Trained as an anthropological archaeologist within a four-field anthropological tradition, my research takes a broadly comparative approach to the development of social inequality in human prehistory. Specifically, my research centers on the political economic foundations of social inequality and how communities use material culture and mortuary rituals to effect social change. I am an Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department at Hamilton College.
My current research examines the development of institutionalized inequality in early mining communities in the Apuseni Mountains of southwest Transylvania, Romania, during the Bronze Age (2700-1300 BC). Southwest Transylvania is one of the richest sources of gold and copper in the world. The rising demand for these metals in Bronze Age communities across Europe transformed how communities in resource-rich landscapes were organized. In short, this research asks when, and how, did communities in mining zones become mining communities, specialized communities on the margins of hierarchically organized polities?
In my effort to develop comparative trajectories of social organization in mining landscapes, I currently co-direct a multi-scalar exploration of the headwaters of the New River in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern North Carolina. This project employs geophysical prospection, chemical sourcing of prehistoric artifacts, GIS analyses of distribution and settlement networks, and geoarchaeological assessments of human impact on the environment to understand how changing importance of mica and copper affected interaction in Appalachian mining landscapes. This research on the long-term dynamics in the use of mountain landscapes challenges perceptions of marginality, mobility, and Indigenous economies in the eastern Woodlands.
In addition to work on prehistoric mining communities, I am the co-director of Forging Identities: Past and Present, a community-engaged research project conducted with community members in Bucium, Romania, designed to understand how archaeology and cultural heritage can be used as an advocacy tool for peoples threatened by transnational gold mining projects in Transylvania. I have also conducted research and published on prehistoric Ireland, Jordan, and North America.
I have received external funding support from the National Science Foundation (Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant), the Wenner-Gren Foundation (Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, Engaged Anthropology Grant), and the American Philosophical Society (Lewis & Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research, Franklin Grant). My research and teaching has also been supported by the Anthropology Department, Dean of Faculty, and Levitt Center at Hamilton College. Previously, my teaching and research was supported by several departments at the University of Michigan, including Rackham Graduate School, Museum of Anthropological Archaeology, Department of Anthropology, International Institute, Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, Center for Engaged Academic Learning, and Rackham Program in Public Scholarship.