Dr. Robert J. Stokes received a Master of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Eastern New Mexico in 1995 and is now Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Applied Archeology at ENMU. He was recently appointed editor of book reviews for the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society’s (AAHS) Kiva Editorial Team.
Dr. Stokes, who received a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1990 and a PhD. in Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma in 2003, discusses his career and research.
Tell us about your role as a book review writer and how you got selected.
I have published three articles in Kiva over the years and know that they rely heavily on volunteers to maintain the company and the newspaper, but often require a presence in Tucson, where they are based. I saw an ad in their monthly newsletter looking for a book review editor, which didn’t require being in Tucson, so I applied. After an interview, I was selected by the Board of Directors and I am delighted with this opportunity to serve the AAHS and its highly regarded peer-reviewed publication. My mandate runs from June 2021 to June 2023.
What does it mean to you to be selected as a book review editor? What are your goals for the role?
I look forward to my tenure as a Book Review Editor and am delighted to be able to contribute to the success of the AAHS. Every year there are so many new publications on archeology and anthropology topics that many go a bit unnoticed. I hope to provide two to four new book reviews per issue of Kiva (there are four issues per year) so that Kiva readers can see what’s new in archeology each year. I also hope to include publications on cultural resource management, as long as they are available for purchase.
What sparked your interest in archeology?
The summer before my junior year I did a field trip in geology and field school in archeology and realized that I was much more interested in anthropology as a specialty and so am passed from geology to this one. I had a lot of catching up to do, however, when it comes to the compulsory courses!
Discuss your career.
I worked with several cultural resource management companies in Arizona from 2000 to 2014, after which I moved to Santa Fe to become a New Mexico State Parks archaeologist responsible for cultural resources at 35 state parks. . I left State Parks in 2018 to come to ENMU as an assistant professor.
What attracted you to your position at ENMU?
The opportunity to teach undergraduate and graduate courses, including those in my specialty areas (such as ceramic analysis and Southwestern archeology), and to lead field schools in summer archeology.
What do you value most about your job?
Interactions with students and the ENMU community in general in the smaller school setting we have here; you get to know more people than at a big university. I also like leading research projects in the field and in the laboratory.
What goals do you have for your job?
My immediate goals are to earn tenure and become an associate professor followed by a full professor position and begin a large multi-year archaeological field project in southwest New Mexico. I believe that a large project like this will attract new students to the anthropology department and provide them with a wide range of research possibilities.
What courses do you teach?
Currently I teach several graduate courses including Theory, Southwest Archeology, and Ceramics Analysis, as well as a variety of undergraduate courses including Environmental Geography and human, introduction to anthropology and a course in laboratory methods.
What do you like best about ENMU?
I love the compact, easy-to-navigate campus and the resources available including a variety of food and coffee choices!
Tell us about your research.
I just completed a summer field course in a small vandalized rock shelter near Las Cruces which produced a large amount of archaeological material suitable for student research projects and conference presentations, including lithic artefacts, ceramics, fauna and perishables. It will take this year and next year to do the analyzes and prepare the reports, but I am in talks with the Gila National Forest to start a multi-year excavation project at a large pueblo site that has also been vandalized. Over the years, I have discovered that even vandalized archaeological sites can still provide a wealth of important data for understanding the ancient people who lived there.
Are you involved in any organizations or causes?
I am a long-time member of the Society for American Archeology, which is the national archaeological organization, and am a member of several interest / discussion groups including public archeology, public affairs, and education. I have been a member of the AAHS for over 30 years now. I also regularly give presentations to the Grant County Archaeological Society (southwestern New Mexico) and provide them with opportunities to volunteer on projects in the field.
What kinds of achievements and awards have you won?
I earned a certificate of honor in Pitt and the Director’s Award for Excellence in State Parks in New Mexico. I have had many peer-reviewed publications and published a book in 2019 and I have another in progress which is due to be published in 2022.
Tell us about your background and your family.
I’m from Pittsburgh, PA, but have been in the Southwest since 1991. Many older family members were steelworkers, but my mom worked at the Pittsburgh airport. I have two brothers and three sisters. I don’t have a family here in Portales, but I have two cats who make sure I get up on time early in the morning (they want their canned food) and greet me at the door when I come home at home.
Who influences you? Who is your role model?
I don’t really have a role model, but I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of people who have influenced me over the years. They all had a very positive attitude towards life in general and my profession in particular. As a result, I always try to have a positive outlook on work and life and believe things will work out eventually, even if not as originally planned!
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy easy, peaceful hikes in the forests of New Mexico and walks along beaches. I also love old movies, especially sci-fi movies from the 50s and 60s!
What are your favorite places that you have traveled?
I enjoyed traveling Egypt and Peru to most places I’ve been with an archaeological theme, but I think Glacier and Yosemite National Parks are my favorites here in the US. We crossed a mountain glacier in the Canadian Rockies, and I hope I can travel to Greenland or Antarctica one day.
Share an interesting fact about yourself.
I enjoyed learning to rope and abseil down cliff sides with the Lincoln National Forest in the 90s. We then did a project that required rappelling down a 60 foot sinkhole. deep in the mountains of Guadalupe!
Is there any additional information you would like to share?
I have been fortunate to have had so many positive role models during my academic years, both peers and faculty, who have continued in all of my professional positions as well. I try to emulate that with the students here at ENMU and encourage them to keep a positive attitude and look to the future and all the exciting things that lie ahead.
Dr Stokes and Scott Nicolay at the Mares Rockshelter site in 2021.