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The term “diamond anniversary” can be used to commemorate both 75 and 60 years.  In this double respect, anthropology at the University of New Mexico is indeed approaching its diamond anniversaries.  The Department of Anthropology will be 75 years old in the Fall of 2003.  The Journal of Anthropological Research will be 60 years old at the beginning of 2005.  While neither is the oldest in its league, both are certainly now of respectable vintage and maturity, especially in the context of the American West. 

The Department of Anthropology at Berkeley, founded by Alfred L. Kroeber in 1901 but whose classes did not begin until 1903, is clearly the Western veteran–not much younger in fact than the storied departments at Harvard and Columbia.   That other great journal of general anthropology, American Anthropologist, is also a centenarian+, as is the professional society that publishes it, the American Anthropological Association.  The University of Arizona Department of Anthropology, founded by Byron Cummings in 1915 (as a Department of Archaeology), was one of the Ur-pioneers in the Southwest, followed by the University of Utah in 1926.  But the University of New Mexico did not lag far behind.

The New Mexico Department was the product of a collaboration between University of New Mexico President , James Zimmerman and Edgar Lee Hewett, the Founding Director of what is now called School of American Research.   Almost as soon as Zimmerman took the reins at UNM in 1927, he approached  Hewett–long a New Mexico and Santa Fé “institution”-- to create a Department of Anthropology.  (Hewett had begun teaching teaching anthropology as President of New Mexico Normal School–now NM Highlands University–in 1900!)   The archeologist/impresario Hewett wasted no time, organizing the first UNM archeological field school in Frijoles Canyon (in what is now Bandelier National Monument) during the summer of 1928 and teaching the first courses in anthropology the next fall (Bock 1989; for information on the colorful figure of Hewett, see Chauvenet 1983; Hinsley 1986; Fowler 2000; Snead 2001).

New Mexico’s near-pioneering status is highlighted by the fact that the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology per se (as opposed to the earlier joint department with Sociology, in which Frederick Starr–a geologist by training–had provided a limited anthropological presence since the time of his personal appointment by Founding President William Rainey Harper at the end of the 19th century) is no older.  It was founded by Acting President Woodward and archeologist Fay-Cooper Cole in 1929 (G. Stocking:  (Perhaps not surprisingly, Cole and Hewett seem to have shared some of the same characteristics of archeologist/promoter, including a flair for fund-raising and institution-building.) 

As has been recently and exquisitely detailed by Hinsley, Fowler and Snead (among others), the exotic American Southwest (New Mexico and southern Colorado in particular) was an extraordinary magnet, first for explorers and antiquarians of the late 19th century, and then for the new professional ethnologists and archeologists (who were often one and the same people) of the early 20th century.  Though endemically impoverished in terms of its economy (ever since the founding of the Spanish province in 1598), New Mexico has been recognized for its wealth of prehistoric and ethnographic cultural evidence from the time of the very first glimmerings of interest in anthropological matters in the United States.  Its riches in ruins, artifacts, cultures and languages (both Amerindian and Hispanic) were and are irresistible draws. 

The immense, masonry “great houses” of Chaco Canyon (and “outlier” ruins such as Aztec) were the objects of numerous heroic expeditions and epic disputes between Eastern institutions and local intelligentsia (notably Hewett, who ultimately arranged for the acquisition of the core area of Chaco by UNM).  Some of the most beautifully and imaginatively decorated prehistoric ceramics of the Americas have been found in the Mimbres area of southwestern New Mexico.  As early as the 1920-30s, New Mexico sites (Folsom, Blackwater Draw/Clovis) provided the key evidence that cracked open the Pleistocene barrier for the peopling of the Americas.  Other sites--also the objects of early excavations and, in some cases, Hewett-arranged UNM acquisition--attested to the extraordinary story of Spanish missionary zeal and involuntary Pueblo Indian labor in New Mexico (e.g., Pecos, San Marcos, Jemez Mission, Pa-ako, the Salinas missions of Gran Quivira, Abo and Quarai).  Early explorer/ethnologists (Cushing, Stevenson, Bandelier, et al.)  had pioneered a long, rich tradition of cultural anthropology and linguistics among New Mexico’s 19 surviving Puebloan (Tanoan,  Keresan and Zuni speakers) and 3 Southern Athapaskan groups (Navajos/Diné, Mescalero and Jicarilla Apaches).  Not only–as the saying goes–does every Navajo family include an adopted anthropologist member, but also certainly all the Native American groups of New Mexico have been among the most intensively and extensively studied of all Indian communities–often by anthropologists affiliated at some time with UNM.  UNM anthropologists have also studied many aspects of  New Mexico’s diverse Spanish-speaking communities, and more recently subsets of the so-called “Anglo” population.

