research, he began making annual summer visits (and taking sabbatical leaves) to the Philippines; in 1975 he began teaching in the Anthropology program at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Here, he taught archaeology to successive generations of undergraduate and graduate Anthropology students, many of whom completed graduate training and some of whom helped build one of the most vibrant, professionalized archaeology programs in Southeast Asia. Teaching at UP was among the most fulfilling experiences in Bill’s archaeological career.
One example of Bill’s service to Anthropology included a stint as Head of Anthropology at UA from 1989 to 1998, where he made it clear to administrators that it was one of the stellar programs in the nation and shepherded the department through the 75th anniversary of its founding. Bill’s year-long “Diamond Jubilee” celebration of the department remains unrivaled, and forged an even greater sense of program solidarity among its many alumni and faculty members. Bill was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an honorary member of the American Ceramic Society; in 1994 he received the inaugural Award for Excellence in Ceramic Research from the Society for American Archaeology. In 2001, Bill was honored as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Archaeology Division of the American Anthropological Association and delivered a talk at the Annual Meeting.

In 2001, three of Bill’s former students (Graves, Skibo, and Stark), organized a Festschrift session in his honor at the Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. They invited his mentor, Lewis R. Binford, to be their discussant. These papers were later published in an edited volume where, in an epilogue, Binford notes: "The session was a standing-room-only affair…I listened with great pride as one after another of his students, colleagues, and supporters presented interesting and groundbreaking reports on their research…As always, I am proud to point out that Bill Longacre was my first Ph.D. student."

We are proud to point out that Bill in turn supervised our doctoral dissertations (except MBS) and supported all of us in various ways throughout our careers. William Longacre was clearly one of the most important scholars of archaeology and anthropology in the second half of the 20th century. He fostered success among his students and others he mentored at UA and UP. Upon hearing of his passing, a number of individuals spontaneously shared their remembrances and many of these have been posted to the UA Anthropology website. These expressions of gratitude highlight the generosity of spirit that was Bill: infused with kindness, he was a sponsor to many and friend to more. He is perhaps the most loyal supporter of UA Anthropology that the program will ever know; his memory will live on through an endowment funded by his estate. We regard Longacre as one of those quintessential humans who balanced impressive professional accomplishments with deep concern for his students, whose humanity and magnanimity are not often seen, and which will be missed by friends and colleagues around the globe.

Michael W. Graves, University of New Mexico
James M. Skibo, Illinois State University
Miriam T. Stark, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Michael B. Schiffer, University of Arizona