BELOIT (WIFR) -- Archaeologist Steve Lekson is changing the past, or at least our ideas about the past. His work at prehistoric ruins throughout the Southwest convinces him that ancient Native American societies were more complex, connected, and cosmopolitan than the average textbook leads us to believe.
Dr. Lekson, a professor and curator of anthropology at the University of Colorado, will discuss his explorations, discoveries, and controversial ideas when he receives the 2011 Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award. The award and acceptance lecture, “The Rhythm of Regional Interaction in the Ancient Southwest,” will be presented in a public ceremony on Friday, February 4, at 4:30 p.m. in Eaton Chapel on the Beloit College campus in Beloit, Wisconsin
Dr. Lekson’s visit to Beloit also will include a presentation to area students titled “Digging in the Southwest: My Life as Indiana Jones, Sort Of” at Beloit Memorial High School. He will also meet with Beloit College classes and students and participate in a celebratory dinner with members and friends of the Roy Chapman Andrews Society.
Mass migrations, alignments that connected ancient towns, rulers who were really kings—these are part of the new picture, the “big picture,” of Southwestern archaeology that Dr. Lekson proposes. “Great things happened in the ancient Southwest,” he says. Not all archaeologists buy into his theories. Still, reviewers have called his new book, A History of the Ancient Southwest, a “magnum opus—a highwire act that strings hundreds of bold ideas into a dazzling new synthesis” and “one of the most provocative and forward-looking books in archaeology today… written with literary flair, wit, and a dash of sarcasm.”
Dr. Lekson’s most recent excavations have been at Black Mountain pueblo, a huge ruin in the bleak Chihuahua Desert of southern New Mexico. The site may be a “missing link” between the famous Mimbres and Casas Grandes cultures of the Southwest.
The tenth explorer and first archaeologist to receive the Distinguished Explorer Award, Steve Lekson has been discovering and digging ancient sites for nearly 40 years. Before moving to the University of Colorado, he served as President and CEO of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colorado, and as an archaeologist with museums in Arizona and New Mexico. His explorations have been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, and National Park Service.
The Distinguished Explorer Award program is a principal focus of the Roy Chapman Andrews Society. Founded in 1998, the Society’s mission is to honor the legacy of one of the most celebrated explorers of the 20th century by educating the public about Andrews’s life, work, and adventures; promoting the value of scientific exploration and discovery; and emphasizing Andrews’s lifetime ties to Beloit (in addition to growing up in and staying connected to the city, he was a 1906 graduate of Beloit College).