Colin Grier

  • Associate Professor, Archaeology
  • Complex Hunter Gatherers
  • Email:

Biographical sketch ▾

Biographical sketch

Ph.D., Arizona State University (2001)

Research statement ▾

Research statement

Research on Complex Hunter Gatherers

My core research interest concerns the organization of complex hunter-gatherer-fisher societies. For this, I take a comparative perspective, drawing on case studies from primarily coastal regions around the world.

I adopt a theoretical perspective that situates human agency in the context of the constraining and enabling structures in which humans exist, including social networks, political institutions and ecological and socially-constructed landscapes.

My research focus is on the emergence of supra-household institutions in small-scale societies, including the formation of large households, structured communities and regional sociopolitical systems. I have a strong interest in household change, and how resources become increasingly controlled within the context of households. This approach situates my research in the context of one of the long-standing questions addressed by anthropology—how does social inequality emerge in small-scale societies?

Areas of the world and peoples on which I have carried out research, and which inform my perspective, include the Northwest Coast of North America, the Korean peninsula and Pacific Rim, Arctic whaling societies, coastal Florida, and the European Upper Paleolithic/Mesolithic. I am constantly looking to expand the ethnographic, archaeological and theoretical frameworks in which questions concerning complex hunter-gatherer-fisher organization can be addressed.

Northwest Coast Complexity

My archaeological research on the Northwest Coast of North America centers on investigating the economic organization, social institutions and political economy of precontact complex hunter-gatherers. Much of this research takes place in the Salish Sea in southwestern British Columbia, the traditional territory of Coast Salish peoples. Here, I am looking into the relationship between the development of large households, village formation, social inequality, resource ownership and intensive storage economies.

My research in the Gulf Islands has been driven by on-going fieldwork involving excavations at early village sites and settlement pattern research. For these projects, I work collaboratively with the Penelakut and Lyackson First Nations, and other Nations of the Hul’qumi’num peoples.