Anthropology Department

Dr. Matthew O'Brien

Graduate Coordinator, Certificate in Cultural Resource Mgmt Co-Coordinator, ARP Director

Matt O'Brien

Personal Google Page: Matthew O'Brien(opens in new window)


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

Courses Taught

ANTH 112 Introduction to Archaeology

ANTH 302 Archaeology

ANTH 420 Origins of Early Civilization

ANTH 421 Archaeology of North America

ANTH 423 Human Behavioral Ecology

ANTH 478 Zooarchaeology: Vertebrate Identification and Analysis

ANTH 482 Laboratory Methods in Archaeology

ANTH 484 Archaeological Site Surveying

ANTH 602 Seminar in Archaeology

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 such, my research foci span ethnoarchaeology, lithic analysis, quantitative methods, and zooarchaeology, but my interests lie in all aspects of hunter-gatherer lifeways.

My current research projects include the social organization of communal hunting through food sharing as seen through zooarchaeology. Also, I am a 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. More recently, I am collaborating on the ongoing excavations of the La Prele Mammoth site near Douglas, Wyoming that is exploring the spatial organization of a proboscidean butchery and the associated campsite. Finally, I have begun exploring Great Basin hunter-gatherer land-use patterns in Northwest Nevada as part of the Archaeological Research Program [Hyperlink to ARP].

Selected Publications

O'Brien, M. J., and Surovell, T. A. In Press Dukha Reindeer Herder Camp and Household Spacing. Arctic Anthropology 54(1).

Surovell, T. A. and O'Brien, M. J. 2016 Mobility at the Scale of Meters. Evolutionary Anthropology 26(3): 142-152.

Mackie, M. E., Surovell, T. A., and O'Brien, M. J. 2015 Identifying Stone Alignments Created by Adults and Children: A Case Study from a Dukha Reindeer Herder Summer Camp, Khovsgol Aimag, Mongolia. Siberica 14: 29-44.

O'Brien, M. J. 2015 Evaluating the contemporaneity of households at the Eden-Farson site. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 25(5):653-664.

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. and C.M. Storlie 2011 An Alternative Bilateral Refitting Model for Zooarchaeological Assemblages, Journal of Taphonomy 9: 245-268.

The Dukha Ethnoarchaeology Project(opens in new window)