Archaeologist and Curator of Archaeological Collections

Archeologist Dr. Dennis Stanford leaning on a table with Clovis stone points from the collection of NMNH in front of him.
Dr. Dennis Stanford with Clovis stone points from the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Photo 62004 by Chip Clark, Smithsonian.

Dr. Dennis J. Stanford serves as the curator of North and South American Paleolithic, Asian Paleolithic and Western United States archaeological collections. His interest in archaeology began early in life. Growing up in Wyoming, he made a habit of poking around outside finding Indian artifacts from Wyoming's prehistory. As a teenager, Dennis had the good fortune to participate in the excavation of a mammoth skeleton discovered at a construction site. His interest in archaeology was sparked. At the University of Wyoming, he was mentored by the only anthropologist, Dr. William T. Mulloy, and went on to complete a Masters and Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico. Fresh out of graduate school, he was offered a position at Smithsonian to work on paleo-Indian studies.

Dennis is now the director of the Smithsonian’s Paleoindian and Paleoecology Program and the Head of the Division of Archaeology at the Museum. His research interests include how climate change and ecosystems during the terminal Pleistocene influenced the origins and development of New World Paleo-Indian cultures. He uses public and experimental archaeology to learn more about stone tool technology and early human lifestyles. He has conducted field work in all areas of the world, including Siberia, China, Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, Plains and Southeastern States and Central and South America. He is well published, with his most recent work titled, Across Atlantic Ice, which explores the idea that the first people arrived in North American by boat from Southwest Europe, rather than over the Bering Strait.