Photograph of Severin Fowles

Severin Fowles

Associate Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, Director of the Archaeology Track


American Studies, Anthropology Department


On Leave this Spring 24
Thursdays & Fridays: (Zoom)3:00pm - 5:00pm. (Sign up at If the scheduled meeting times don't work, feel free to email and we'll find an alternate time.)


I am an anthropologist whose scholarship combines archaeological methods with perspectives drawn from Critical Indigenous Studies, Art History, Religious Studies, and New Materialist Philosophy to reimagine the history of the American West. I have directed excavations at archaeological sites spanning ten thousand years—from the camps of early foragers, to Ancestral Pueblo villages, to a Spanish colonial plaza community, to a 1960s hippie commune—as well as landscape surveys, including a decade-long rock art survey of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and an ongoing survey of late pre-colonial and early colonial agricultural systems, the latter conducted on behalf of Picuris Pueblo in support of their struggle to reclaim land and water. Increasingly, my research emerges through formal partnerships with descendant communities. In addition to Picuris Pueblo, I maintain various collaborations with the Comanche Nation as well as the Indo-Hispano community at San Antonio del Embudo, NM.

My first book, An Archaeology of Doings: Secularism and the Study of Pueblo Religion (School for Advanced Research, 2013), critically examines how secular understandings of “religion” have structured archaeological accounts of non-modern Indigenous communities. Alongside Barbara Mills, I also co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Southwest Archaeology (Oxford, 2017), the widest-ranging consideration of the intellectual history and theoretical commitments of archaeology in the American Southwest. My current writing projects include a study of the Plains Biographic Tradition entitled Comanche Afterimages: Visual Culture and History in Northern New Mexico, a synthetic volume on ten thousand years of rock art production in the American Southwest entitled Iconohistory (co-authored with Darryl Wilkinson, Lindsay Montgomery, and Benjamin Alberti), and a volume on the history of settler colonialism in the little village of San Antonio del Embudo (under development with Chicano/a Studies scholar and poet, Levi Romero).

On campus at Barnard, I direct the Archaeology Track in the Barnard Anthropology Department, and I teach both introductory and upper-level courses including "Indigenous Place-Thought," "American Material Culture," "Pre-Columbian Histories of Native America," and "Laboratory Methods in Archaeology." While away from campus during the summer, I direct Barnard's field program in New Mexico, which creates an opportunity for Barnard and Columbia students to learn methods of archaeological survey, excavation, and oral history while working in collaboration with descendant communities.

  • PhD in Anthropological Archaeology, University of Michigan (1995-2004)
  • BA in Anthropology, Dartmouth College (1989-1993)

  • Critical Indigenous studies
  • Collaborative archaeology
  • Settler colonialism
  • Cultural landscapes
  • Visual culture
  • Counterculture
  • American Southwest

Indigenous Place-Thought (ANTH BC3234)

In this seminar, we consider what it means to be of a place and to think with and be committed to that place—environmentally, politically, and spiritually. After locating ourselves in our own particular places and place-based commitments, our attention turns to the Indigenous traditions of North America, to accounts of tribal emergence and pre-colonial being, to colonial histories of land dispossession, to ongoing struggles to protect ecological health and land-based sovereignty, to the epistemological and moral systems that have developed over the course of many millennia of living with and for the land, and to the contributions such systems might make to our collective future. To assist us in exploring these issues, we will be joined by a number of special guests, including Hopi filmmaker Victor Masayesva Jr., Santa Clara/Comanche artist Mary Weahkee, Potawatomi environmentalist Kyle Whyte, Jicarilla Apache historian and activist Veronica Tiller, Chicano scholar and New Mexico Poet Laureate Levi Romero, and Richard Mermejo, the former Governor and War Chief of Picuris Pueblo. Picuris is the longest continuously occupied village in North America; it is currently preparing for a legal battle to regain control of its traditional water rights; Barnard’s summer archaeological field program has been assisting the tribe; and participants in the seminar will have the opportunity to join this effort, working at the intersection of theory, scholarship, and environmental activism.

