The Center for the Study of the First Americans is part of the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M University. The department has 23 faculty members; seven prehistoric archaeologists, seven nautical archaeologists, five socio-cultural anthropologists, and four biological anthropologists. The department offers BA, BS, and PhD degrees.
Center faculty make up the core of the prehistoric archeologists and participate in the education and training of graduate and undergraduate students. They have developed a set of specialized undergraduate and graduate courses for students specializing in First American studies. These include First American Archaeology, Paleolithic Northeast Asia and Alaska, Method and Theory of Peopling of the Americans, Geoarchaeology, and Lithic Technological Organization.
In addition to classroom education, undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to become involved with Center research projects in both the field and laboratory. These provide hands-on training experiences in diverse setting from Texas to Alaska.
Center graduate students also take courses from other Anthropology faculty to obtain a full understanding of the field. Also, because the study of the First Americans is an interdisciplinary field, students are encouraged to take courses in other departments and colleges across the university. Courses in geochemistry, geophysics, geomorphology, sedimentology, pedology, ecology, and many other fields are available at Texas A&M University.
The Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University in 2019 was ranked seventh in the nation for the placement of PhD Archaeology Graduates among 100 doctoral programs. Click here to read more about the rankings.
Our graduates are now teaching at Florida State University, University of Louisville, University of Tennessee (Chatanooga), and other universities.
For more information about degree programs, see the Department of Anthropology website. Also, please contact us directly if you would like to discuss the program.
Adam Burke (Ph.D.)
Adam completed his BA in History at Wilkes University in 2010 and his MA in Applied Archaeology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2014. He is a Ph. D. student in the Center for the Study of the First Americans whose research focuses on geochemical sourcing of Florida toolstone and its implications for explaining Paleoindian mobility and subsistence strategies. Additionally, his research interests include Paleoindian lithic technology, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and site formation processes in karst environments. His recent research has included using Portable X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (PXRF) to determine chert provenance and define the effects of chemical weathering on lithic, ivory, and bone recovered from submerged contexts in Northwest Florida. Adam’s past experience includes submerged prehistoric excavations in Florida, terrestrial and underwater surveys in the Great Basin, and Cultural Resource Management survey throughout the Northeastern United States. (Chair: Mike Waters) (c.v.)
Marion Coe (Ph.D.)
Marion is interested in perishable technology and its relationship to human subsistence and landscape use in the Great Basin and Snake River Plain. She has conducted analyses using light and scanning-electron microscopy on perishable assemblages from the Four Siblings Rockshelter site in eastern Nevada and Aviators Cave lava-tube site at the Idaho National Laboratory, southeastern Idaho. Marion has worked at sites in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and she has been involved in CSFA projects in Alaska and Idaho. My dissertation research will focus on comparing regional plant-material usage in Paleoindian through Archaic periods. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
Caitlin Doherty (Ph.D.)
Caitlin Doherty earned her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of San Diego in 2015. Before arriving at Texas A&M, she participated in the Bethsaida Excavation Project in Israel for two years and worked for two years in cultural resource management in Southern California. She has also participated in laboratory research with lithic material from the C.W. Harris Site housed in the San Diego State University Archaeology Collections. In summer 2017, she joined Dr. Kelly Graf and the CSFA in excavating the McDonald Creek site, central Alaska. Her research interests include human behavioral ecology, particularly related to large-scale environmental change during the Late Pleistocene and early Holocene, and the lithic technologies, landscape use, and mobility of the First Americans. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
Angela Gore (Ph.D.)
Angela is interested in explaining Upper Paleolithic and Paleoindian technological organization, hunter-gatherer ecology, human behavioral adaptation, and modern human dispersals in Beringia and the Americas. Her dissertation research is focused on the interaction of human culture and the environment in the North American sub-Arctic, specifically concerning lithic toolstone technologies from the Late Pleistocene and Holocene of interior Alaska. She is especially interested in how toolstone selection, procurement, and geochemical sourcing can help archaeologists reconstruct environmental constraints, mobility, technologies, landscape use, and landscape learning through time. Angela has experience working as a field technician on several CSFA field projects including excavations at the Debra L. Friedkin site in central Texas, on Sakhalin Island, Russia, as well as several central Alaskan sites including Owl Ridge, Dry Creek, Blair Lakes, and McDonald Creek. She is currently co-directing excavations at Little Panguingue Creek in collaboration with The University of Paris Nanterre. (Chair: Kelly Graf)Technology and Human Response Owl Ridge ( c.v.)
Joshua Lynch (Ph.D.)
Josh is interested in how the first Americans interacted with their environments. Recently, he has been involved in CSFA excavations at Serpentine Hot Springs, a buried fluted point site on the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Seward Peninsula. Josh plans to develop a project that addresses how early Beringians organized technologies in response to climate flux during the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
Katelyn McDonough (Ph.D.)
