History | Anthropology | SIU

Southern Illinois University



College of Liberal Arts

student on cliff



Anthropology, as a unified discipline of research and teaching at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, dates from the year 1950. More than half a century earlier, however, Anthropology can be said to have had its beginnings in the subfield of Archaeology shortly after the University opened its doors in 1869. In 1874 Cyrus Thomas (later of Smithsonian Institution fame) initiated the collection and organization of archaeological materials from the southern Illinois area for the newly founded University Museum. Although the Thomas collections did not survive, the close ties between Archaeology, Anthropology, and the Museum continued for many decades. Thomas's early work for the Division of Mound Exploration of the Smithsonian Institution was conducted from his base in Carbondale.

In 1950 archaeologist J. Charles Kelley was brought from the University of Texas to be Director of the University Museum. He was given the dual charge of modernizing the Museum and beginning an Anthropology program at the University in the existing Department of Sociology. Prior to that time, courses in general anthropology and American Indians had been offered by Louis Petroff, an SIU sociologist with some anthropological training and interests. Kelley added William J. Shackelford, an archaeology graduate student from the University of Texas, to the Museum staff, joining amateur archaeologist Irvin Peithman who had been hired earlier by the Museum. Shackelford taught courses in anthropology for two years before leaving SIUC. At about the same time, Howard D. Winters, also at the time a graduate student, joined the Museum as Curator of North American Archaeology and did some teaching in the Department of Sociology. With this beginning, in 1953 the name of the academic unit was changed to "Department of Sociology and Anthropology."

In 1955 the nucleus of the department-to-be was established with the addition of sociocultural anthropologist Charles H. Lange and archaeologist Carroll L. Riley. These two scholars had joint appointments in the University Museum and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. With four anthropologists on staff, the group moved to create a separate department and this was accomplished in 1957. The following year Walter W. Taylor was added to the faculty as Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology.

Also in 1958 the Department of Anthropology was designated as a graduate and research department with only a nominal undergraduate program. At that point, the department began making plans to offer a Ph.D. degree in addition to its Master of Arts and Bachelor's degrees. Three new faculty appointments in anthropology were made in 1959 and 1960: Charles R. Kaut (sociocultural), George W. Grace (linguistics), and Philip J.C. Dark (primitive art); in addition two archaeologists, Pedro Armillas and Melvin L. Fowler, were added to the Museum staff with cross-appointments to the Department. These individuals pursued long-term research interests in Illinois, the Southwestern U.S., Europe, and northern and central Mexico. At the same time, Mr. Winters departed the University. The Ph.D. program began in 1960 following the recommendation of anthropologist Clyde K.M. Kluckhohn (Harvard University), who had carried out the required feasibility study for the SIU administration. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale thus became the first state institution of higher education in Illinois to offer the doctoral degree


During the 1960s the department expanded, both in terms of its faculty and its physical space (movement from a former residential building on Mill Street to larger quarters in the basement of what is now Quigley Hall). In 1960 the department awarded its first M.A. degree; its first doctoral degree was bestowed in 1964, an occasion also marked by anthropologist Margaret Mead's commencement address to the University. Several faculty additions were made to the Department in the 1960s, some of whom remained on the faculty for many years: cultural anthropologist Jerome Handler , linguist Joel Maring, Southeastern U.S. archaeologist Jon Muller and Maya archaeologist Robert L. Rands Others were with the department for shorter intervals (e.g., the department's first physical anthropologist, Roger Heglar; also Marie Doenges, Milton Altschuler , Adrian Gerbrands, Lee Guemple, Bruce MacLachlan , and Roy Wagner). Along with these additions came an expansion of geographical areas of faculty research and student training, with continuing work in Mexico, and the Southwestern U.S., and new projects in New Guinea, Eastern U.S., Ecuador, sub-Arctic, and the Maya area.

The 1970s were similarly a time of considerable turnover in department faculty, reorientations within its organization, and movement to its present location on the north end of Faner Hall in 1975. In 1973 archaeologist George Gumerman joined the faculty and in 1978 founded the Center for Archaeological Investigations (CAI) . The CAI became a separate research unit within the College of Liberal Arts, working in close cooperation with the Department and taking over many of the research and publication activities formerly in the University Museum. Gumerman, the CAI, and the Department of Anthropology were closely identified with Southwestern archaeology and the Black Mesa Project (Arizona) during the succeeding decade, with several faculty appointments in archaeology. Other additions to the faculty in the early 1970s included social anthropologists Edwin Cook and Ester Maring, and linguist Lionel Bender . Three physical anthropologists joined the faculty at the end of the decade, Dean Falk (1977, departed 1979), Robert Corruccini with diverse research interests in human variation, human evolution, and teeth (1978) and Susan Ford with research interests in evolutionary biology and New World monkeys (1979). These additions spurred the development of a strong graduate program in bioanthropology in the 1980's and 1990's. Walter Taylor retired in 1974 and Philip Dark retired in 1978, the same year that Cook left the University.