American Material Culture (ANTH UN3723)

Provides an intensive introduction to material culture analysis and its potential contributions to the study of American history. As such, our focus is methodological. In seminar, we consider both (1) key texts that give intellectual shape to the central questions in modern material culture studies (namely, “what do things mean?”, “what do things do?”, and “what do things want?”) and (2) published case studies demonstrating how to engage in serious object-based research (including studies of Victorian homes in New England, garbage disposal in modern American cities, post-Katrina reclamation in New Orleans, and the campsites of undocumented migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border). Seminar discussions are supplemented by visits to three NYC museums (the American Museum of Natural History, the 9/11 Museum, and the Tenement Museum) and one Archaeology Repository (Rothschild Research Center), as well as by three laboratory practicums (in which we collectively analyze the material remains of a Spanish colonial village, a 1960s Hippie commune, and a contemporary homeless encampment).

Field Methods in Landscape Archaeology (ANTH UN2011)

“Field Methods in Landscape Archaeology” is an intensive 5-week course organized around a unique set of collaborations between scholars, students, and the Indigenous and Hispano communities of the Rio Embudo Watershed in northern New Mexico. Participants in the course gain formal training in the field methods of landscape archaeology (pedestrian survey, site mapping, in-field artifact analysis, excavation, artifact and sample processing) and oral history (structured and unstructured interviews, object-oriented interviews, memory mapping and ethnogeography), while helping build new understandings of the complex Indo-Hispano history of the region. In the process, participants work closely with local stakeholders and are guided in the development of interdisciplinary research projects that integrate the sciences and humanities and that are accountable to descendant communities.

  • 2020-2023. National Science Foundation Senior Archaeology Grant for research on the Plains-Pueblo macro-economy of the late precolonial and early colonial periods.
  • 2021. Presidential Research Award for “Reassembling Indigenous History,” Barnard College
  • 2019. Awarded funding for “Reconstructing Pueblo Histories: A Seminar on Historical Method in Southwest Archaeology,” School for Advanced Research (co-chair with Jennifer Shannon and Scott Ortman)
  • 2019. Hewlett-Packard Grant, in-kind contribution of an HP 3D Structured Light Scanner Pro S3 for Picuris Pueblo Digital Repatriation Project (co-PI with Melanie Hibbert)
  • 2015-2018. Tow Professorship, Barnard College
  • 2014-2015. Weatherhead Fellowship, School for Advanced Research
  • 2014-2015. American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship
  • 2013-2016. National Science Foundation Senior Archaeology Grant for research on Comanche imperialism
  • 2010. Gladys Brooks Award for Teaching Excellence, Barnard College
  • 2010. Presidential Research Award, Barnard College
  • 2010. Hunt Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Wenner-Gren Foundation
  • 2010. National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend
  • 2005. Society for American Archaeology Dissertation Award. 
  • 2005. Distinguished Dissertation Award, University of Michigan. 

  • Society for American Archaeology
  • American Anthropological Association
  • Western Historical Association

2022. Indigenizing Catholicism in Colonial New Mexico, Society for Historical Archaeology Meeting, Philadelphia.

2021. Mestizo Aesthetics: Image and Appropriation in the Colonial Southwest, 1600-1900 CE. Invited lecture, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA.

2021. Borderland Images of Athapaskan New Mexico, 1600-1900 CE. Invited lecture, Albuquerque Archaeological Society.

2021. The Biographical Revolution in Plains Visual Culture, 1680-1880 CE. Invited lecture, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

2021. Borderland Images of Athapaskan New Mexico, 1600-1900 CE. Invited online lecture, Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project.

2020. Indigenous Historiographies and Imperial Contests of the American West, 1680-1890 CE, Stanford University Archaeology Center.

