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February 4, 2005

Renowned Archeologist To Visit ULM

Washington University in St. Louis Archaeology Professor Tristram R. Kidder will speak to the Chautauqua Nexus group on Thursday, February 10, concerning the late woodland and proto-historic periods. The discussion will occur at the Biedenharn Recital Hall at 7:15 p.m.

The event is part of the Nexus's Origin Series, an open public forum centered on the historical, geographical and cultural significance part and parcel of living in northeast Louisiana.

Kidder currently teaches full time at Washington University in St. Louis but continues advising graduate students at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Despite the necessity of traveling from St. Louis for the discussion, Kidder said he welcomed the opportunity to speak on the subject.

"Public outreach is critical for archaeology, and I believe it is my obligation to give something back to the public who, in so many ways, support my work," Kidder said. "I am very fortunate that I do what I love and love what I do, and I am always happy to talk about my work. Also, I have worked in northeast Louisiana for more than twenty years and have always been received with courtesy and kindness. I'd be ungracious if I didn't return the favor, so to speak. "

Kidder obtained his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1988 and has primarily focused on archaeological study of the evolution of human societies in the Southeastern United States. He also explores the fields of historical ecology and climate history.

"I hope to convey to the audience the remarkable nature of Indian history in this part of the world," Kidder said. "Like all others, these people were completely human with human values, wants, successes and faults. They erected massive monuments that amaze me, and yet we often ignore their accomplishments. The history of the Lower
Mississippi Valley and of Louisiana includes that of the Indians who were here before writing was brought with Europeans."

Kidder currently works on four interrelated research projects concerning comprehension of the social, political and economic evolution in Eastern North America from ca. 4000 BC to European contact. Three of the four projects are located in northeast Louisiana, including the Poverty Point site, the Raffman site in Madison Parish and the Nolan site, located about 3.5 miles from Raffman.

Kidder particularly targets the emergence of social ranking, the development of domesticated food crops and the causal (or potentially causal) relationship among and between these variables. Kidder examines the relationship between humans and the dynamic landscape of the alluvial valley of the Mississippi Valley.

Interests also include the nature of social evolution in Native American societies with the goal of understanding the circumstances that led to periods of greater or lesser social and political complexity, with one local example, courtesy the Poverty Point site, being the emergence and decline of mound building among Middle and Late Archaic cultures in eastern North America.

Kidder hopes that the audience comes away from the discussion with an even greater appreciation for the Native American history so inherent to the land around them.

"The past is to human society what memory is to the individual," Kidder said. "I want the audience to go home recognizing the accomplishments of these pre-contact-but not pre-historic-people and, I hope, recognizing that this past is also their past."

All Nexus presentations are free and open to the public. A complete schedule may be found online at: or on the ULM web calendar at

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