Kent Lightfoot

Kent Lightfoot's picture
Professor
Archaeology House Head
Special Interests: 
Coastal archaeology, California, Southwestern and Northeastern archaeology and ethnography, theoretical issues of coastalhunter-gatherers.
Research: 

Kent Lightfoot's general research interests include North American prehistory, coastal hunter-gatherer societies, the emergence of early village communities, and culture contact between Native peoples and European explorers and colonists. His current work focuses on how indigenous peoples responded to European contact and colonialism, and how the outcomes of these encounters influenced cultural developments in postcolonial contexts. This involves the study of long-term culture change and persistence among coastal Native peoples that transcends prehistoric and historic boundaries. He is currently experimenting with an approach that incorporates a long-term diachronic perspective for comparing and contrasting the spatial organization of daily practices and cultural landscapes of coastal hunter-gatherer groups before, during, and after culture contact episodes.

Profile: 

My general research interests include North American prehistory, coastal hunter-gatherer societies, the emergence of early village communities, and culture contact between Native peoples and European explorers and colonists. My current work focuses on how indigenous peoples responded to European contact and colonialism, and how the outcomes of these encounters influenced cultural developments in postcolonial contexts. This work involves the study of long-term culture change and persistence among coastal Native peoples that transcends prehistoric and historic boundaries. I employ multiple lines of evidence drawn from archaeological materials, ethnohistorical accounts, ethnographic observations and Native oral traditions to consider the implications of early contacts with European explorers and later interactions in multi-ethnic colonial communities. I am currently experimenting with an approach that incorporates a long-term diachronic perspective for comparing and contrasting the spatial organization of daily practices and cultural landscapes of coastal hunter-gatherer groups before, during, and after culture contact episodes.

For the last ten years I have directed archaeological field work in northern California, specifically within the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Much of my research on coastal Native peoples and culture contact has focused on the Kashaya Pomo people and their incorporation into the colonial outpost of Fort Ross that was established by Russian merchants during the period of 1812 to 1841. In close collaboration with the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Kashaya Pomo tribe, we have developed an active field program at the Fort Ross State Historic Park along the scenic Sonoma County coast about 110 kilometers north of San Francisco. More than 300 undergraduate students from UC Berkeley have participated in the field program at Fort Ross and related study areas to date, along with State Park archaeologists and rangers, Kashaya Pomo tribal elders and students, and graduate students and faculty from the Anthropology Department and Archaeological Research Facility at UC Berkeley. Field projects include the investigation of the Native Alaskan Neighborhood, prehistoric and historic Kashaya Pomo villages, the north wall of the Ross Stockade, the Ross shipyard, and outlying Russian ranches and agricultural features.

The summer of 1998 marked the beginning of archaeological investigations at the Metini Village site, one of the principal villages inhabited by the Kashaya Pomo in the early and mid 1800's (possibly earlier as well), located in the heart of the multi-ethnic colonial community of Fort Ross. It offers an exceptional opportunity to examine Kashaya Pomo interactions and encounters with the Russian, Creole, and Native Alaskan workers at Fort Ross during the period of 1812 to 1841. The Metini Archaeological Project is supported by the National Science Foundation, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and UC Berkeley.

I am also working with several faculty and graduate students in comparing the Russian colonial experience with contemporaneous Spanish and Mexican encounters with Native peoples in the greater San Francisco Bay area. Fieldwork in the summer of 1998 involved excavations at the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park and the Presidio of San Francisco (Golden Gate National Parks). In addition, I am beginning to work with a group of interested Berkeley faculty on the impressive prehistoric shell mounds of the San Francisco Bay. While this study may eventually involve some field work, much of it will focus on archaeological collections housed in the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology on the Berkeley campus.

Office: 
2251 College, Room 213; Lab, 55 Kroeber
Phone: 
2-1309
Office Hours: 
On Leave Spring 2015
Representative Publications: 

1997. The Archaeology and Ethnohistory of Fort Ross, California (edited with Thomas Wake and Ann Schiff). Volume 2, The Native Alaskan Neighborhood: A Multiethnic Community at Colony Ross. Contributions of the University of California Archaeological Research Facility No. 55.

1991. The Archaeology and Ethnohistory of Fort Ross, California (edited with Thomas Wake and Ann Schiff). Volume 1. Introduction. Contributions of the University of California Archaeological Research Facility No. 49.

1989. The Sociopolitical Structure of Prehistoric Southwestern Societies (edited with Upham, Steadman, and Roberta Jewett). Boulder: Westview Press.

Books