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Dr. David Hurst Thomas at Toquima Cave
Abstract: Recent Great Basin archaeology demonstrates a surprising survivance that invites us to revisit conventional perceptions of abandonment and migration. Although Paleoindians defined the Lahontan Basin as a virtually empty sacred space, Lovelock communities established nearly-sedentary lacustrine settlements that lasted until the Late Holocene Dry Period (3100–1800 cal BP). Most archaeological sites south of 40° N latitude were abandoned during the driest Great Basin climate of the last 6000 years. Despite the megadrought, the seemingly disparate Paleoindian, Lovelock culture and Numic populations maintained genetic relationships in the Lahontan Basin for more than ten millennia. Other resilient foragers in the central Basin refused to abandon their homeland, establishing summertime alpine residences that took advantage of glacier-fed mountain springs with cooler alpine temperatures and greater moisture retention elevation. Western Shoshone scholars Ned Blackhawk and Steven Crum stress the continuing survivance of indigenous Nevadans who, despite Euro-American intrusions, maintained their compelling sense of place. They adapted traditional seasonal economies to the necessities of wage labor, many rejecting reservation life to remain in familiar ritualized landscapes and resist the ways of state formation to this day.
Bio, David Hurst Thomas, Ph.D., D. Sci., RPA
David Hurst Thomas has served as Curator of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History (New York, since 1972); has taught at Columbia University, New York University, University of California (Davis), University of Florida, University of Nevada, the City College of New York, and lectured in more than forty countries.
A specialist in Native American archaeology, he holds four degrees from the University of California, Davis (Ph.D., 1971) and a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) from The University of the South (conferred 1995). In 1970, he discovered Gatecliff Shelter (Nevada), the deepest archaeological rockshelter in the Americas. Thomas also found and continues to excavate the 16th-/17th-century Franciscan mission Santa Catalina de Guale (St. Catherines Island, Georgia); he also led five excavation seasons at Mission San Marcos, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. In recognition of this mission research, Thomas received the Franciscan Institute Medal for 1992 (the only non-Franciscan ever to be so honored). In March 2014, he was unanimously elected as a Fellow in the Academy of American Franciscan History (one of six such Fellows elected in the past six decades).
A member of the Writer's Guild of America, Thomas wrote the first six chapters for the award-winning The Native Americans (Turner Publishing), the book accompanying the documentary The Native Americans: Behind the Legends, Beyond the Myths, produced by Turner Broadcasting. He served as the U.S. editor for The Illustrated History of Humankind, a trailblazing five-volume set (Harper San Francisco). Publishers Weekly called the first volume of The Illustrated History "a stunning achievement and a book to treasure."
Thomas is the instigator, general editor, and contributor to the three-volume Columbian Consequences series (Smithsonian Institution Press), with the proceeds initiating the Native American Scholarship Fund of the Society for American Archaeology; two volumes were selected as Outstanding Scholarly Books of the Year by Choice magazine. Overall, Thomas has written 38 books (including the best-selling Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity), edited 98 volumes, and published more than 135 scientific papers. The multiple editions of Archaeology and Archaeology: Down to Earth (presently co-authored with Robert L. Kelly) remain the best-selling college textbooks on archaeology in the United States.
His archaeological research been featured in The New York Times, National Geographic, Natural History, Archaeology, Museum Magazine, a half-hour National Geographic film (Gatecliff: Dwelling in the Desert, 1974), and a book for children entitled From Maps to Museums: Uncovering Mysteries of the Past (by Joan Anderson, William Morrow, Inc. , awarded Notable Children's Trade Book and Outstanding Science Trade Book.
Thomas was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution appointed him as a Founding Trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian, where he served as Vice Chairman of the Board. He is the recipient of several awards, including the Presidential Recognition Award by Society for American Archaeology (1991), the Founders’ Lifetime Achievement Award from the Great Basin Anthropological Association and the Fryxell Award for Interdisciplinary Research by the Society for American Archaeology (in 2014). the Society for American Archaeology’s Lifetime Achievement award (in 2017).