Doctoral graduate explores southwestern archaeology

Can a study of our past provide insights into present-day social changes? That is the goal of Matthew Peeples, who graduates this December with a doctorate in anthropology and a concentration in archaeology.

“Archaeology can provide long-term perspectives on how people in the past have navigated periods of dramatic social, environmental and demographic change,” says Peeples.

Archaeological evidence from the vast Cibola region of Arizona and New Mexico points to a major period of demographic and social upheaval from A.D. 1150 to 1325, says Peeples.  As population shifted from dispersed hamlets, to clustered villages, and eventually to a few large towns, rapid social and demographic change produced fundamental shifts in family and community relationships.

“My research suggests that these massive social changes in the Cibola region involved similar dynamics to well-documented contemporary social movements.”

A postdoctoral fellowship with the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona and the Center for Desert Archaeology will allow Peeples to continue his research. He will be working on the interdisciplinary Southwest Social Networks (SWSN) project, funded by the National Science Foundation Human and Social Dynamics program.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, Peeples began his graduate studies at ASU in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

His research attracted a number of fellowships and grants that helped him concentrate on his studies while completing his master’s, and now a doctorate.

Peeples has been named a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and an ASU Graduate College Dissertation Fellow. He has also received other fellowships and grants from the Society for American Archaeology, National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

“To me, graduation is a time for me to celebrate with all the people who have helped me get here,” says Peeples.  “I never would have made it this far in my academic career without the endless support of my wonderful family, close friends and colleagues.”

Peeples’ wife, Melissa Kruse-Peeples, is an ASU doctoral candidate in anthropology, and will be cheering him on at commencement, along with his parents.

“I am so thankful for the wonderful advisors I’ve had here at ASU,” says Peeples, “and would especially like to thank Keith Kintigh, Michelle Hegmon, Kate Spielmann and Peggy Nelson. They have been and will continue to be amazing role models as I move on to the next step in my career.”

Michele St George

Publications, Graduate College