(1943 – 2022 May 27): Age 78
David Wilcox in 1991. Photo courtesy Susan Wilcox.
Dr. David Robert Wilcox, a scholar of unmatched depth and breadth among those who study the archaeology of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, died May 27, 2022, at the age of 78. Born in Albany, New York, Dr. Wilcox came to Arizona in 1969 and was awarded a Ph.D. in anthropology by the University of Arizona in 1977. In 1984 he joined the staff of the Museum of Northern Arizona as a Scholar in Residence, became Curator of Anthropology in 1985, and Head of Anthropology in 1988. In 2006 he stepped down as Head and was appointed Senior Research Anthropologist. He retired in 2010. He also served as an Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Northern Arizona University from 1986 until 2018.
A prolific writer, he produced more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, including 16 books, three special journal issues, 76 book chapters, and 20 journal articles, as well as dozens of articles aimed at the general public. He made groundbreaking contributions to research on Hohokam religion, social organization, ballcourts, great houses, and platform mounds; pre-Hispanic settlement systems; and the protohistoric period (ca. 1450-1700 CE). His most important publications in these areas include the following: Wilcox, David R. 1975 The Relationship of Casa Grande Ruin to Compound A: Research Potential of the In Situ Deposits. Archaeological Series No. 83. Cultural Resource Management Section, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson. 1977 Archaeomagnetic Dating in Compounds A and B, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Contributions to Archaeology No. 1. Gila Press, Scottsdale. 1987 Frank Midvale’s Investigation of the Site of La Cuidad. Anthropological Field Studies No. 19. Office of Cultural Resource Management, Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe.
Wilcox, David R., Thomas R. McGuire, and Charles Sternberg 1981 Snaketown Revisited: A Partial Cultural Resource Survey, Analysis of Site Structure and an Ethnohistoric Study of the Proposed Hohokam-Pima National Monument. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series No. 155. Cultural Resource Management Division, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson.
Wilcox, David R., and W. Bruce Masse (editors) 1981 The Protohistoric Period in the North American Southwest, AD 1450-1700. Arizona State University Anthropological Research Papers No. 24. Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe.Wilcox, David R., and Lynette O. Shenk 1977 The Architecture of the Casa Grande and Its Interpretation. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series No. 115. Cultural Resource Management Section, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson.Wilcox, David R., and Charles Sternberg 1981 Additional Studies of the Architecture of the Casa Grande and its Interpretation. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series No. 146. Cultural Resource Management Section, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson. 1983 Hohokam Ballcourts and Their Interpretation. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series No. 160. Cultural Resource Management Division, Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson.Scarborough, Vernon L., and David R. Wilcox (editors) 1991 The Mesoamerican Ballgame. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Dr. Wilcox was also an important chronicler of the history of southwestern anthropology, particularly that of the Hemenway Expedition of 1886-1889, having co-edited the following key sources:
Hinsley, Curtis M., and David R. Wilcox (editors) 1995 A Hemenway Portfolio: Voices and Views from the Hemenway Archaeological Expedition, 1886-1889. Journal of the Southwest 37(4):517-744 (special issue) 1996 The Southwest in the American Imagination: The Writings of Sylvester Baxter, 1881-1889. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 2002 The Lost Itinerary of Frank Hamilton Cushing. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 2016 Coming of Age in Chicago: The 1893 World's Fair and the Coalescence of American Anthropology. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
In addition, he specialized in large-scale synthesis and was a strong advocate for “viewing the Southwest at the proper scale.” An important example of this approach is his 2007 book, co-edited with the late David A. Gregory, Zuni Origins: Toward a New Synthesis of Southwestern Archaeology (University of Arizona Press, Tucson). Despite his “peregrine view,” he maintained amazing control of the details. He also highlighted the importance of existing museum collections, both artifacts and archival materials, to archaeology today.
Throughout his career, Dr. Wilcox worked with many different avocational archaeological organizations, including the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society (AAHS), the Arizona Site Steward Program, and the Arizona Archaeological Society (AAS). He also served as Chairman of the Governor's Archaeology Advisory Commission (GAAC) and was a member of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center's Research Advisory Committee. AAHS honored Dr. Wilcox with its 2007 Byron Cummings Award in recognition of his many significant contributions to the field. He also received AAS’s Professional Archaeologist of the Year Award in 2008 and GAAC’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
At the Arizona State Museum (ASM), we appreciate Dr. Wilcox’s thorough research on our institution’s history, as well as that of our University of Arizona sibling, the School of Anthropology, and AAHS, established in 1916, principally to support ASM and the archaeological fieldwork of Dr. Bryon Cummings, ASM’s first Director. Just this past year, he added to these histories with articles in Journal of the Southwest. In one, he made sure that we and the world did not overlook the contributions of local businessman William E. Barnes (1869–1916) in the evolution of ASM from a museum of natural history into an anthropological research museum and the establishment of the Department of Archaeology, which would become the School of Anthropology. In the other, he republished a series of essays, previously made available through the AAHS monthly newsletter, Glyphs, chronicling the society’s early years and its impact on University of Arizona units as well as southwestern anthropology and history.
We are grateful that Dr. Wilcox cared so deeply about the museum that he left us with as complete a history of the institution as possible, and for taking steps to ensure that its future will be more financially secure. When he retired, he began transferring his papers and research library to ASM. To help ensure that the ASM Library and Archives has the ability to accept, process, and make available to the public not only his papers, but those of other leaders in the field, he and his wife Susan established the ASM Library and Archives Endowment Fund.
Dr. Wilcox’s presence, advocacy, and research will be greatly missed at ASM and by the entire archaeological community. We wish his family, and all who held him dear, every blessing for peace, comfort, and consolation. Condolences can be sent to Susan Wilcox at 1440 W. Shullenbarger Drive, Flagstaff, AZ 86005.
Courtesy of Patrick Lyons, Director of the Arizona State Museum