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Lovis, William A., Ph.D.

Curator of Anthropology, MSU Museum
Professor, Department of Anthropology

Research Interests/Experience

Curator Lovis’ research explores the relationship between human economic adaptation and mobility and changing Holocene environments in both the Great Lakes region and northern England. His multidisciplinary perspective includes collaborative experiments on carbonized food residue formation and interpretation of resultant isotope signatures to track the transition from hunting and gathering to horticulture in the Great Lakes. He harbors a continuing interest in applied theory and method, especially as it relates to research design. Dr. Lovis has been heavily engaged in issues of public policy in archaeology, particularly surrounding repatriation at the national level as well as forensic applications including law enforcement training and investigations. Dr. Lovis is currently engaged in multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research into the formation and preservation of stratified archaeological sites within the dynamic coastal dune settings of Lake Michigan, and regularly engages in fieldwork on Mesolithic sites in Yorkshire with his colleagues at the University of Bradford. Dr. Lovis currently sits on the Society for American Archaeology Committee on Excellence in Archaeological Analysis.
The MSU Museum houses numerous Great Lakes/Michigan archaeological collections accessible to faculty and students for research and curation training. Most recently, these collections were central to major geoarchaeological syntheses of data from southern Michigan floodplains and Lake Michigan coastal dunes by Dr. Lovis and his collaborators, resulting in predictive temporal models for site burial and preservation in the region. The results of this research not only provides baseline paleoenvironmental information, but is used for planning and heritage management purposes.

Books, Monographs, Edited Journal Issues

  • Information and Its Role in Hunter-Gatherer Bands, coeditor with R. Whallon and R.K. Hitchcock, Ideas, Debates and Perspectives 5. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, University of California – Los Angeles, Los Angeles. (xvi+368 pp., 55 Figures and Plates, References) 2011. (Paper: ISBN 978-1-931745-64-2; Cloth: ISBN 978-1-931745-63-5)
  • Guest co-editor with R. Whallon and R.E. Donahue. Special issue of Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 25:175-274. 2006.
  • Modeling Archaeological Site Burial in Southern Michigan: A Geoarchaeological Synthesis, coauthor with G.W. Monaghan. Environmental Research Series No. 1, Michigan Department of Transportation. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing. (v + 278pp, CD-ROM) 2005.
  • An Upper Great Lakes Archaeological Odyssey: Essays in Honor of Charles E. Cleland, Editor. Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills, MI. (xiv + 247 pp), 2004, (ISBN 0-87737-045-1)