The middle 1980s and early 1990s saw a number of retirements, reassignments, and new hires that directed the Department into its current orientations. Two sociocultural anthropologists were added to our faculty: Jane Adams (research concerning southern Illinois farm women and rural agricultural economies); and Jonathan Hill (Amazonian [Venezuela] ethnology and history, ethnomusicology). Another biological anthropologist, Brenda Benefit, joined the faculty in 1990, adding research specialization in hominoid evolution and Old World anthropoids through her field research in Kenya (Benefit left SIU in 2002). During this same time three archaeologists on the faculty retired, Carroll Riley in 1987, and George Gumerman and Robert Rands in 1990; shortly thereafter two sociocultural faculty (Lionel Bender and Jerome Handler) transferred to other academic units in the College of Liberal Arts and Joel and Ester Maring retired in 1995 and 1996 respectively. New hires in archaeology in 1991 were Don S. Rice as Director of the Center for Archaeological Investigations, with research interests in lowland Maya settlement, ecology, and agriculture, and Prudence M. Rice with research in the colonial period southern Andes, ceramics, and the lowland Maya. In 1994 a third new archaeologist joined the faculty, Izumi Shimada , with long-standing field research on the north coast of Peru. Beginning in 1995 the department initiated a series of replacement hires in sociocultural anthropology, bringing in John McCall (Africa[Nigeria], performance) and C. Andrew Hofling (Maya, linguistics), and David Sutton (Greece, historical consciousness).

The years after 2000 saw a string of new hires.  At the end of the 2000-1 academic year, Jon Muller retired after a lengthy career of teaching archaeology and serving in various University administrative offices.  Paul Welch (eastern US archaeology) was brought in to replace him in 2001. Kevin Foster (race and education in the US) was hired at the same time, with a joint appointment in Black American Studies and Anthropology (Foster left SIU in 2005). With both Don Rice and Pru Rice having moved into administrative positions in the University, in 2002 Andrew Balkansky (State formation in Oaxaca) was brought into the department to help cover Mesoamerican archaeology. Upon Brenda Benefit's departure in 2002, this position was briefly filled by Christopher Stojanowski (2003-2005) and since 2006 by Ulrich Reichard, an expert in gibbon behavior and socioecology. Janet Fuller, who studies bilingualism, language contact, and sociolinguistics, transferred into Anthropology from Linguistics in 2004.  In 2005 a third anthropological linguist, Anthony Webster (Athabaskan languages, ethnopoetics), joined Fuller and Hofling to make our department one of the larger concentrations of anthropological linguists in the country. In 2006, we added two new positions. Roberto Barrios joined us as practice anthropologist; his work focuses on recovery efforts after disasters such as hurricanes. And we added a bioarchaeology/forensic anthropology position, initially with Tracy Prowse (2006-2009), then Tammy Gamza (2009-2010), and now Gretchen Dabbs, who works on pre-dynastic peoples in Egypt and modern forensic research. From 2007-2013, Michelle Croissier taught a variety of archaeology classes as an Adjunct, focusing on her specialties as a ceramicist with work in Mexico (Teotihuacan and Oaxaca) and sub-Saharan Africa. In 2010, we had two retirements, Jane Adams (May) and Robert Corruccini (December).

In November 2012, department chair Susan Ford accepted appointment as Associate Dean and Director of the Graduate School. Distinguished Professor Izumi Shimada served as interim chair for the department from November 2012-Fall of 2013 when John McCall began serving as our new chair. Also in the fall of 2013, Jeremiah Scott joined our department as an Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology. Search for a one-year replacement lecturer in linguistic anthropology is underway.


1950-1958 - J. Charles Kelley (Founding Director of the University Museum and Director of Anthropology Program, largely with the museum)
1956-1957 - Charles H. Lange (Interim Director of the University Museum and Anthropology Program, during Kelley's sabbatical)
1957 - Creation of separate Department of Anthropology
1958-1963 - Walter W. Taylor (first full chair, founded MA and PhD programs)
1963-1967 - Philip J.C. Dark
1967-1970 - Charles H. Lange
1970-1973 - Edwin A. Cook
1973-1977 - George Gumerman
1977-1978 - Lionel Bender (Acting Chair, during Gumerman's sabbatical)
1978-1979 - George Gumerman
1979-1982 - Carroll L. Riley
1982-1986 - Lionel Bender
1986-1987 - George Gumerman
1987-1993 - Jon Muller
1993-1999 - Prudence M. Rice
1999-2005 - Jonathan D. Hill
2005-2011 - Susan M. Ford
2011-2012 - Susan M. Ford (Interim Chair)
2013 - Izumi Shimada (Interim Chair)
2013 - John McCall