Kent Lightfoot

Kent Lightfoot

Professor |Archaeology
2251 College Building, Room 213
Office Hours
Wednesday 1:30-3:30; Friday 1:30-2:30

Current/Future Courses

Analysis of the Archaeological Record

Spring 2016 |Undergraduate

Special Interests

North American Archaeology with specialization in California, coastal hunter-gatherers, colonialism


            Kent G. Lightfoot is Professor of Anthropology and Class of 1960 Chair in Undergraduate Education at the University of California, Berkeley.  Trained in the field of North American archaeology, he specializes in the study of late pre-colonial people and their subsequent encounters with diverse European colonial regimes.  After receiving his B.A. in Anthropology from Stanford University (1975), and his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Arizona State University (1981), he taught at Northern Illinois University (1982) and the SUNY at Stony Brook (1982-1987), before joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1987.  He currently serves as the Curator of North American Archaeology in the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology and as a Faculty Associate of the Archaeological Research Facility on the Berkeley campus.

            Lightfoot has directed archaeological projects in New England, the American Southwest, and along the Pacific Coast of North America.  In the last ten years he has focused his studies on the impressive shell mounds of the greater San Francisco Bay, the Russian colony of Fort Ross (1812-1843) and nearby historic Spanish missions in northern California, and landscape management practices employed by complex hunter-hunters in central California.  These collaborative research programs, involving local tribes, state and national parks, and students and faculty from a diverse range of fields, have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, and the Joint Fire Science Program.  The inter-disciplinary nature of this work has been facilitated by the Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology at UC Berkeley.  Lightfoot and his collaborators have published their work in a series of book chapters and journal articles, including a special issue of California Archaeology (2013).  Lightfoot’s recent books include Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers (2005, UC Press) and California Indians and their Environments: An Introduction (with Otis Parrish) (2009, UC Press). 

            During his tenure as a Guggenheim Fellow (2014-2015) and Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University (2014-2015), Lightfoot worked on a new theoretical perspective for understanding complex hunter-gatherers in California that synthesizes a wealth of recent information about their sophisticated management practices designed to enhance the biodiversity and sustainability of biotic communities.  He is currently exploring how these strategies of diversification may have differed fundamentally from other Native American populations involved primarily in agrarian production.  In collaboration with members of his research team, he is evaluating how these indigenous enhancement practices may provide new insights for policies and practices currently employed in the management of open spaces and wild lands in California. 



Representative Publications

Lightfoot, Kent   (2005)   Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers.  University of California Press, Berkeley.

Lightfoot, Kent and Otis Parrish   (2009)  California Indians and their Environment: An Introduction.  University of California Press, Berkeley.

Lightfoot, Kent G. and Valentin Lopez   (2013)  The Study of Indigenous Management Practices in California: An Introduction. California Archaeology 5(2):209-219

Lightfoot, Kent G., Rob Q. Cuthrell, Cristie M.  Boone, Roger Byrne, Andrea S. Chavez, Laurel Collins, Alicia Cowart, Rand R. Evett, Fine V.A. Paul, Diane Gifford-Gonzalez, Mark G. Hylkema, Valentin Lopez, Tracy M. Misiewicz and Rachel E. B.  Reid   (2013)  Anthropogenic Burning on the Central California Coast in Late Holocene and Early Historical Times: Findings, Implications, and Future Directions. California Archaeology 5(2):371-390.

Lightfoot, Kent G., Lee M. Panich, Tsim D. Schneider, Sara L. Gonzalez, Matthew A. Russell, Darren Modzelewski, Theresa Molino, Elliot H.Blair   (2013)   The Study of Indigenous Political Economies and Colonialism in Native California:  Implications for Contemporary Tribal Groups and Federal Recognition.  American Antiquity 78(1):89-103.

Lightfoot, Kent G, Rob Q. Cuthrell, Chuck J. Striplen, Mark G. Hylkema (2013)  Rethinking the Study of Landscape Management Practices Among Hunter-Gatherers in North  America.  American Antiquity 78 (2):285-301.

Finstad, Kari M., B. Lynn Ingram, Peter Schweikhardt, Kent G. Lightfoot, Edward M. Luby, George R. Coles  (2013)   New Insights about the Construction and Use of Shell Mounds from the Geochemical Analysis of Mollusks: An Example from the Greater San Francisco Bay.  Journal of Archaeological Science 40:2648-2658.

Lightfoot, Kent G.   (2014)   A Cubist Perspective of Indigenous Landscapes and Spanish Missions In Indigenous Landscapes and Spanish Missions: New Perspectives from Archaeology and Ethnohistory, edited by L. M. Panich and T. D. Schneider, pp. 191-208. The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.

Lightfoot, Kent G.    (2015)   Dynamics of Change in Multiethnic Societies: An Archaeological Perspective from     ColonialNorth America.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(30):9216-9223.

Lightfoot, Kent G. and Rob Q. Cuthrell  (2015)   Anthropogenic Burning and the Anthropocene in Late Holocene California.  The Holocene. Published on-line.


"Lightfoot not only adds a useful text to the study of colonial effects on the Indians of California, but fosters his arguments for the developing field of 'historical anthropology.'" - GLENN J. FARRIS, Jrnl of California & Great Basin Anthropology.