Museum Anthropologist and Arctic Archaeologist

Anthropologist Dr. Stephen Loring standing in a room, two children are reaching up and touching each of his ears.
Dr. Stephen Loring learning to listen to his Innu companions in Kamestastin, northern Labrador. Photo courtesy Tshikapisk Foundation and the Arctic Studies Center.

Dr. Stephen Loring is a museum anthropologist in the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center (ASC). He was born and grew-up in Concord, Mass., where he was deeply influenced by the writings (and antiquarian pursuits) of Henry David Thoreau and by the vestiges of a "natural" New England landscape that had not yet completely succumbed to suburban sprawl. Literally weeks spent on the Concord and Merrimac (as well as the Sudbury and Assabeth) Rivers allowed him to pursue his decidedly 19th-century antiquarian proclivities to search for arrowheads and possibly extinct species of birds, and catch reptiles and amphibians of all sorts.

Stephen received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and has conducted archaeological and paleo-environmental research in New England, Quebec, Labrador, Arkansas, and in the  Brooks Range and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. He is fond of adverse conditions, preferring his weather to be windy and wet. 

One consequence of over 30 years involvement with northern community members in general, and Innu and Inuit communities in Labrador specifically, has been the recognition of the horrific consequences attending the adoption of village life and the inequities of health and education programs in the North, a realization that has led Stephen to develop a pioneering program of community archaeology. Such ASC outreach initiatives seek to situate and share knowledge about the past in descendant communities. “Ownership” of the past, the appropriateness of asserting scientific precedents over human remains, intellectual property rights, land-claim negotiations and repatriation are all aspects of the contemporary practice of archaeology that impact research at the Smithsonian.