Dr. Tristram R. Kidder

Edward S. and Tedi Macias Professor and Chair
Professor of Environmental Studies

Major Field/Research Interests

Anthropological archaeology; paleoecology, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, climate change, geoarchaeology; the formation of hierarchical social systems, the emergence of social complexity, complex hunter-gatherer history, and historical ecology.

Research: What causes people to arrange themselves through time into increasingly complex forms of social organization? With graduate students and collaborators I explore these and related issues through several different projects in the eastern United States and in China.

Much of our work is focused in the realm of geoarchaeology and landscape archaeology. My own work emphasizes geomorphology in large river systems and the relationships between climate change, fluvial response, and human cultures. I also use geoarchaeological methods to study mound building. My lab group is interested in the complex interplay between climate, geology, history, and human agency, which lets us fit much of our research into the frameworks of landscape archaeology and historical ecology. As part of this work our research group conducts studies of the evolution and chronology of the Holocene Mississippi and Yellow Rivers using archaeological and geoarchaeological data.

We also do research on issues associated with "complexity." This takes two main forms. One, we are doing research on issues of hunter-gatherer complexity, especially at Poverty Point in Louisiana and Jaketown in Mississippi. The questions here are: what is the interplay of structure and practice in these societies that allowed them to create elaborate monumental earthworks or massive long-distance trade networks while lacking outward signs of hierarchy or stratification? A second area of interest is the construction of earthworks as materialized evidence of social organization and complexity. Work at Poverty Point and Jaketown is important but efforts at Cahokia and elsewhere are critical too.


Geoarchaeology (L48 372)
Meltdown: Archaeology and Climate Change (L48 379)
The Archaeology of Social Complexity (L48 4791)
Archaeological Theory (L48 5053)


Ph.D. Harvard University, 1988
M.A. Harvard University, 1987
Phone:  (314) 935-5242
Fax:  (314) 935-8535
Office: McMillan Hall 120
Office Hours: Thursday 10-11
Mailbox: Department of Anthropology

                Washington University in St. Louis
                Campus Box 1114
                One Brookings Drive
                 St. Louis, MO 63130-4899