Bruce D. Smith

Smithsonian Institution


Primary Section: 51, Anthropology
Membership Type: Member (elected 2003)

Research Interests

Bruce D. Smith's research centers on the interactions between past human societies and their environments - particularly the spatial patterning of settlements and subsistence activities on ancient landscapes and human utilization, manipulation, and modification of biotic communities. His research often considers major episodes of change at a regional scale of analysis. In the 1970s Smith focused on the Mississippian Period (A.D. 1000-1400) chiefdoms of eastern North America - their overall subsistence patterns, how river valley landscapes and resource distribution shaped settlement patterns and community organization, and how Mississippian societies initially developed. Smith's research interests expanded In the 1980s to encompass the earlier (ca. 3,000 B.C.) transition in eastern North America from a hunting-and-gathering way of life to food production economies based on indigenous domesticated plants. In the 1980s and 1990s, Smith carried out a number of field and collections-based studies of the eastern domesticates, and documented that the region was an independent center of plant domestication. He also developed a general model for the spatial organization and subsistence systems of Hopewellian societies of the region, which by 300 B.C. to A.D. 200 had well developed and regionally variable food production economies. Dr. Smith's research expanded again in the mid-1990s to encompass the origins of agriculture world-wide and the initial domestication of plants and animals from both archaeological and biological perspectives. Currently he is interested in integrating biological and archaeological approaches to documenting plant and animal domestication and exploring the conceptual and developmental middle ground between hunting-gathering and agriculture.

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