Patty Jo Watson

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Patty Jo Watson (born 1932)[1] is an American archaeologist renowned for her work on Pre-Columbian Native Americans, especially in the Mammoth Cave region of Kentucky.[2] She is now Distinguished University Professor Emerita, Archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis.[3] Until her retirement in 2004, she was the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor of Archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis.[4]


Watson earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1959.[3] While attending the University of Chicago, she studied under Robert Braidwood.[3][4]


Watson devoted much of her early career to the archaeological study of the Ancient Near East.[2][3] Her husband Richard A. Watson convinced her to change her focus from Near Eastern archaeology to work in North America.[4]

Watson is a proponent of processual archaeology and has contributed greatly to that approach.[2][5]

In addition, Watson has been instrumental in applying ethnography to the archaeological record.[6] In the 1960s in Mammoth Cave, she introduced the practice of performing recreations of ancient lifeways as a method of filling in gaps from incomplete archaeological data. "She has contributed centrally to techniques for recovering carbonized plant remains from archaeological deposits and to understanding the independent origin of pre-maize agriculture in pre-Columbian eastern North America."[6] Her work on the diet of Native Americans who lived in Mammoth Cave has included examining the intestines of bodies found in the cave and has been notably interdisciplinary in scope.[4]


In 1988, Watson was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.[4] In its November 2002 issue, Discover included Watson among "The 50 Most Important Women in Science."[7] The article credited Watson with "establishing the best qualitative and quantitative data for an early agricultural complex in North America" and with helping to "introduce the scientific method into archaeological studies."[7] Watson received the Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement in 1999, and the Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology in 2007 from the Archaeological Institute of America.[8][9]


  1. ^ "Watson, Patty Jo (1932-) - People and organisations". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Lindsey Alston, ed. (2007). "Patty Jo Watson". EMuseum. Minnesota State University, Mankato. Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2009-08-19.
  3. ^ a b c d "Patty Jo Watson Faculty Home Page". Washington University in St. Louis. Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved 2009-08-19.
  4. ^ a b c d e "About Alumni: C. Vitae: Cave Crawler". University of Chicago Magazine. 95 (5). June 2003. ISSN 0041-9508. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  5. ^ Herst, K. Kris. "Patty Jo Watson". Retrieved 2009-08-19.
  6. ^ a b "Academy Fellows: Patty Jo Watson, Ph.D." Academy of Science-St. Louis. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2009-08-19.
  7. ^ a b Svitil, Kathy A. (November 1, 2002). "The 50 Most Important Women in Science". Discover. ISSN 0274-7529. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-25. Retrieved 2010-04-07.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link). Retrieved 2010-2-12.
  9. ^ "Pomerance Award for Scientific Contributions to Archaeology - Archaeological Institute of America". Retrieved 2018-11-11.