Geoffrey Conrad

Geoffrey Conrad

Professor Emeritus

Director, Mathers Museum of World Cultures

Affiliate Faculty, Center for Archaeology in the Public Interest


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, Harvard University, 1974
  • B.A., Anthropology, Harvard University, 1969

About Geoffrey Conrad

In 1997, after more than a quarter-century of work devoted to Central Andean cultures, I began excavating in the Dominican Republic on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (also known as Santo Domingo). I am studying the development of the Taíno chiefdoms encountered by Christopher Columbus and the early Spanish explorers of the Caribbean. In addition to being an example of the pristine development of complex chiefdoms, the Taínos were the first American Indians to undergo conquest by Europeans, and many of the practices that characterized the Spanish conquests of Mexico and Peru were first employed in the Caribbean.

I am concentrating on roughly the last 500 years before the arrival of Columbus and the first few centuries thereafter. I use both archaeological data and written records dating to the early colonial ear. I am trying to determine how practices and institutions described by early European observers like Bartolomé de Las Casas and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés are reflected in the ground (and in some cases why the archaeological data seem to contradict the written records). I am also increasingly convinced that the traditional interpretation-namely that the Taínos were extinct by 1535, the victims of warfare, overwork and disease-is overly simplistic. Recently I have become very interested in trying to trace the post-1492 development of Taíno culture archaeologically.

I also believe it is vitally important for anthropologists and archaeologists to explain what we do, and why it is important, to the public. I am particularly interested in museums as means of communicating with the public. In additon to my archaeological research and teaching, I direct the William Hammond Mathers Museum, Indiana University's museum of world cultures, and teach courses in museum studies.

Selected Publications

ND (with J.W. Foster et al.) Artefactos de madera recuperados del Manantial de la Aleta, Parque Nacional del Este. Boletíin del Musea del Hombre Dominicano (in press).

ND (with C.D. Beller and J.W. Foster) Underwater archaeology at the Manantial de la Aleta, Dominican Replublic. In Proceedings of the 20th Congress of the international Association of Caribbean Archaeologists. Santo Domingo: Museo del Hombre Dominicano (in press).

2002 (with C.D. Beeker and J.W. Foster) Taíno use of flooded caverns in the East National Park Region, Dominican Republic. Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3.

2002 (with J.W. Foster and C.D. Beeker) The chiefdom of Higüey, Hispaniola. Presented at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Denver, CO.