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Introducing Tom Whitley

Thomas WhitleyThomas G. Whitley (PhD, University of Pittsburgh, 2000) specializes in archaeological applications of GIS and spatial analysis, particularly in the areas of interpreting cognitive landscapes, remote sensing, human ecology, complex socio-economic simulations, and predictive modeling. His topical specializations include Cultural Resource Management, industrial archaeology, contact and colonialism, perishables analysis, the archaeology of labor, and mining landscapes.

Professor Whitley recently completed a contract at the University of Western Australia where he coordinated the Masters of Professional Archaeology program. Prior to that he worked in Cultural Resource Management for more than 26 years in the United States, and has been a Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA) since 1998. In all, he has directed more than 700 projects in the USA, Western Europe, Australia, the Caribbean, Japan, and the Middle East. Recently, he has been working on a series of projects including:

  • A GIS-based economic simulation of Switzerland's Helvetia during the Gallic Wars in 58 BC.
  • Revealing the drowned prehistoric landscapes of Northwestern Australia using 3D models and photorealistic visualization.
  • And writing a new book on the theory and practice of archaeological predictive modeling.

He is an active member of a number of professional organizations such as the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA), the Australian Archaeological Association (AAA), and the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology Conference (CAA). He also serves on the Science Advisory Board for Digital Antiquity.

In his own words:

“With a father in the US Air Force and a German mother, I grew up moving around a lot; predominantly in Germany and the Netherlands. Europe in the 1970s was a great place to spark an interest in archaeology and history, and I spent a lot of time exploring everything from Bronze Age barrows to abandoned WWII sites and industrial structures.”

“By the time I was entering high school my father accepted a retirement assignment at McChord AFB, in Tacoma, WA. After high school I attended the University of Washington in Seattle from 1983 to 1987. The 1980s ‘pre-Coffee House’ era in Seattle was a time of horrible fashion choices, bad coffee, the nascent grunge scene, and constant drizzle. It was during this period that I attended my first archaeological field school at English Camp on San Juan Island, WA. The site was a 2,000 year old shell midden on the parade grounds of the English fortifications during the world famous ‘Pig War’ of 1859.

After acquiring my BA in anthropology under the guidance of archaeology professors like Julie Stein, Don Grayson, and Robert Dunnell, I moved to Pittsburgh for grad school. I took a Graduate Student Researcher position at the Cultural Resource Management Program (CRMP), University of Pittsburgh, under James Adovasio in 1987. There I worked as a perishables analyst—mostly analyzing textiles and basketry from the Southwest and Great Basin—and learning to direct field projects all across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Thomas WhitleyI completed my MA in 1990 and began working on my PhD under Jeremy Sabloff, Merilee Salmon, and Kathleen Allen. My PhD project was a GIS analysis in the Greater Yellowstone Region of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and I conducted research while teaching archaeology and history courses for Northwest College in Yellowstone National Park in the summers of 1990, 1991, and 1992 (driving back and forth to Pittsburgh many times). In the early 1990s GIS was still in its infancy, available digital data was almost unheard of, and I was still working full time doing fieldwork and writing reports.

I left the CRMP in Pittsburgh in 1992 to take a job for the Zuni Cultural Resource Enterprise in New Mexico. There I worked full time on projects all across New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, while occasionally working on my dissertation. In the mid-90s I moved to Atlanta to open a CRM office for Michael Baker Engineering in the Southeast; still working on the PhD part-time as GIS software was rapidly evolving. I lived in Atlanta for 17 years, taking a Project Manager position at Brockington and Associates in 1997. I completed the PhD in 2000; the same year that I was promoted to Atlanta branch manager. During my tenure there (between 2000 and 2012) we completed almost 2,500 projects across the US and Caribbean, and averaged about $6 million of work per year. At our peak, during the 2009 ARRA-funded US Corps of Engineers Section 110 surveys, I supervised about 120 people out of the Atlanta office.

But by the early 2000s I was becoming very concerned about the gap between CRM training in grad schools and the skills that archaeologists need in the industry. I began thinking about how I could make some contribution to closing this gap and accepted a professorship at the University of Western Australia to develop and teach the Masters of Professional Archaeology Program between 2013 and 2016. Australia was an amazing experience and I got to work on a wide range of CRM and academic projects in Western Australia, Europe, and China. But now having returned from the land of deadly creatures and sizzling temperatures, I'm honored to take the reins from Adrian and get to know, and work with, everyone here at ASC and Sonoma State. I look forward to new challenges and the exciting possibilities ahead.”

Tom Whitley 2016