Recent Articles and Book Chapters

  • “Hardwood ash nixtamalization may lead to false negatives for the presence of maize by depleting bulk δ13C in carbonized residues”, with G. R. Urquhart, M. E. Raviele, and J. P. Hart. Journal of Archaeological Science. In Press.
  • “The Potential of Bulk δ13C on Encrusted Cooking Residues as Independent Evidence for Regional Maize Histories”, with J. P. Hart, R. J. Jeske, and J. D. Richards. American Antiquity 76. 2011.
  • “Space, Information and Knowledge: Ethnocartography and North American Boreal Forest Hunter-Gatherers, with R.E. Donahue. In Information and Its Role in Hunter-Gatherer Bands, edited by R. Whallon, W. A. Lovis and R. K. Hitchcock, pp. 59-88. Ideas, Debates, and Perspectives 5. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, University of California – Los Angeles, Los Angeles. 2011.
  • “A Synopsis of Information and its Role in Hunter-Gatherer Band-Level Societies”, with R. Whallon. In Information and Its Role in Hunter-Gatherer Bands, edited by R. Whallon, W. A. Lovis and R. K. Hitchcock, pp. 281-288. Ideas, Debates, and Perspectives 5. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, University of California – Los Angeles, Los Angeles. 2011.
  • “Lithic Raw Material Sourcing and the Assessment of Mesolithic Landscape Organization and Mobility Strategies in Northern England”, with J. L. Langer, A. A. Evans, R. E. Donahue, Y. B. Wolframm. The Holocene 20:1157-1163. 2010.
  • “Specialization of Ceramic Production: A Sherd Assemblage Based Analytic Perspective”, with A. Hirshman and H. Pollard. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 29:265-277. 2010.
  • “A Pedagogue’s Tale of Laurel Scrapers, Caching, and Collective Behavior”. In A Superior Archaeology: Papers in Honor of Marla M. Buckmaster. The Wisconsin Archeologist, guest edited by J. Richards and J. Skibo, 90(1&2):132-154. 2010.
  • “Between the Glaciers and Europeans: Michigan’s First People 12 000 B.P. to 400 B.P.” In Michigan: Geography and Geology, edited by R. J. Schaetzl, J. T. Darden, and D. Brandt, pp. 389-401. Pearson Custom Publishing/Prentice-Hall, Boston, MA. 2009.
  • "Hunter-Gatherer Adaptations and Alternate Perspectives on the Michigan Archaic: Research Problems in Context" In Archaic Societies of the Midcontinent, edited by T. Emerson, D. McElrath, and A. Fortier, pp. 725-754. The State University of New York Press, Albany. 2009.
  • “Chronology and Evolution of the Green Point Floodplain and Associated Cucurbita pepo”, with G. W. Monaghan. In Current Research in Northeast Paleoethnobotany II, edited by J. P. Hart, pp. 141-150. Bulletin 512. New York State Museum, Albany. 2008.
  • "The Sourcing of 'Black Chert': Implications for Mesolithic Hunter-Gatherer Mobility Strategies in Northern England" with A. A. Evans, Y. B. Wolframm, and R. E. Donahue. Journal of Archaeological Science, 34:2161-2169. 2007.
  • "The Freshwater Reservoir and Radiocarbon Dates on Cooking Residues: Old Apparent Ages or a Single Outlier? Comments on Fischer and Heinemeier (2003)" with J.P. Hart. Radiocarbon: an International Journal of Cosmogenic Isotope Research, 49:1403-1410. 2007.
  • “Paleodietary Implications from Stable Isotope Analysis of Experimental Cooking Residues," with J.P. Hart, J.K. Schulenberg, and J.R. Urquhart. Journal of Archaeological Science 34:804-813. 2007.
  • "Regional Sampling and Site Evaluation Strategies for Predicting Mesolithic Settlement in the Yorkshire Dales, England" with R. E. Donahue. In Preserving the Early Past. Investigation, Selection and Preservation of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Sites and Landscapes, edited by E. Rensink and H. Peeters, pp. 13-24. Nederlandse Archeologische Rapporten (NAR) 31. Rijksdienst voor het Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek (ROB), Amersfoort, The Netherlands. 2006.
  • "Regional Settlement Systems in Mesolithic Northern England: Scalar Issues in Mobility and Territoriality," with R.E. Donahue. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 25:248-258. 2006.
  • "The Earliest Cucurbita from the Great Lakes Region, Northern USA," with G.W. Monaghan and K.C. Egan-Bruhy. Quaternary Research: An Interdisciplinary Journal 65:216-222. 2006.
  • "Long Distance Logistic Mobility as an Organizing Principle among Northern Hunter-Gatherers: A Great Lakes Middle Holocene Settlement System," with R.E. Donahue and M.B. Holman. American Antiquity 70:669-693. 2005.

Selected Exhibitions

  • "Regional Settlement in Mesolithic Northern England" and "Predicting Mesolithic Settlement in the Yorkshire Dales" produced with R.E. Donahue and H. Russ. Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitor Center, Malham, North Yorkshire, England. 2007 and ongoing.

Selected Honors

  • U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, James B. Hoffa Case, 2006
  • Society for American Archaeology Presidential Recognition Award, 1998
  • Testimony to Senate and House of Representatives Committees of U. S. Congress, 1992-1995
  • Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1973
  • New York University Scholar, 1965-1969


Ph.D., Anthropology, Michigan State University, 1973 
M.A., Anthropology, Michigan State University, 1972 
B.S., History Secondary Education, New York University, 1969