Distinguished Research Professor 2022
Victor Thompson, professor in the Department of Anthropology, is one of the world’s most productive, cutting-edge coastal archaeologists. He explores how Native American communities managed coastal resources over thousands of years, including adapting to climate change and sea-level rise. In teams of specialists and students from diverse fields, Thompson and his colleagues use sophisticated approaches to analyze and interpret coastal settlements while building equitable, respectful relations with descendant communities. He has developed new theoretical perspectives on how humans cooperate to harvest and manage collective resources and create monuments. Native Americans built some of the earliest known large-scale monuments on the southeastern U.S. coast, piling up shellfish that had accumulated as food refuse over the centuries to create human-made islands for ritual and political purposes. More recently, he has been investigating how Native Americans harvested oysters sustainably for 5,000 years. This knowledge could help inform resource management in today’s coastal areas.