2020. The Interpretation of Ancestral Pueblo Rock Art. Invited lecture, School for Advanced Research.

2020. The Curious Case of Coronado’s Shields. Invited paper, Memorial University, Newfoundland.

2020. A Women’s History of the Neolithic in the American Southwest. Invited workshop, Memorial University, Newfoundland.

2020. The Origins of the Plains Biographic Tradition. Invited lecture, Colorado Rock Art Association.

2020. Neolithic Metapictures of the American Southwest. Invited lecture, Columbia Center for Archaeology, Columbia University.

2020. The Curious Case of Coronado’s Shields. Invited paper, Southwest Seminars, Santa Fe.

2019. Shield-bearar, Mask-wearer, and the Power of Images in the American Southwest. Invited lecture, Princeton Univ, Dept of Classics.

2019. Shield-bearar, Mask-wearer, and the Power of Images in the American Southwest. Invited lecture, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago, Dept of Art History.

2019. A Women's History of the Neolithic in the American Southwest. Invited paper, McDonald Institute, Univ of Cambridge.

2019. Three Hundred Years in a Hispano Village: An Archaeology of Wolves, Faith, and Capitalism. Invited lecture, Southwest Seminars, Santa Fe.

2018. Prehistoriography and the North. Invited paper in honor of Stephen Lekson. U.C. Boulder.

2018. Iconohistories of the American West. Invited lecture, the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Seminar on New York and American Material Culture, Bard Graduate Center.

2018. America's Archaeologies, AALAC Faculty Workshop, Smith College.

2018. Invited panelist for discussion following the screening of Native America, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

2018. Panelist for discussion following the screening of Native America, Barnard.

2018. Armament and agency in the American West, 1300-1800. Invited paper in "The Anthropology and Aesthetics of Arms and Armor" Workshop, Columbia Univ, Oct. 19-20.

2018. Embudo Archaeology: Results of the 2018 Field Season. Invited lecture at the Embudo Valley Library.

2018. An Introduction to the History of Picuris Pueblo. Day-long lecture and guided tour for the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

2018. The Aquatic Imaginary of Ancestral Tiwa Landscapes. Invited paper in the “Deep Ecologies of the Northern Rio Grande” session at the SAA meeting, Wash. DC.

2018. The Wolf Beneath the Plaza: Pastoralism and Predation in Spanish New Mexico. Invited papers in the “Deep Ecologies of the Northern Rio Grande” session at the SAA meeting, Wash. DC. (with J. Morris)

2018. Comanche Archaeology of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Invited lecture and guided tour for the Santa Fe Site Watch Program.

2018. The Rio Grande Origins of the Plains Biographic Tradition. Invited paper, Southwest Symposium. UC Boulder.

2017. The objects of ethical displacement. Invited keynote, “Ethical and Political Materialities”, Princeton Univ.

2017. Biographic Rock Art of New Mexico: Counter-Archives of Colonialism. Invited lecture, Mayer Center Symposium. Denver Art Museum (with L. Montgomery)

2017. Comanche Rock Art as Counter-Archive. Invited paper, SAR Advanced Seminar, Santa Fe (with L. Montgomery)

2017. Latitudinal Movements in Tiwa-Apache History. Invited paper, Amerind Advanced Seminar, Dragoon, AZ (with S. Eiselt)

2017. A Thousand Years of Taos Counterculture. Embudo Valley Library, Dixon, NM.

2017. The image, the host, and the question of media archaeology. Plenary speaker at Theoretical Archaeology Group meetings, Univ. of Toronto.

2017. Latitudinal Movements in Tiwa-Apache History. In “Movement and Becoming in the American Southwest” session at the S.A.A. meeting, Vancouver.

2017. Colonial New Mexico, Seen from a Spring: Apache, Comanche, and Hispano Archaeology at LA 102343. Poster, S.A.A. meeting, Vancouver (with E. Charm)

2017. Comanche Archaeology and the Theater of War. Invited lecture, Syracuse Univ.

2017. Comanche Archaeology and the Theater of War. 2017 Distinguished Archaeology Lecturer. UC Boulder.

2017. On the Interpretation of Archaic Rock Art. Invited lecture, Southwest Seminars, Santa Fe.

2017. Barbarian Culture: Researches into the other Other. 2017 Distinguished Archaeology Lecturer. UC Boulder.


2013. An Archaeology of Doings: Secularism and the Study of Pueblo Religion. School for Advanced Research Press, Santa Fe.

