George L. Cowgill (Grangeville, Idaho 1929 - Tempe, Ariz. 2018)

American anthropologist and archaeologist, he conducted extensive fieldwork at the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan for most of his career. He also made important contributions to the application of quantitative techniques to archaeology and to many aspects of archaeological method and theory.

He did his undergraduate work in Physics at Stanford University before switching to Anthropology (A.M. Chicago, 1956; Ph.D. Harvard, 1963). He taught at the Brandeis University (1960-1990) and at the Arizona State University (1990-2005), and was Professor Emeritus from 2005 until his death. His research interests mainly focused on Mesoamerica, and especially on the pre-Aztec city of Teotihuacan, about 25 miles away from present day Mexico City.

He was a pioneering researcher in the application of mathematics and computer science to archaeology. His extensive database of the artefacts collected in the survey of Teotihuacan, implemented in the 1960s, is one of the first large-scale archaeological databases. He published important methodological papers on seriation, artefact classification, and spatial analysis techniques, producing innovative studies of the extent and spatial organisation of Teotihuacan. He provided many advancements in the study of ancient demography and in the comparative analysis of early states and cities.

In 1987 he won the Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology and in 2004 he was awarded the prestigious Alfred Vincent Kidder Award for Eminence in the Field of American Archaeology. In 2011 he set up his personal website, shortlisting a selection of his publications, which better illustrate his work and his thoughts. Some of them are also provided with the Author’s comments.