Anthropology Club, Department Host 21st Annual Anthropology Lectureship

Guest Lecturer Bonnie Pitblado and Heather Smith, Anthropology Department Chair. The Chase Photo: Matthew Dale

The Mu Alpha Nu Anthropology Club and the Department of Anthropology and Applied

Archeology hosted the 21st annual Cynthia Irwin-Williams Anthropology Lectureship on Friday,

Jan. 7. Bonnie Pitblado presented her lecture called “Paleoindian Use of the Rocky Mountains:

Higher and Earlier than You Thought!”

Pitblado’s speech primarily focused on how anthropologists and archeologists have been

able to prove that when the first people came to North America, they settled in the Rocky

Mountains. The first people migrated to North America across the land bridge that connected

northeastern Siberia to western Alaska. Pitbaldo mentioned that “the peopling [of the Rocky

Mountain] was a process” that did not happen quickly.

The reason that the first settlers of North America chose to settle in the mountains was

because they came from mountainous areas in Siberia. These mountainous areas in Asia were

populated because the mountains are “the source of all life,” according to Pitblado. The Rocky

Mountains drew these people not only because the terrain was similar to the places they had

lived before, but because the area was rich in resources. Such resources included fresh mountain

water and various types of stones.

The “verticality” of the mountains also made the different resources easier for them to

find because they were closer together. Pitblado also mentioned that the spirituality of mountains

can also be a draw to them because “mountains are places of power.”

Evidence found in three different caches in different areas of the Rocky Mountains have

allowed scientists to ascertain the time periods people were there. In all three caches, artifacts

were found among various types of high-quality stones from different regions of the Rocky

Mountains. The stones found in these caches prove that the inhabitants in the different regions

were in contact with one another, possibly trading the stones. They also understood which types

of stones were the best quality, as these types were stored in the caches for later use. In one of

the caches, a child’s burial was found among the artifacts; this was similar to the burial of child

found at a site in the Sayan Mountains in Siberia. This provided a connection between the two


Bonnie Pitblado is a professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. She

received her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1999. Pitblado has spent her career

researching when, why and how people began using the mountainous environments of the Rocky


The annual Cynthia Irwin-Williams lectureship is dedicated to former ENMU teacher

Cynthia Irwin-Williams who taught from 1964 to 1982. When Irwin-Williams was 12, she began

working part-time at the Department of Archeology in the Denver Museum of Natural History

alongside her 14-year-old brother. She attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass. where

she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology in 1957 and 1958, respectively.

In 1963, she graduated from Harvard University with a Ph.D., also in anthropology. At the

beginning of her career, she was in a mostly male-dominated field. Irwin-Williams had a long,

successful career that lasted over 30 years and produced over 60 publications.

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