2017. Oxford Handbook of Southwest Archaeology, edited by Barbara Mills and Severin Fowles. Oxford University Press.

in prep. Figured Ground: A Deep History of the Image along the Rio Grande. (with Darryl Wilkinson, Lindsay Montgomery, and Benjamin Alberti)

in prep. Comanche Afterimages: Visual Culture and History in Northern New Mexico.

in press. On Wolves and Predation in Colonial New Mexico. Historical Archaeology (Severin Fowles and Julia Morris)

in press. Image and Zeitgeist in the American Southwest. In Ancient Art Revisited, edited by Christopher Watts and Carl Knappett. Taylor and Francis.

in press. Land of Re-Enchantment. In Sacred Southwestern Landscapes: Archaeologies of Religious Ecology, edited by Aaron M. Wright.  (Darryl Wilkinson and Severin Fowles)

in press. The Rio Grande origins of the Plains Biographic Tradition. In Proceedings of the 2018 Southwest Symposium, edited by Steve Nash. University Press of Colorado. (Severin Fowles and Lindsay Montgomery)

2021 What Was an Image, There and Then? In Ontologies of Rock Art: Images, Relational Approaches and Indigenous Knowledges, edited by Oscar Moro Abadía and Martin Porr. Taylor & Francis. (Severin Fowles and Benjamin Alberti)

2020. An Indigenous Archive: Documenting Comanche History through Rock Art. American Indian Quarterly 44, no. 2 (2020), 196-220. (Lindsay Montgomery and Severin Fowles)

2019. Rock art counter-archives of the American West. In Murals of the America, edited by Victoria Lyall, pp. 100-119. Denver Art Museum. (Severin Fowles and Lindsay Montgomery)

2019. Apache, Tiwa, and Back Again: Ethnic Shifting in the American Southwest. In Movement and Becoming in the American Southwest, edited by Sam Duwe and Robert Pruecel, pp. 166-194. University of Arizona Press. (Severin Fowles and Sunday Eiselt)

2018. The evolution of simple society.  Asian Archaeology 2:19-32.

2018.  Taos social history: a rhizomatic account. To appear in New Perspectives on the Pueblos II, edited by Peter Whiteley. School for Advanced Research Press.

2018. Ecologies of rock and art in northern New Mexico. In Multispecies Archaeology, edited by Suzanne E. Pilaar Birch, pp. 133-153. Routledge. (Benjamin Alberti and Severin Fowles)

2018.  Pueblo emergence on the Taos frontier. In Social Identity in Frontier and Borderland Communities, edited by Karen Harry and Sarah Herr, pp. 57-86. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

2017.  Absorption, theatricality, and the image in deep time. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 27(4).

2017. Comanche New Mexico: the eighteenth century. In The Archaeology of the Colonial Period in the American Southwest, edited by John Douglass and William M. Graves, pp. 157-186. University of Colorado Press. (Severin Fowles, Jimmy Arterberry, Heather Atherton, and Lindsay Montgomery)

2017.  On history in Southwest archaeology. In Oxford Handbook of Southwest Archaeology, edited by Barbara Mills and Severin Fowles, pp. 3-71. Oxford University Press. (Severin Fowles and Barbara Mills)

2017.  Surface revelations: epistemologies and ecologies of rock art. In Anthropology of the Arts: A Reader, edited by Gretchen Bakke and Marina Peterson. Bloomsbury. (Severin Fowles and Benjamin Alberti)

2016    The perfect subject (postcolonial object studies). Journal of Material Culture 21(1):9-27.

2016    The stress of history: stories of an unfinished kiva. In Exploring Cause and Explanation: Historical Ecology, Demography, and Movement in the American Southwest, edited by Cynthia Herhahn and Ann Ramenofsky, pp. 177-198. University of Colorado Press.

