Charles S. Spencer
"Dr. Spencer is an internationally renowned anthropological archaeologist specializing in the origins of hierarchical societies and the rise of the first political states in Mesoamerica, where he has been conducting fieldwork for more than 25 years. His focus is the Oaxaca Valley and surrounding regions, a mountainous part of southern Mexico that is home to the Zapotec people. He is also widely recognized as a leader in the application of evolutionary theory and socio-political concepts to the study of prehistoric cultural change and has formulated a mathematical model of pristine state formation."
Dr. Spencer completed his graduate training at the University of Michigan, where he received his Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1981. His dissertation, "The Cuicatlán Cañada and Monte Albán: Interregional Processes and Primary State Formation in Central Oaxaca," was published by Academic Press in 1982. He has over 110 publications to date, including books, chapters, and articles. Since the 1970s, Spencer has conducted extensive archaeological fieldwork in Mexico and Venezuela. He has trained a generation of graduate students in methodologies of field research, and he also has served on doctoral committees as primary advisor and as a reader.
Prior to his appointment at the AMNH in 1991, Dr. Spencer was Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut. He was born June 12, 1950 in Ancon, Panama, then part of the Panama Canal Zone. He attended local U.S.-operated schools in the Canal Zone before leaving Panama to attend Rice University, where he received his BA in Anthropology in 1972.
In 2007, Dr. Spencer was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors a scientist can receive from a U.S.-based organization. At his induction ceremony in April 2008, NAS President Ralph Cicerone lauded Dr. Spencer as "the leading evolutionary archaeologist of his generation." The citation continues: "His fieldwork has documented the rise of entrepreneurial rank societies, the origin of the stratified militaristic state, and the strategies of imperial colonization. His work combines empirical data with evolutionary concepts like tempo, mode, biased transmission, and adaptive peaks."
Dr. Spencer is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, along with his wife and research collaborator, Elsa M. Redmond, Ph.D. They reside in the Connecticut suburbs of New York City.