Hewett’s UNM Department of Anthropology grew in the 1930s and had as some of its other faculty members, Donald Brand, Florence Hawley (Ellis), Clyde Kluckhohn, William W. (“Nibs”) Hill, and –by the end of the decade--Leslie Spier, among others (Bock 1989). Their level of research activity was reflected by the founding of an irregular publication series, The New Mexico Anthropologist, under Brand’s editorship, in 1936.  Spier was born in 1893 and was thus a much younger man than Hewett (who was born in 1865, formally retired from UNM in 1939 and died in 1946).  Unlike the largely self-taught Hewett (with his quickly obtained doctorate from the Université de GenPve [Chauvenet 1983]), Spier earned his Ph.D. under Boas at Columbia  (Darnell & Gleach 2002).  A wide-ranging anthropological scholar (who did research and published in archeology, physical anthropology, and linguistics, as well as extensively in his speciality of Western American Indian ethnography), Spier taught “simultaneously” at UNM and Berkeley (just as Hewett had also “commuted” by chauffeured car over dirt roads between UNM and California State at San Diego and even the University of Southern California in the 1930s). 

If Hewett was the driving entrepreneurial force, Spier was arguably the scholarly leader of the early Department.  Spier, a President of the AAA,  was dedicated to rigorous, broadly-based anthropological publication; he founded publication series at the University of Washington and at Yale, and had served as Editor of the American Anthropologist, before founding the Southwestern Journal of Anthropology at UNM in 1945.  This quarterly bulletin replaced The New Mexico Anthropologist and has been published regularly by UNM (initially in association with the Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fé) “in the interest of general anthropology” ever since, changing its name to the Journal of Anthropological Research in 1973.  Writing no introduction to the first issue of SWJA, Spier let its contents show the kind of holistic, four-field, internationalist approach–albeit with a Southwestern flavor–and emphases on substantive research and scholarship that would be the Journal’s hallmarks from the very beginning.  SWJA/JAR has been UNM’s emissary to and vehicle for the discipline of anthropology worldwide for nearly 60 years.  Spier stayed at its helm until his death at the end of 1961.  His successors–all eminent UNM Anthropology Professors (Harry Basehart–both with Stanley Newman and alone–James Spuhler and Philip Bock)-- maintained the Journal’s standards of excellence and traditions of holism and internationalism from its Southwestern home in Albuquerque, while engaging anthropologists of increasingly specialized foci  from around the world as Associate Editors,  authors and readers. 

Diamond anniversaries are times for celebration, reflection and renewal.  More than ever, the UNM Department of Anthropology, with its Southwestern roots and flavor, reaches out to the world through the highly diverse nature of the research enterprises of its 30-member-strong Faculty and its some 200 graduate students.   From folklore to genetics, from Ice Age Spain to the Spanish colonization of New Mexico, from Chaco Canyon to Celebes, from Paraguayan foragers to Precolumbian Mexicans, from Athapaskans north and south to Iberian Muslims, from festas and transnationalism to studies of gender and ethnicity, from Kuna to Kayenta, from Moche to Machiguenga, from Paleolithic to Primates and paleopathology, from Anazazi pithouses and Illinois mounds to Polish peasants, from Albuquerque men and Taos tourists to Ethiopian fossils and Bosnian mass graves, from pipeline survey to the sense of place, UNM Anthropology is younger and more vigorous than ever—in the true spirit of the restless Hewett and the scholarly Spier.
* * *
Lawrence Guy Straus


My thanks to Phil Bock, Jack Campbell, Don Fowler, Bill Longacre, Karl Schwerin and George Stocking for sharing tidbits of information over time on the early years of the Department and on the Journal-- or on our “rivals”.  If I have garbled some facts, the responsibility is all mine. 

References Cited

Bock, P. 1989. Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, 1928-1988: a trial formulation.  Journal of Anthropological Research 45:1-14.

Chauvenet, B.  1983.  Hewett and Friends. Santa Fé: Museum of New Mexico Press.

Darnell, R. and F.Gleach 2002. Celebrating a Century of the American Anthropological Association: Presidential Portraits. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Fowler, D. 2000.  A Laboratory for Anthropology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Hinsley, C. 1986. “Edgar Lee Hewett and the School of American Research in Santa Fe, 1906-1912,” in American Archaeology: Past and Future. Edited by D. Meltzer, D. Fowler and 

J.Sabloff, pp. 217-233. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Snead, J. 2001. Ruins and Rivals. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Stocking, G. “Anthropology at Chicago”.

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