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Department of Anthropology

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Journal page showing various ceramic sherds

William Duncan Strong (1899–1962) was one of the 20th century's preeminent anthropologists. Best known as an archaeologist, he studied at a time when the practice of anthropology placed equal emphasis on understanding the cultural and physical developments of human populations as well as the historic and prehistoric origins of human civilization. Strong conducted archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork throughout the Americas, and his field journals provide an exceptional record of his diverse training and holistic perspective. As both scientific documents and works of art, the journals capture archaeological detail as well as the social experience of international travel and cultural interaction.

Strong was educated at the University of California at Berkeley and obtained his doctorate in anthropology in 1926, studying under Alfred Kroeber. As a student, Strong worked on Californian and Peruvian archaeology projects, but upon completing his degree he embarked on an extended ethnographic study of the Naskapi of Labrador. In 1931, he joined the Bureau of American Ethnology, a research bureau of the Smithsonian Institution dedicated to the study of native cultures in the Americas. From this position, Strong organized a field expedition to Honduras in 1933, focusing on the Bay Islands and the northeastern mainland of the country, a region which lies outside the area of Mayan occupation and remains poorly understood by anthropologists to this day.

Duncan Strong's field journals, photographs and maps from the 1933 Honduras expedition provide one of the only scientific records of this remote area. Eloquent, artistic and captivating, they are an extraordinary example of Strong’s knowledge of human cultures, the natural environment and, especially, the archaeological past.


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