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May 1, 2001

SMU ANTHROPOLOGY PROFESSOR ELECTED TO NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

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DALLAS (SMU) -- An anthropology professor from Southern Methodist University was one of 72 U.S. scientists elected today to the National Academy of Sciences.

Lewis R. Binford, the University Distinguished Professor of Archaeology in SMU's Dedman College, is the second SMU anthropology professor elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Fred Wendorf, an archaeologist who has led research expeditions to northern Africa for more than 38 years, was elected to the Academy in 1987.

"Not many anthropology departments can say they have two members in the National Academy of Sciences," said Narayan Bhat, dean of research and graduate studies at SMU.

Election to membership in the National Academy of Sciences is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer. Scientists are elected to the Academy by current members in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. The Academy now has a total of 1,874 active members.

Binford joined the SMU faculty in 1991 after teaching for 23 years as a distinguished professor at the University of New Mexico. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of North Carolina and his master's degree and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan.

Often referred to as "The Father of Modern Archaeology," Binford has changed the way people think about prehistoric societies. An article in the November-December 1999 Scientific American magazine described Binford as "quite probably the most influential archaeologist of his generation."

Binford first gained notoriety in 1962 when he wrote a controversial article in American Antiquity proposing that archaeologists abandon their emphasis on cataloging artifacts and instead study what the artifacts revealed about the societies that produced them. The proposition launched what is now known as "New Archaeology."

"Archaeology has not been the same since Binford's 1962 article," said Jeremy Sabloff, director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and former president of the Society of American Archaeologists. "The boundless optimism he instilled and the intellectual ferment he stirred left a continuing legacy."

Who's Who in the History of Archaeology lists Binford among influential scientists such as Charles Darwin and Louis Leakey.

Throughout his career, Binford has practiced what he preached to his students and colleagues. He spent 20 years in remote areas of Africa, Alaska and Australia conducting research on cultural patterns of contemporary hunter-gatherers and reviving the practice of ethnoarchaeology -- the study of living societies to better understand societies of the past.

"I was trying to learn how the archaeological record comes into being by observing the dynamics of what people were doing, and then seeing what kinds of archaeological traces were left," Binford said.

Binford's legacy of research and analysis is summarized in Constructing Frames of Reference: an Analytical Method for Archaeological Theory Building Using Hunter-Gatherer and Environmental Data Sets, a 600-page book recently published by Princeton University Press.

"This is a landmark work. It provides a major synthesis of a huge body of cultural and environmental information and offers a number of original, provocative insights into hunter-gatherer lifeways," Sabloff said. "It also provides a methodological framework that should be highly influential for years to come."

Binford was one of only two researchers from Texas elected to the Academy this year. The other Texan elected was Marlan O. Scully, director of the Center for Theoretical Physics at Texas A&M University.

"Lewis Binford brings great distinction to the entire SMU faculty," said Jasper Neel, dean of Dedman College.


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