The Crow Canyon Research Institute

Mark Varien

Mark Varien

The Board of Trustees of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center formally launched the Crow Canyon Research Institute on February 1, 2014. Mark Varien, Ph.D., was named executive vice president of the Institute.

The Institute will create opportunities for archaeologists and scholars from other disciplines to conduct innovative research, collaborate with the Crow Canyon staff, and share the results through Crow Canyon programs and a variety of media.

Institute research will expand the Center’s capacity in all three of its mission areas: long-term multidisciplinary archaeological research, education about the human past, and partnerships with American Indians to build an accurate and inclusive story of the past.

The Crow Canyon Research Institute will break down disciplinary barriers and allow social scientists―archaeologists, economists, geographers, sociologists, and evolutionary psychologists, to name a few―to accomplish two broad objectives: create more-detailed, inclusive, and multivocal histories of the many cultural groups who have lived in the greater Southwest, and then compare those histories to others from around the world to better understand how and why cultures change, and to discern how the world came to be the way it is today.

The intellectual vision for the Crow Canyon Research Institute includes research, outreach, and advocacy in five areas:

  • Human/environment relationships: During a time of unprecedented environmental change, there is a pressing need to understand the various ways humans have responded to changes in the past. The Institute will conduct research on human ecosystems that could better inform policy decisions that help society manage environmental change today.
  • Cultures, institutions, and economies: Archaeological data provide unparalleled opportunities for cross-cultural economics research. The Institute will examine connections between culture, social institutions, and long-term economic performance in ancient societies worldwide, with the goal of identifying principles for long-term economic health.
  • Evolution and social complexity: What, exactly, are human societies, how do they emerge, and to what extent do they evolve? How and why have human societies grown exponentially in scale and complexity over the past 10,000 years? The Institute will invest in research that examines these questions, with the aim of defining the scope of human possibility.
  • Indigenous social science:  Most of the archaeological record was created by ancestors of contemporary indigenous people, but most archaeologists have not taken traditional knowledge seriously. The Institute will promote collaborative research among archaeologists, educators, and American Indians that leads to a deeper understanding of the human experience and that addresses questions that indigenous people have about their past.
  • Archaeology and cultural and scientific literacy. Archaeology offers learners an accessible gateway to acquire basic scientific and cultural skills, and it has much to offer 21st century science and social studies curricula. The Institute will promote multicultural perspectives on educational research, identify the most effective ways to communicate about the past, and communicate the past’s relevance to the present.

Existing staff will be eligible to pursue opportunities within the Institute, and external associates will join the Institute on a project-by-project basis.  Funding will include research endowments, private contributions, and external project-specific funds.

Dr. Varien will report to Crow Canyon’s president and CEO, Dr. Deborah Gangloff, and will be responsible for developing and directing Institute activities and initiatives.

An advisory group also will be called upon to advise on staffing and program decisions. That group includes:

  • Elaine Franklin, Director, Kenan Fellows Program for Curriculum and Leadership Development at North Carolina State University
  • Ricky Lightfoot, Crow Canyon President and CEO (1998–2010); member, Crow Canyon Board of Trustees
  • William D. Lipe, Professor Emeritus–Anthropology, Washington State University; member, Crow Canyon Board of Trustees
  • Margaret C. Nelson, Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and Vice Dean of Barrett, the Honors College, Arizona State University
  • Jeremy Arac Sabloff, President, Santa Fe Institute
  • Charles Stanish, Lloyd Cotsen Chair of Archaeology and Director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Joe Watkins, Supervisory Anthropologist and Chief of the Tribal Relations and American Cultures Program, National Park Service

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