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John D. Speth

Interview with John D. Speth by the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society on May 7, 2021 in which he discusses his career including: his early interest in archaeology through scout camp, his first job at Hunter College, then teaching and research at the University of Michigan and excavation at a bison kill site in eastern New Mexico. He describes fat-depleted meat, rotted and putrid meat and Neanderthals and fire. John shares lessons learned from his excavations, ethnographic and ethnohistoric literature, and hunter-gatherers in cold climates.

John D. Speth is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and Curator Emeritus of North American Archaeology in the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology. He completed his BA (1965) in Geology at the University of New Mexico, and his MA (1968) and Ph. D (1971) in Anthropology at the University of Michigan. Speth studies hunter-gatherers, past and present, New World and Old World. He is interested generally in the evolution of foragers diet, subsistence strategies, and food processing technologies and, more specifically in the ways that hunter-gatherers (and small-scale farmers) cope with seasonal and inter-annual unpredictability in their resource base. Largely through fauna, he also is exploring the nutritional and economic basis of Plains-Pueblo interaction in the American Southwest and Neanderthal hunting in the Near Eastern Levant. In 1994 Speth formally launched a University of Michigan Department and Museum of Museum of Anthropological Archaeology Field Training Program in Archaeology, and since then has taken many undergraduate and graduate students to southeastern New Mexico to excavate late prehistoric mixed bison-hunting/farming communities along the western margins of the Southern High Plains.

Speth was a 2020 AAHS Byron Cummings Awardee for outstanding research contributions to archaeology.