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David Killick

About David Killick

I have taught at the University of Arizona since 1991. I was the first hire in W. David Kingery's Culture, Science and Technology Program and taught the history and sociology of technology in both the College of Social Sciences and the College of Engineering.  From 2003 to 2008 I coordinated the NSF/University of Arizona IGERT Program in Archaeological Sciences, which has so far produced 28 PhDs. My earlier research was mostly in archaeometallurgy, and in Africa, but since 2009 has been mostly on the provenance of archaeological materials worldwide.  I provide the expertise in optical petrography for studies of the provenance of low-fired pottery in Botswana, New Caledonia and the southwestern USA, and collaborate with isotope geochemist Joaquin Ruiz, and with current and former PhD advisees, to use lead and strontium isotopes for provenance of non-ferrous metals, turquoise, and lead glazes in the southwestern USA and in Africa.  I am an Advisory Editor of the Journal of Archaeological Science, and a member of the Editorial Boards of Archaeometry, Journal of African Archaeology, Advances in Archaeological Practice and Ethnoarchaeology. I am strongly influenced by the World History movement, and apply its comparative perspective to the history and prehistory of technology worldwide. I am also an Adjunct Professor in Materials Science and Engineering and a contributing faculty member to their program in Conservation Science.

Selected Publications

(Not all who wander are lost!)

Catherine Klesner, Virginie Renson, Yeraly Akymbek, and David Killick(2021). Determination of provenances of Early Islamic lead glazes from Northern Central Asia using elemental and lead isotope analyses.  Anthropological and Archaeological Sciences, in press.

Stephens, Jay, Mihai Ducea, David Killick and Joaquin Ruiz (2021). Use of non-traditional heavy stable isotopes in archaeological research. Journal of Archaeological Science 127, 105334

Scarlett Chiu, David Killick, Christophe Sand, Yu-yin Su (2020). Long-distance Lapita pottery transfers and ancient social relationships: A case study from the St. Maurice-Vatcha (KVO003) Lapita site on the Île des Pins, New Caledonia (Southern Melanesia).  Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 34.

Scarlett Chiu, David Killick, Christophe Sand, Yu-yin Su, Jeffrey R. Ferguson and Jiunn-Hsing Chao (2020). Petrographic and chemical analyses of sherds from the Kurin Lapita site (Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia), ca. 3000-2700 BP. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 33,

David Killick (2020) Review of Yusuf Juwayeyi, Archaeology and Oral Tradition in Malawi: Origins and Early History of the Chewa. Azania 55:290-292.

David Killick, Jay Stephens and Thomas Fenn (2020). Geological constraints on the use of lead isotopes for provenance in archaeometallurgy. Archaeometry 62, Supplementary Issue 1, 86-105.

Jay Stephens, David Killick, Edwin Wilmsen, James Denbow and Duncan Miller (2020). Lead isotopes link copper artefacts from northwestern Botswana to the Copperbelt of Katanga Province, Congo. Journal of Archaeological Science 117:

Phillip de Barros, Louise Iles, Lesley Frame and David Killick (2020). The Early Iron Age metallurgy of Bassar, Togo:  furnaces, metallurgical remains and iron objects. Azania 55(1):3-43.


Edwin Wilmsen, Anne Griffiths, David Killick and Phenyo Thebe (2019). The Manaledi clay mine: a ca. 1500 year-long record of potting from a single clay source in the Tswapong Hills, Eastern Botswana. African Archaeological Review 17:1-29.

Edwin Wilmsen, David Killick, James Denbow, Adrianne Daggett and Phenyo Thebe (2019). Keeping up alliances: multifaceted values of pottery in 8th-17th century eastern Botswana, as reconstructed by optical petrography.  Azania 54:369-408.

Duncan Miller and David Killick (2019). Non-ferrous metal artifacts from the northern Lowveld, South Africa, ca. 1000 CE to ca. 1880 CE.  Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 24:913-923.