Katelyn McDonough received her B.S. in Anthropology from the University of Oregon in 2014. Her primary research interests concern human adaptive responses to ecological shifts. Her dissertation work examines human-environment interactions and hunter-gatherer foodways in the Fort Rock Basin of central Oregon. Her first project investigates prehistoric diet and health through analysis of macrobotanical, palynological, parasitological, and lipid biomarker components of middle Holocene coprolites from the Connley Caves, Oregon. Katelyn is also using paleoethnobotanical approaches to examine the plant food economy associated with Western Stemmed Tradition tool technology in the northern Great Basin. Additionally, she is directing a sediment coring project aimed at paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the terminal Pleistocene/early Holocene transition in the Fort Rock Basin. Prior to attending Texas A&M University, she gained four years of archaeological experience while working for the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History, Bureau of Land Management, and private CRM firms throughout Oregon and California. Her recent summers have been spent conducting field work and co-directing the University of Oregon Archaeology Field School at the Connley Caves.(Chair: Vaughn Bryant and Ted Goebel) ( c.v.)
Sydney O’Brien (Ph.D.)
Sydney received a B.S. in both Anthropology and Geology from the University of West Georgia in 2018. She is interested in utilizing the principles and techniques of geology in archaeological research, specifically to understand hunter-gatherer lifeways and mobility during the Late Pleistocene. Sydney’s previous experience includes archaeological and geological field work in the Southeast, applying geological techniques to investigate site formation processes at a Late Archaic archaeological site in Fort Benning, Georgia. Additionally, she conducted lithic analyses on Paleoindian and Archaic assemblages from the Southeast, including debitage analysis from the Topper site, South Carolina. (Chair: Mike Waters)
Jordan Pratt received her B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Oregon in 2015. She is interested in the peopling of the Americas and Paleoindian archaeology in the northern Great Basin region of Oregon. Specifically, Jordan is interested in human behavioral ecology and exploring human adaptations to climate change. Her research interests include lithic technologies, and utilizing GIS to explore changes in mobility and settlement patterns through time. Jordan has archaeological and geoarchaeological research experience throughout the northern Great Basin, where she has worked as a field technician for the Burns Bureau of Land Management, and as a site supervisor for the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History’s Archaeological Field School at a number of sites, including Rimrock Draw Rockshelter and Skull Creek Dunes. She also has field experience in the Pacific, where she worked on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). (Chair: Ted Goebel) (c.v.)
Neil Puckett (Ph.D.)
Neil’s current research focus is the relationship between Paleoindians and water resources in the northwestern Great Basin. He is looking to identify how people adapted to changes in these systems as Pleistocene lakes dried up and access to water became more difficult. To accomplish this, he is investigating fluvial systems and basins that have been consistently inundated in the Great Basin and its western margin after 13,000 years ago. He will also be directing research such as coring within the lacustrine environments to determine the potential for submerged archaeology and buried “open air” sites at the margins between lacustrine and fluvial systems. The pilot study will be used to plan a survey, excavation, and testing program around and within the fluvial and lacustrine systems to present a complete picture of Paleoindian land use around the selected water systems. Ultimately this research will allow for a better understanding of how life ways changed in the Great Basin from the Late Pleistocene through the Early Holocene. (Chair: Kelly Graf)
Morgan Smith (Ph.D.)
Morgan received his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of West Florida in 2013 and began graduate studies with the CSFA later that same year. Morgan’s dissertation research concerns Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene archaeological sites in the Southeast United States in order to understand the role of the region during the peopling of the Americas. His field-work is focused at two sites: a Middle Paleoindian campsite in north Florida called Ryan-Harley and an Early Paleoindian mammoth butchery site in central Florida known as the Guest Mammoth. Excavations from both sites are helping him develop a regional geoarchaeological model for Paleoindian site location for the Lower Southeast that considers paleoclimatological, paleoenvironmental, and geological data. Morgan is also using data from both sites to examine subsistence and adaptive strategies of early hunter-gatherer populations during exploratory and settling-in phases during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Southeast. Morgan is also exploring geophysical and GIS-based survey methods to strengthen site location methods in submerged prehistoric archaeology. He also mentors multiple undergraduate students in the Anthropology Department, often involving them in labwork or bringing them into the field for hands-on experience and training. He is preparing to direct a large, multi-phase underwater geoarchaeological project throughout the state of Florida in the summer of 2019. (Chair: Mike Waters)
John White (Ph.D.)
John White is a native of Boulder, Colorado where he received his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Colorado. Following graduation, he was employed in cultural resource management, conducting archaeological survey and excavations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. He has participated in the CSFA excavations at McDonald Creek in central Alaska as well as During the 2018 season he assisted a team from the University of Victoria in the preliminary field season of the Northern Vancouver Island Archaeology and Paleoecology Project. John is primarily interested in the initial human colonization of the Americas, specifically the hypothesized coastal migration from Northeast Asia along the southern coast of Beringia and the ice-free refugia which would have been necessary for such a migration. Other, and related, research interests include lithic technological organization, landscape learning, and landscape exploitation by Paleoindian peoples. John’s research seeks to increase understanding of the earliest habitation of the southern coast of Alaska. He will excavate known sites in the Copper River basin while recovering environmental proxies from representative areas of Prince William Sound. This will facilitate the creation of a GIS-based predictive model for locating above-water, buried Pleistocene age sites in coastal environments. (Chair: Ted Goebel) (c.v.)
