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National Museum Curator to Speak at UW

April 13, 2012
Man working on dig
David Hurst Thomas, curator of North American archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History, will speak Monday, April 23, at the University of Wyoming.

The curator of North American archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History will present the University of Wyoming Department of Anthropology's 16th annual Mulloy lecture.

David Hurst Thomas is scheduled to speak at 4:10 p.m. Monday, April 23, in Room 302 of the Classroom Building. His topic is "Alpine Archaeology in the American West: Indians in Unexpected Places." A reception will follow in the Anthropology Building. The public is invited to both the lecture and the reception.

The annual lecture is named after UW's first anthropologist, William Mulloy.

Thomas is the author of 30 books, including the best-selling "Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity"; 90 edited volumes; and more than 100 scientific papers. He also is a founding trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Thomas has directed more than 100 archaeological excavations. These include a 30-year project on St. Catherine's Island off Georgia's coast, where he discovered and systematically excavated the 16th-/17th-century Franciscan mission, Santa Catalina de Guale. For this work, he received the Franciscan Institute Medal; he is the only non-Franciscan ever to be so honored.

He has directed survey and excavations in Nevada since the 1960s, including the excavation of Gatecliff Shelter (the deepest archaeological rock shelter in the Americas), and one of North America's highest Native American villages. He also has been deeply involved in the relationship between Native American and anthropological communities over the treatment of human burials and sacred objects, and has consulted with the relatives of those lost on 9/11 in the World Trade Center over treatment of the unidentified skeletal remains recovered there.

His talk focuses on his work in the high altitudes of Nevada, comparing it to similar research in California and Wyoming. Living at elevations in excess of 10,000 feet is difficult - as any archaeologist who has worked there can attest. Thomas considers the effects that population density and climate change might have on explaining why people would choose to live in such extreme environments.

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