David Killick (2019). Edwin Wilmsen's contributions to ethnoarchaeology. Ethnoarchaeology 11:26-33.

Brunella Santarelli, Shelia Goff, David Killick, Kari Schleher and David Gonzales (2019). Lead isotope ratios of Pueblo I lead-glazed ceramics from Colorado and Pueblo II galena from Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 23:634-645.


Courses Taught

ANTH 637. Archaeological Methods. Required class for graduate students in archaeology. Graduate admissions are currently suspended.

ANTH/CLAS/NES/MSE 474/574. Archaeometry.  Next: Spring 2022. (Survey of a wide range of scientific methods in archaeology).

ANTH/AFAS 329. Peoples and Cultures of Africa. Next: Spring 2022. (Introduction to African Sudies - prehistory, history, politics, economics, health, arts, etc.).

ANTH 160A1. World Archaeology.  Currently beinf taught (General Education class).

Optical Petrography - as Special Topics in Archaeology (ANTH 495/595A). Next: uncertain. Prerequisite: a course on mineralogy (such as GEOS 306, taught every Fall).

Optical Metallography - as Special Topics in Archaeology (ANTH 495/595A) Next: uncertain. Taught on demand for seniors or graduate students from Anthropology and from Materials Science and Engineering. Ask me about prerequites.

Archaeometallurgy -  as Special Topics in Archaeology (ANTH595A) Next: uncertain. Taught on demand at irregular intervals.  This is a reading course - for technical training, take Optical Metallography.

African Archaeology - on demand, as independent study.

Visiting Scholars

None at present

Current PhD supervisees

Dana Drake Rosenstein - Development of optically-stimulated luminescence dating for sites < 500 years old in southern Africa (technical supervision by Dr. Jim Feathers, University of Washington); ceramic technology and provenance; archaeometric methods.  Her PhD research was partly supported by NSF Grant 0542135.

Jay Stephens. His PhD research (in progress) seeks to establish the geological sources of copper and bronze artefacts fron Iron Age archeological sites (ca. 200-1750 AD) throughout the southern third of the African continent, using lead isotopes and trace elements as tracers.  It is funded by NSF Grant 1852598.

For those interesting in applying to the graduate program: I am not taking any more graduate students, but am certainly willing to work with students who can find other main advisors.

Former PhD students, their dissertation topics and current locations

Ester Echenique (2019). Social Integration, Negotiation, and Alliances: Yavi-Chicha Ceramic Production and Circulation in the Border Region of Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, A.D. 1000-1550. (Co-supervised with Frances Hayashida, University of New Mexico). It was funded by a Doctoral Dissertation Grant from the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Ester is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Arica, Chile.

Brunella Santarelli (2015). Technological Analysis of Pueblo I Lead Glazed Ceramics from the Upper San Juan Basin, Colorado (ca. 700-850 CE). (Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering; co-supervised with Nancy Odegaard). Brunella's dissertation research was supported by NSF Grant 1419233.    She is now a Technical Specialist at STARC (Science and Technology in Archaeological Research Center) in the Cyprus Institute, Nicosia.

Fumie Iizuka (2013). Early Pottery in the Tropics of Panama (4500-3200 BC): Production Processes, Circulation and Diagenesis. (Co-supervised with Michael Schiffer).   Fumie is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Anthropology and Heritage Studies,  University of California, Merced campus.

Alyson Thibodeau (2012). Isotopic Evidence for the Provenance of Turquoise, Glaze Paints and Metals in the Southwestern USA. (PhD in Geosciences; co-supervised with Joaquin Ruiz). Her PhD research was funded by NSF Grant 0852270 and by the Lister Fellowship of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. She is now an Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

Thomas Fenn (2011). Applications of Heavy Isotope Research to Archaeological Problems of Provenance and Trade. (Co-supervised with Joaquin Ruiz).  His PhD research was funded by NSF Grant 0852270. He is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma.

