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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: March 3, 2003
Volume 38, Number 15

Anthropology Department celebrates 75th year

The UNM Department of Anthropology celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year.

In 1928, UNM President James Zimmerman asked Edgar Lee Hewett to form the department culminating a process that included earlier UNM field schools and Hewett’s long personal involvement in the development of anthropology as a field of study in New Mexico.

Hewett, one of the most interesting and flamboyant characters in the history of Southwestern anthropology—as detailed in recent works by Don Fowler (see accompanying story), James Snead and Curtis Hinsley—was largely a self-taught archeologist who was president of the New Mexico Normal School in Las Vegas (later New Mexico Highlands University), then founder of the School of American Research in Santa Fe, and founding director of the Museum of New Mexico.

Hewett battled for years to wrest control of New Mexico archeological sites from Eastern institutions. He was a believer in the field school experience, leading such projects himself for many years, notably in the Jemez Mountains, where the first UNM field school was held in the summer of 1928. Hewett also founded the anthropology department at what would later become San Diego State University.

The UNM Department of Anthropology continues to be a world leader in research and teaching, producing generations of leading specialists in all the subfields of the discipline worldwide. Following a decade of publishing a local review, “The New Mexico Anthropologist,” the department, in collaboration with the Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe, began publication of the world-class Southwestern Journal of Anthropology (SWJA) in 1945, edited by Leslie Spier. In 1973, SWJA was renamed Journal of Anthropological Research (JAR), to better reflect the broad—indeed international—scope of its contents, as well as of its authors and subscribers.

Anthropology Professor and JAR Editor Lawrence Straus said the history of the department is firmly rooted in the rich diversity of living and past cultures of the Southwest, but has had and continues to have major interests in and impacts on the holistic study of humankind worldwide.

Current research by faculty and students includes work in North, Central and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. UNM faculty include many major figures within their areas of specialization and in professional organizations, both in the United States and internationally.

The UNM Department of Anthropology is one of the oldest in the West— following University of California at Berkeley by about 25 years, but roughly contemporary with departments at the universities of Utah and Arizona.

“The 75th anniversary festivities celebrate the long and illustrious history of anthropology at UNM and make New Mexicans and alumni aware of what a great department we have,” said Carole Nagengast, department chair. “However, our goal is to raise money for fellowships and scholarships for anthropology students, so that we can continue to have a world-class department. This is a long-term project that starts with the anniversary celebration but will extend long beyond it.”