James Brown is professor emeritus in the department of Anthropology at Northwestern University. He is an anthropological archaeologist recognized for his work on evolutionary processes at work in mid-range societies that range from hunter-gatherers to maize agriculturalists in the pre-contact American Midwest.
He is known particularly for his studies from a cross-cultural perspective involved in the development of sedentary settlement, social institution building, mortuary and religious organizations, and ritual practice. Brown was born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1934 and attended the University of Chicago, graduating there with an AB in liberal arts in 1954, an MA in anthropology in 1957 and PhD in 1965. He was on the faculty of Michigan State University before joining Northwestern University in 1971, where he served as chair of the department of anthropology.

Research Interests

From various material remains recovered archaeologically Brown studies the social processes that created evolutionary change in low-density part-time agriculturalists of the eastern United States. Examples include the rise of population aggregation centers with massive earthworks at different times and places. Specifically, Mound City (OH), Cahokia (IL) and Spiro (OK) have been the subject of detailed analyses to reveal the ritual practices, including the treatment of the dead, that index the social and political factors that made these locations of particular importance at specific times. Current interest has been engaged in the identification of specific social processes that continue through long periods of time and leave their imprint on such topics as settlement aggregation, food production, institution building, craft production, and image production.

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Section 51: Anthropology