Tristram Randolph Kidder
Tristram Randolph Kidder (born 1960) is an archaeologist and geologist specializing in the evolution of human societies in Southeastern United States, especially Poverty Point, Louisiana. Kidder is particularly interested in the dynamics of human settlement in the Mississippi River Valley and how it was affected by prehistoric global climate change. Kidder is the grandson of Alfred V. Kidder, an archaeologist of the southwestern United States and Mesoamerica during the first half of the 20th century. Kidder is a third generation archaeologist; his uncle Alfred Kidder was an Andean archaeologist.
Early life and education
Kidder was born in Kobe, Japan in 1960 and lived there until he was 3 years old; his family then moved to the United States. Kidder received his B.A. in anthropology from Tulane University in 1982 before earning his Ph.D. from Harvard University. While at Harvard, Kidder studied under Stephen Williams.
Kidder returned to Tulane in 1989 as an assistant professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Archaeology. In 2002, Kidder served as Dean of Tulane College. Kidder currently teaches at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri where he also serves as Chair of the Department. In 2010, he was elected to head the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, currently serving as its president-elect.
A significant part of Kidder's recent research has focused on using geoarchaeological and geomorphic analyses to understand the dynamics of human settlement in the Mississippi River Valley. He is currently studying the hypothesis that global climate change ca. 1200-400 B.C. affected populations throughout eastern North America. Research in the Mississippi Valley has provided evidence for sudden and catastrophic flooding. Evidence for this flooding comes from extensive geological and soil mapping, archaeological and stratigraphic investigations, and an extensive system of coring.
Kidder is also interested in the nature of social evolution in Native American societies. His goal is to understand the circumstances that led to periods of greater or lesser social and political complexity. The emergence and decline of mound building among Middle and Late Archaic cultures in eastern North America is an example of the waxing and waning of seemingly complex behavior. Kidder is currently working at several Middle to Late Archaic mound sites in the Lower Mississippi Valley, including the well-known Poverty Point site in northeast Louisiana.