College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Anthropology

Dr. Colin Grier

Ph.D., Arizona State University
Associate Professor

Research Interests - Current Research - Courses - Graduate Students - Publications


Research Interests

Northwest Coast of North America; Korean Peninsula and Pacific Rim; complex hunter-gatherers; social inequality; agency theory and political economy; quantitative and spatial analysis; zooarchaeology; aDNA and stable isotopes

Current Research

Research on Complex Hunter Gatherers

My core research interest concerns the organization of complex hunter-gatherer-fisher societies. For this, I take a comparative perspective, drawing on case studies from primarily coastal regions around the world.

I adopt a theoretical perspective that situates human agency in the context of the constraining and enabling structures in which humans exist, including social networks, political institutions and ecological and socially-constructed landscapes.

My research focus is on the emergence of supra-household institutions in small-scale societies, including the formation of large households, structured communities and regional sociopolitical systems. I have a strong interest in household change, and how resources become increasingly controlled within the context of households. This approach situates my research in the context of one of the long-standing questions addressed by anthropology—how does social inequality emerge in small-scale societies?

Areas of the world and peoples on which I have carried out research, and which inform my perspective, include the Northwest Coast of North America, the Korean peninsula and Pacific Rim, Arctic whaling societies, coastal Florida, and the European Upper Paleolithic/Mesolithic. I am constantly looking to expand the ethnographic and archaeological contexts in which questions concerning complex hunter-gatherer organization can be addressed.

Northwest Coast Complexity

My archaeological research on the Northwest Coast of North America centers on investigating the economic organization, social institutions and political economy of precontact complex hunter-gatherers. Much of this research takes place in the Salish Sea in southwestern British Columbia, the traditional territory of Coast Salish peoples. Here, I am looking into the relationship between the development of large households, village formation, social inequality, resource ownership and intensive storage economies.

My research in the Gulf Islands has been driven by on-going fieldwork involving excavations at early village sites and settlement pattern research. My current National Science Foundation grant funds research into the co-evolution of coastal landforms and ancient Hul’qumi’num settlement. (see Grier 2014b)

For these projects, I work collaboratively with the Penelakut and Lyackson First Nations, and other Nations of the Hul’qumi’num peoples (see below).

A Comparative Perspective: Archaeology on the Korean Peninsula

In Korea, I engage in field research and analysis in partnership with Dr. Jangsuk Kim (see Grier et al. 2006; Grier and Kim 2012) with the ultimate purpose of assessing the processes that fueled the emergence of social complexity in small-scale, coastal societies in East Asia.

This comparative research focuses specifically on households, analyzing changes in household size and resource storage capacity over time. Since household organization is a barometer of broader changes in society, we are working to better document and explain these contrasting trajectories of household change on the Northwest Coast and the Korean Peninsula.



  • ANTH 230 - Introduction to Archaeology
  • ANTH 430 - Introduction to Archaeological Method and Theory


  • ANTH 537 - Quantitative Methods in Anthropology (lab course)
  • ANTH 540 - Prehistory of the Northwest Coast
  • ANTH 546 - Complexity in Small Scale Societies
  • ANTH 573 - Zooarchaeology (lab course)

Graduate Students

The graduate students I currently supervise:

PhD Students
Patrick Dolan
Adam Rorabaugh
Erin Smith

MA Students
Paige Hawthorne
Justin Hopt
Matthew Marino
Juliet McGraw

While I currently have a significant supervisory load, I am always interested in talking with prospective students who share my research and theoretical interests, and who can contribute skills and enthusiasm to the research team.


Representative Publications

2014 Grier, Colin
Landscape Construction, Ownership and Social Change in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 38(1):211-249.

2014 Grier, Colin
Which Way Forward? [Introduction to the Special Section]. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 38(1):135-139.

2014 Kemp Brian M, Cara Monroe, K. G. Judd, Erin Reams, and Colin Grier.
Evaluation of Methods that Subdue the Effects of Polymerase Chain Reaction Inhibitors in the Study of Ancient and Degraded DNA. Journal of Archaeological Science 42: 373-380.

2014 Angelbeck, Bill and Colin Grier
From Paradigms to Practices: Pursuing Horizontal and Long-Term Relationships with Indigenous Peoples for Archaeological Heritage. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 38(2), in press.

2014 Witt, Kelsey E., Kathleen Judd, Andrew Kitchen, Colin Grier, Timothy A. Kohler, Scott G. Ortman, Brian M. Kemp and Ripan S. Malhi
DNA Analysis of Ancient Dogs of the Americas: Identifying Possible Founding Haplotypes and Reconstructing Population Histories. Journal of Human Evolution, in press.

2013   Grier, Colin, Kelli Flanigan, Misa Winters, Leah G. Jordan, Susan Lukowski and Brian M. Kemp
Using Ancient DNA Identification and Osteometric Measures of Archaeological Pacific Salmon Vertebrae for Reconstructing Salmon Fisheries and Site Seasonality at Dionisio Point, British Columbia. Journal of Archaeological Science 40(1):544-555.