2015    Writing collapse. In Social Theory in Archaeology and Ancient History: The Present and Future of Counternarratives, edited by Geoffrey Emberling, pp. 205-230. Cambridge University Press.

2014    On torture in societies against the state. In Violence and Civilization, edited by Rod Campbell, pp. 152-178. Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology Press, Providence. 

2013.  Foreword. Mountain and Valley: Understanding Past Land Use in the Northern Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico, edited by Bradley Vierra. University of Utah Press. 

2013.  Absence. In Oxford Handbook of the Contemporary Past, edited by Paul Graves-Brown and Rodney Harrison. Oxford University Press. (Severin Fowles and Kaet Heupel)

2013. Gesture and performance in Comanche rock art. World Art, special edition edited by Elizabeth DeMarrais and John Robb. (Severin Fowles and Jimmy Arterberry)

2012. The Pueblo village in an age of reformation. In Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology, edited by Timothy Pauketat. Oxford University Press, London.

2011. “Worlds otherwise”: archaeology, anthropology and ontological difference. Current Anthropology52(6):896-912. (Ben Alberti, Severin Fowles, Martin Holbraad and Yvonne Marshall, Christopher Witmore)

2011. Movement and the unsettling of the Pueblos. In Rethinking Anthropological Perspectives on Migration, edited by Graciela Cabana and Jeffrey Clark. University of Florida Press.

2011. Becoming Hopi, becoming Tiwa: two Pueblo histories of movement. In Margaret Nelson and Colleen Strawhacker (editors), Movement, Connectivity, and Landscape Change in the Ancient Southwest. University Press of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado (Wesley Bernardini and Severin Fowles)

2011. Archaeology in the humanities. Diogenes 229:77-103. Special issue on “The Humanities Today,” edited by Anders Petterson. (Norman Yoffee and Severin Fowles, published in six languages)

2010. A people’s history of the American Southwest. In Ancient Complexities: New Perspectives in Pre-Columbian North America, edited by Susan Alt. University of Utah Press, Provo.

2010. The Southwest School of landscape archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology 39:453-468.

2010. People without things. In The Anthropology of Absence: Materialisations of Transcendence and Loss, edited by Mikkel Bille, Frida Hastrup, and Tim Flohr Sørensen, pp. 23-41. Springer Press, New York.

2009. The enshrined Pueblo: villagescape and cosmos in the northern Rio Grande. American Antiquity74(3):448-466.

2008. Steps toward an archaeology of taboo. In Religion, Archaeology, and the Material World, edited by Lars Fogelin, pp. 15-37. Center for Archaeological Investigations, Occasional Paper No. 36. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.

2007. Clay, conflict, and village aggregation: compositional analyses of pre-Classic pottery from the Taos district, NM. American Antiquity 72(1):125-52. (Severin Fowles, Leah Minc, Sam Duwe, and David Hill)

2006. Our father (our mother): gender, praxis, and marginalization in Pueblo religion. In Engaged Anthropology, edited by Michelle Hegmon and Sunday Eiselt, pp. 27-51. Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

2005. Historical contingency and the prehistoric foundations of Eastern Pueblo moiety organization. Journal of Anthropological Research. 61(1):25-52.

2004. Tewa versus Tiwa: settlement patterns and social history in the northern Rio Grande, AD 1275 to 1540. In The Protohistoric Pueblo World, A.D. 1275-1600, edited by E. Charles Adams and Andrew Duff, pp. 17-25. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

2002    Inequality and egalitarian rebellion: a tribal dialectic in Tonga history. In The Archaeology of Tribal Societies, edited by W. Parkinson, pp. 74-96. International Monographs in Prehistory, Ann Arbor.

2002    From social type to social process: placing ‘tribe’ in a historical framework. In The Archaeology of Tribal Societies, edited by W. Parkinson, pp. 13-33. International Monographs in Prehistory, Ann Arbor. 

In The News

In celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day (October 10), and the College’s connection to the tribe, Barnard and Columbia University honor the Picuris Pueblo with weeklong events.

October 13, 2022