Ryan Young (Ph.D.)
Ryan completed his B.A. in Anthropology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2013. His M.A. thesis at Mississippi State University examined the stratigraphic integrity of the Clovis component on the Pleistocene Terrace at the Topper Site (38AL23). His research focuses on hunter-gatherer behavioral adaptations during the Pleistocene/Holocene transition in central Tennessee. For his dissertation research, Ryan plans to reexamine the stratigraphic integrity of previously documented Paleoindian sites along the Tennessee River such as Carson Conn Short and Heaven’s Half-Acre. Additionally, his research interests include geoarchaeology, stone tool organizational technology, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Ryan’s past archaeological experience includes working at sites, such as the Topper site, Bells Bend, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Moundville, Poverty Point, Russell Cave, and conducting surveys of the Norris Reservoir in Tennessee. (Chair: Mike Waters)
CSFA Student Graduates and their Research Projects
Angelina Perrotti (Ph.D. 2018)
Dissertation title: Palynological Evidence for Terminal Pleistocene Paleoenvironmental Change at Two Sites in the Southeastern United States. (Chair: Vaughn Bryant/Michael Waters).
Josh Keene (Ph.D. 2016) c.v.
Dissertation title: Geoarchaeology, Paleoecology, and Holocene Subsistence Change on the Upper Snake River Plain, Idaho. (Chair: Michael Waters)
John Blong (Ph.D. 2015) c.v.
Dissertation title: Prehistoric Landscape Use in the Central Alaska Range. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
Angela Younie (Ph.D. 2015) c.v.
Dissertation title: Microblades, Bifaces, and the Chindadn Complex: Reinvestigating the Healy Lake Archaeological Record, Alaska. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
Heather Smith (Ph.D. 2015) c.v.
Dissertation title: Paleoindian Technology in Beringia: A Technological and Morphological Analysis of the Northern Fluted-Point Complex. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
Jesse Tune (Ph.D. 2015) c.v.
Dissertation title: Settling into the Younger Dryas: Human Behavioral Adaptations During the Pleistocene to Holocene Transition in the Midsouth United States. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Melissa Mueller (M.A. 2015) c.v.
Thesis title: Taphonomy and Zooarchaeology of Faunal Assemblages from Archaeological Sites along the Upper Susitna River, Alaska. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
Kayla Schmalle (M.A. 2013)
Thesis title: Geoarchaeological Investigation of the Coats-Hines Site (40WM31), Williamson County, Tennessee. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Dissertation title: Geoarchaeological Investigations into Paleoindian Adaptations on the Aucilla River, Northwest Florida. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Dissertation title: Late Pleistocene Technological Organization at the Buttermilk Creek Site. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Dissertation title: Clovis Technology and Settlement in the American Southeast. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
John Blong (M.A. 2010)
Thesis title: Paleoindian Toolstone Provisioning and Settlement Organization at the Higgins Site. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
Heather Smith (M.A. 2010)
Thesis title: A Behavioral Analysis of Clovis Point Morphology Using Geometric Morphometrics. (Chair: Ted Goebel)
Josh Keene (M.A. 2009)
Thesis title: Site Formation Processes at the Buttermilk Creek Site (41BL1239), Bell County, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Charlotte Pevny (Ph.D. 2009)
Dissertation title: Clovis Lithic Debitage from Excavation Area 8 at the Gault Site (41BL323), Texas: Form and Function. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Juan Urista (M.A. 2009)
Thesis title: Stratigraphy and Geochronology of the Vernor Mammoth Site, Clute, Brazoria County, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Victor Galan (Ph.D. 2008)
Dissertation title: Excavation, Analysis, and Behavior of the Hegar and Texas Caches in Southeast Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Dawn Alexander (M.A. 2008)
Thesis title: Geoarchaeological Investigation of Natural Formation Processes to Evaluate Context of the Clovis Component at the Gault Site (41BL323), Bell Country, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Scott Minchak (M.A. 2007)
Thesis title: A Microwear Study of Clovis Blades from the Gault Site, Bell County, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Heidi Luchsinger (Ph.D. 2006)
Dissertation title:The Late Quaternary Landscape History of the Middle Rio Negro Valley, Northern Patagonia, Argentina: Its Impact on Preservation of the Archaeologiucal Record and Influence on Late Holocene Human Settlement Patterns. (Chair: Michael Waters)
Michael Aiuvalasit (M.A. 2006)
Thesis title:Geoarchaeological Investigation at the McNeill-Gonzales Site (41VT141), Victoria County, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)
William Dickens (Ph.D. 2005)
Dissertation title:Biface Reduction and Blade Manufacture at the Gault Site 41BL323: A Clovis Occupation in Bell County, Texas. (Chair: Michael Waters)