2013   Monroe, Cara, Colin Grier and Brian M. Kemp
Evaluating the Efficacy of various Thermo-stable Polymerases against co-extracted PCR Inhibitors in Ancient DNA Samples. Forensic Science International 228:142-153.

2012  Angelbeck, Bill and Colin Grier
Anarchism and the Archaeology of Anarchic Societies: Resistance to Centralization in the Coast Salish Region of the Pacific Northwest Coast (with CA Comments and Reply). Current Anthropology 53(5):547-587.

2012  Grier, Colin and Jangsuk Kim
Resource Control and the Development of Political Economies in Small-Scale Societies: Contrasting Prehistoric Southwestern Korea and the Coast Salish Region of Northwestern North America. Journal of Anthropological Research 68(1):1-34.

2012  Grier, Colin and Susan Lukowski
On Villages, Quantification and Appropriate Context: A Comment on “Social Archaeology of a Northwest Coast House” by Paul A. Ewonus. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 7:3, 430-436.

2012  Grier, Colin
Thinking through Local and Regional Histories: Recent Research at Dionisio Point and in the Outer Gulf Islands. The Midden 44(1):6-9.

2010  Grier, Colin
Probable Pasts and Possible Futures: Issues in the Reconstruction of Complex Hunter- Gatherers of the Northwest Coast. In La Excepción y la Norma: Las Sociedades Indígenas de la Costa Noroeste de Norteamérica desde la Archaeología, edited by A. Vila and J. Estévez, pp. 116-134. Treballs D’Ethnoarqueologia, 8, Madrid [Spanish version with extended English abstract] [English version].

2010  Grier, Colin
Review of Projectile Point Sequences in Northwestern North America. In Canadian Journal of Archaeology 34:115-118

2009 Grier, Colin; Patrick Dolan, Kelly Derr and Eric B. McLay

Assessing Sea Level Changes in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia Using Archaeological Data from Coastal Spit Locations. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 33:254-280.

2009 Corr, Linda T., Michael P Richards, Colin Grier, Alexander Mackie and Richard P. Evershed

Probing Dietary Change of Kwaday Dan Ts¹inchi, An Ancient Glacier Body from British Columbia II: Deconvoluting Whole Skin and Bone Collagen Delta 13C Values via Carbon Isotope Analysis of Individual Amino Acids. Journal of Archaeological Science 36:12-18.

2008 Grier, Colin and Chief Lisa Shaver

Working Together: The Role of Archaeologists and First Nations in Sorting Out Some Very Old Problems in British Columbia. The SAA Record 8(1):33-35.

2007 Grier, Colin

Consuming the Recent for Constructing the Ancient: The Role of Ethnography in Coast Salish Archaeological Interpretation. In Be Of Good Mind: Essays on the Coast Salish, edited by B.G. Miller. UBC Press, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

2006 Colin Grier, Jangsuk Kim, and Junzo Uchiyama (editors)

Beyond Affluent Foragers: Rethinking Hunter-Gatherer Complexity, Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK.

2006 Grier, Colin

Affluence on the Prehistoric Northwest Coast of North America. In
Beyond Affluent Foragers: Rethinking Hunter-Gatherer Complexity, edited by
C. Grier, J. Kim and J. Uchiyama, pp. 126-135. Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK.

2006  Kim, Jangsuk and Colin Grier
Beyond Affluent Foragers. In Beyond Affluent Foragers: Rethinking Hunter-Gatherer Complexity, edited by C. Grier, J. Kim and J. Uchiyama, pp. 192-200. Oxbow Books, Oxford.

2006 Grier, Colin

Temporality in Northwest Coast Households. In Household Archaeology on the Northwest Coast, edited by E.A. Sobel, D.A. Trieu Gahr, and K.M. Ames, pp. 97-119. International Monographs in Prehistory, Ann Arbor.

2006 Grier, Colin

The Political Context of Prehistoric Coast Salish Residences on the Northwest Coast. In Palaces and Power in the Americas: From Peru to the Northwest Coast, edited by J.J. Christie and P.J. Sarro, pp. 141-165. University of Texas Press, Austin.

2003 Grier, Colin

Dimensions of Regional Interaction in the Prehistoric Gulf of Georgia. In Emerging from the Mist: Studies in Northwest Coast Culture History, edited by R.G. Matson, Quentin Mackie, and Gary Coupland, pp. 170-187. UBC Press, Vancouver, BC.

2000 Grier, Colin

Labor Organization and Social Hierarchies in North American Arctic Whaling Societies. In Hierarchies in Action, Cui Bono?, edited by Michael W. Diehl, pp. 264-283. Center for Archaeological Investigations Occasional Paper No. 27, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois.

1999 Grier, Colin

The Organization of Production in Prehistoric Thule Whaling Societies. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 23:11-28.

1994 Grier, Colin and James M. Savelle

Intrasite Spatial Patterning and Thule Eskimo Social Organization. Arctic Anthropology 31(2):95-107.


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