(April 19, 2022)—I cannot think of a Southwestern archaeologist and scholar who has made a more positive impact on our field than Gwinn Vivian (1935–2022). And the effect his recent passing is having on all of us who were fortunate to know him only goes to show the personal impacts this gentle, thoughtful man had on so many.
Because I did not attend the University of Arizona, my path to knowing Gwinn happened a little differently from my colleagues at Archaeology Southwest and other Southwestern archaeology friends. Still, there is no question that Gwinn had a lasting impact on my development as an archaeologist and a Chaco scholar.
What stands out to me, as I look back over the years I was fortunate to know him, is Gwinn’s unfailing generosity.
I met Gwinn in the early 1990s while I was employed with the Navajo Nation Archaeology Department. Many of the sites I was fortunate to investigate dated to the Basketmaker and early Pueblo period of Puebloan society. Gwinn wrote the concluding chapter for the edited volume about that work that was published in 2000 (Foundations of Anasazi Culture). Gwinn not only brought his vast knowledge of San Juan Basin archaeology to bear, but also incisively identified avenues for future Basketmaker research.
As my subsequent work on the partnership between Archaeology Southwest and Salmon Ruins Museum got underway in 2001, it quickly became clear that I needed an all-star team of Chacoan and Southwestern archaeologists to bring the late Cynthia Irwin-Williams’s vision of Salmon Pueblo’s importance into current academic thinking. Gwinn was a key member of that team, providing perceptive comments during a dedicated Salmon working conference in 2004 and writing a wonderful summary chapter that appeared in Chaco’s Northern Prodigies in 2008.
For a 2004 book project (The Puebloan Society of Chaco Canyon) for Greenwood Press’s “Guides to Historic Events of the Medieval World,” Gwinn agreed to provide a substantial review in prepublication, and his incisive comments improved my prose and significantly affected my evolving and durable view of the nature of the Puebloan world in Chaco Canyon.
Gwinn Vivian’s willingness to share his unparalleled knowledge with students, younger scholars, colleagues, and members of the public was boundless, gracious, and sincere. It’s why I have always thought of him as—and he will always be for me—the Dean of Chaco.
Finding aid for the Gwinn Vivian Collection, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, National Park Service (2009) (opens as a PDF)
Roots of Southwestern Archaeology Oral History Project interview with Gwinn, Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society (December 8, 2020) (opens at YouTube)
Living in Chaco: Interpreting Chaco, Tea and Archaeology presentation by Gwinn for Archaeology Southwest (2012) (opens at YouTube) *Please be aware that this is an older video. You will need to turn up the sound and/or wear headphones—but it will be worth it!