Dr. Matthew O'Brien


Contact Information

Phone: (530) 898-5696
Email: mjobrien@csuchico.edu
Office: Plumas 103


    B.A., 2000, St Lawrence University
    M.A., 2006, University of Wyoming
    Ph.D., 2013, University of New Mexico

Research Interests

My primary focus in archaeology is the study of North American hunter-gatherers. While they are rare on the landscape today, this subsistence strategy accounts for over 99 percent of human prehistory. One of the difficult aspects of hunter-gatherer archaeology is the limited preservation of their material culture. In comparison to our own societies, hunter-gatherers leave little to no trace on the landscape, and this is compounded by the ravages of time and natural processes. As a result, hunter-gatherer archaeologists often remain flexible in their specializations in order to address the many questions that arise. As such, my research foci span ethnoarchaeology, lithic analysis, quantitative methods, and zooarchaeology, but my interests lie in all aspects of hunter-gatherer lifeways.

Current research projects center on identifying spatial patterns between the location of artifacts and associated features/architecture to interpret the cultural and natural context that shaped them. In essence, I want to know why we find artifacts where we do and tie it to human behavior. To address these issues, I incorporate theoretical frameworks of Processualism and Behavioral Ecology for their respective strengths in methodology and explanation. My current archaeological research examines the social organization of communal hunting through food sharing as seen through zooarchaeology. Also, I am co-principal investigator of the Dukha Ethnoarchaeological Project (see below for more information), which aims to understand the spatial patterning of where people do things and how external variables influence what and where they do them.


O'Brien, M.J. and T.A. Liebert

    2014    Quantifying the energetic returns for pronghorn: a food utility index of meat and marrow, Journal of Archaeological Science 46: 384-392.

O'Brien, M.J.

    2013    Evaluating the Contemporaneity of Households at the Eden Farson Site, International Journal of Osteoarchaeology DOI: 10.1002/oa.2328.
O'Brien, M.J. and C.M. Storlie

    2011    An Alternative Bilateral Refitting Model for Zooarchaeological Assemblages, Journal of Taphonomy 9: 245-268.
Huckell, B.B., M.S. Shackley, M.J. O'Brien, and C.W. Merriman

    2011    Folsom Obsidian Procurement and Use at the Boca Negra Wash Site, New Mexico, Current Research in the Pleistocene 28: 49-52
O'Brien, M.J., S.M. Ruth, C.W. Merriman, and B.B. Huckell

    2009    Reevaluating Folsom Mobility and Land Use in New Mexico, Current Research in the Pleistocene 26: 97-100.

The Dukha Ethnoarchaeology Project