Steven Shackley

Steven Shackley

Professor Emeritus
Dept of Anthropology
(510) 642-2533
(510) 643-9637
Research Expertise and Interest
Northwest Mexico, anthropology, archaeology, North America, geochemical analysis
Research Description

Professor Shackley is currently engaged in a number of research and laboratory projects and continues field and lab research on archaeological obsidian in western North America including northern Mexico. This research continues to involve undergraduate and graduate students in the x-ray fluorescence laboratories in the Departments of Earth and Planetary Science and Anthropology, many of which have based their Senior Theses and doctoral dissertations on this lab work. Beginning in 2007, Shackley's Geoarchaeological XRF Lab became a National Science Foundation supported lab, including a Thermo QuantX EDXRF spectrometer, graduate student support and general lab support.

Pursuing long-term research on Southwestern obsidian sources, Dr. Shackley continues NSF and Stahl Endowment funding to continue the quantitative analysis of archaeological obsidian from the Southwest and northern Mexico. Field research also continues in the search for as yet unlocated sources of artifact quality obsidian, particularly in Arizona, Chihuahua, and Baja California. Analyses of archaeological obsidian from the Southwest is derived from all periods from Paleoindian to Classic period Hohokam and Late Prehistoric. Shackley pursues this research through teaching the linked laboratory and field courses, cross-listed in Anthropology and Earth and Planetary Sciences.

In 1996, Dr. Shackley began research with Dr. Bruce Huckell of the Maxwell Museum, University of New Mexico , at McEuen Cave (AZ W:13:6 ASM), an Archaic period rockshelter in the Gila Mountains of southeastern Arizona.

The rockshelter has yielded dates in the Late Archaic/Early Agricultural period (2000-3000 B.P.), as well as a tremendous number of organic artifacts including baskets, a complete atlatl, dart and arrow fragments, cordage, and early maize cobs. Dry rockshelters are very uncommon in the southern Southwest, and the project directors hoped to address the effect of both early agriculture and the advent of bow technology on hunter-gatherer society. During the summer of 1997, working with graduate students from the University of New Mexico and Berkeley, testing revealed a large area of undisturbed deposits with maize cob fragments in association with Cortaro, Chiricahua, and San Pedro Archaic projectile points. Obsidian hydration analyses and radiocarbon suggest that the lower levels are not vertically mixed and nine maize fragments submitted to the CAMS Lab at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories for AMS 14C dating yielded dates between over 4000 to 2200 B.P (2sd), also indicating relatively intact deposits. The one 2sd maize date over 4000 years old, while out of sequence, indicated one of the earliest forager-farmer occupations in North America.

We received NSF funding for a second intensive field season in July 2001. We expanded the area that appeared to be undisturbed and sampled the disturbed portions of the cave. Twenty-three of the maize and squash remains recovered are over 4000 years old; the oldest suite of maize north of Mexico. The field results indicate that maize arrived in the Southwest at a time when everyone was living as hunter-gatherers, and maize, beans, and squash were not fully integrated into an agricultural lifeway for almost 1000 years.

Since 2005 Shackley continues a long-term geoarchaeological project in the newly formed Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern Mexico. This project is run, in part, as the only geoarchaeological science field school in the U.S.(Anth 131C/EPS 171C) training undergraduates and graduate students in the emerging discipline combining geology and archaeology to solve archaeological problems. The project is funded by the National Park Service, Los Alamos National Lab and is in collaboration with local native groups such as San Ildefonso and Jemez. After the field portion of the study, students return to the Geoarchaeological XRF Lab at Berkeley in the Undergraduate Research Program at Berkeley for intensive analysis of the obsidian and other source materials from the caldera region giving students a breadth of experience from the field to the lab.

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