Lesley Frame (2009).Technological Change in Southwestern Asia: Metallurgical Production Styles and Social Values during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age. Lesley's PhD was in Materials Science and Engineering, and was co-supervised by Pam Vandiver and myself. Her PhD research was funded by NSF Grant 0923714. She is an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Connecticut.

Martha Morgan (2009) Reconstructing Early Islamic Maghribi Metallurgy. Martha was an Assistant Professor in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at the Rochester Institute of Technology from 2006 to 20013.

Sarah Cowie (2008) Industrial Capitalism and the Company Town: Structural Power, Biopower and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Fayette, Michigan. Her PhD research was funded by a grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Sarah is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Reno. In 2016 she was selected as a Presidential Early Career in Science and Engineering (PECASE) fellow, which will fund her research for 5 years.

Noah Thomas (2008) Seventeenth-Century Metallurgy on the Spanish Colonial Frontier: Transformations of Technology, Identity and Value. Noah lives in Ventura, California.  His PhD research was funded by NSF Grant 0606747 and by a predoctoral fellowship from the Mellon Foundation.  He published a monograph based on this research in 2018.

Khaled al-Bashaireh (2008) Chronology and Technological Styles of Nabataean and Roman Plasters at Petra (Jordan). (Co-supervised with Greg Hodgins, AMS Radiocarbon Laboratory). Khaled is a Vice Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology at Yarmouk University, Jordan. His PhD research was funded by NSF Grant 0808885.

Aniko Bezur (2003). Variability in Sican Copper Alloy Artifacts: Its Relation to Material Flow Patterns During the Middle Sican Period in Peru, AD 900-1100. Aniko's PhD was in Materials Science and Engineering, and was co-supervised by William Davenport, Izumi Shimada, Nancy Odegaard and myself after the death of her original supervisor, David Kingery. Her PhD research was funded by NSF Grant 9903215. Aniko is Director of Scientific Research in the Center for Conservation and Preservation, Yale University. 


My current major project, funded by NSF Award #1852958, is a collaboration with my PhD student Jay Stephens, and with colleagues - both archaeologists and geologists - in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. We are trying to track prehistoric and early historic movement of copper by matching lead isotopic ratios and trace-element concentrations of about 300 copper artefacts to those of copper ore deposits in these countries and in Namibia and Katanga (Democratic Republic of the Congo).  We were fortunately able to able to gathering samples of ores and copper in museums in late 2019. Laboratories at the University of Arizona were shut down from March to August 2021, but since then Jay has completed >500 lead isotope analyses of ores and artefacts by MC-ICPMS, and >330 trace element analyses of artefacts by ICPMS.  We have a database, compiled from the geological literature, of lead isotope ratios for some 550 ore specimens throughout southern Africa, and have supplemented these with our own measurements of 220 ore samples (most from from the collections of the Economic Geology Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand). We are currently working through the data.  A major surprise is the abundance of bronze in the sample - 93 of 330 in the sample - and that almost all of these were made in southern Africa, not imported from around the Indian Ocean.  Brass is very rare (7 of 330) and is imported.

Research Interests

Comparative history and prehistory of technology, with particular interest in early mining and metallurgy

African history and prehistory, with particular focus on early contacts between sub-Saharan African and the Muslim world

Provenance studies - tracing prehistoric movement of lithics, pottery, turquoise, glass and metals by geological and geochemical methods in Africa, the southwestern USA and the western Pacific.

Archaeological method and theory, with particular focus on the role of scientific methods in archaeology

David Killick's picture

Contact Information

Professor of Anthropology
Telephone: 520.621.8685
Fax: 520.621.2088
Office: Emil W. Haury Building, Room 214


Ph.D. in Anthropology, Yale University
M.Phil in Anthropology, Yale University
B.A. (Honours) in Archaeology, University of Cape Town

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