Laura Scheiber

Laura Scheiber

Associate Professor, Anthropology

Director, William R. Adams Zooarchaeology Laboratory

Affiliate, Center for Archaeology in the Public Interest


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, University of California-Berkeley, 2001
  • M.A., Anthropology, University of Wyoming, 1993
  • B.A., Anthropology, University of Wyoming, 1990

Geographical Areas of Specialization
North America; Plains

Research Interests
zooarchaeology; faunal analysis; North American archaeology; Native American ethnohistory; culture contact; archaeological theory and practice; historical anthropology; landscapes; identity; archaeological fiction

About Laura Scheiber

In my research, I address long-term social dynamics on the North American Plains by considering culture contact and colonialism, household production, and micro-scale daily activities. My specialty is the identification and analysis of large mammal bones, particularly bison. I emphasize processes of production, transportation, processing, cooking, and discard.

Since 1990 I have been studying the intersection between food processing and cultural identity during the Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric periods, trying to unravel relationships between High Plains hunter-gatherers and Central Plains villagers. With the help of countless students, I am analyzing faunal material from several sites, including the Donovan site, a hunting camp in northeastern Colorado , A.D. 1000-1300, the Albert Bell site, a farmstead in western Kansas , A.D. 1300, and the Little River Site 14RC410, a Protohistoric Wichita farmstead in south-central Kansas , A.D. 1450.

I am also the co-director of an archaeological research project Exploring Social and Historical Landscapes of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It consists of two spatially separate locations around the Bighorn Basin of northern Wyoming and southern Montana , one adjacent to the Crow Indian Reservation on the western slope of the Bighorn Mountains and the other in the Shoshone homeland of the Absaroka Mountains . This is collaborative research with Northwest College (Powell, Wyoming), Little Big Horn College (Crow Agency, Montana), St. Cloud State University (Minnesota), the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. I address historical and cultural topics by examining the ways that Native American inhabitants of the Rocky Mountains crafted social identities, manipulated material culture, and situated themselves within the broader landscape.

The first of these locations is at the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. My focus is on the domestic architecture of stone circles, the former locations of tipis. Many of these sites are located along the Bad Pass Trail, a National Register site in Bighorn Canyon constructed during prehistoric times and used by numerous Native American tribes, early 19th century trapping expeditions, and U.S. army patrols during the Plains Indian campaigns. By combining traditional mapping techniques with digital technology (integrating GIS, GPS, geophysical survey, and artifact and feature attribute data), our collective data provide a comprehensive package for understanding domestic space and everyday lives.

This project has expanded to the wilderness mountain areas of northwestern Wyoming, where I am investigating Shoshone campsites and bighorn sheep traps of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Because the residents of these sites were pushed into this remote mountainous location by expanding American Indian and Euroamerican populations, virtually nothing is known about them.

The material inventory includes a wide range of both aboriginal and introduced materials, many of which date to the fur trade era. The materials are clustered into distinct activity areas, such as tool manufacture, animal butchery and bone processing, cooking facilities, and craft production. This reveals information about the relationships among the artifacts and the spatiality of everyday practice. The exceptional range of aboriginal and introduced materials at these sites is the only example of its kind in the west. 

Selected Publication

Scheiber, Laura L. and Judson Byrd Finley (2011) Situating (Proto)History on the Northwestern Plains and Rocky Mountains.The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology, edited by Timothy R. Pauketat, pp. 347-358. Oxford University press, New York.

Scheiber, Laura L. and Judson Byrd Finley (2011) Obsidian Source Use in the Greater Yellowstone Area, Wyoming Basin, and Central Rocky Mountains.American Antiquity 75(2):372-394.

Scheiber, Laura L. and Judson Byrd Finley (2011) Mobility as Resistance: Colonialism among Nomadic Hunter-Gatherers in the American West.In Hunter-Gatherer Archaeology as Historical Process, edited by Kenneth E. Sassaman and Donald H. Holly. Jr., pp. 167-183. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Scheiber, Laura L., Kelly M. Branam, Judson Byrd Finley, Rebecca A. Nathan, Katherine L. Burnett, Maureen P. Boyle, Dawn M. Rutecki, Aaron E. Erickson, Chris Finley, Alda Good Luck (2011). "Crow Rediscover a Piece of Their Homeland":America's Best Idea at Bighorn Canyon. SAA's Archaeological Practice January 2011 prototype, pp. 29-34.

Scheiber, Laura L. and Mark D. Mitchell (editors) (2010) Across a Great Divide: Continuity and Change in Native North American Societies, 1400-1900.Amerind Studies in Archaeology, edited by John Ware. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Mitchell, Mark D. and Laura L. Scheiber (2010) Crossing Divides: Archaeology as History. In Across a Great Divide: Continuity and Change in Native North American Societies, 1400-1900, edited by Laura L. Scheiber and Mark D. Mitchell, pp. 1-22. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Scheiber, Laura L. and Judson Byrd Finley (2010) Domestic Campsites and Cyber Landscapes in the Rocky Mountains. Antiquity 84(323):114-130.

Scheiber, Laura, Maureen Boyle, and Judson Finley (2009) Archaeology: Combining Mapping Techniques with Digital Technology PositionIT (Nov/Dec 2009):25-29.

Scheiber, Laura L. and Bonnie J. Clark (editors). Archaeological Landscapes on the High Plains. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Scheiber, Laura L. Intersecting Landscapes in Northeastern Colorado: A Case Study from the Donovan Site In Archaeological Landscapes on the High Plains, edited by Laura L. Scheiber and Bonnie J. Clark, pp. 17-40. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Clark, Bonnie J. and Laura L. Scheiber.A Sloping Land: An Introduction to Archaeological Landscapes on the High Plains In Archaeological Landscapes on the High Plains, edited by Laura L. Scheiber and Bonnie J. Clark, pp. 1-16. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Scheiber, Laura L. Life and Death on the Northwestern Plains optimized Life and Death on the Northwestern Plains: Mortuary Practices and Cultural Transformations. In Skeletal Biology and Bioarchaeology of the Northwestern Plains, edited by George W. Gill and Rick L. Weathermon, pp. 22-41. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Scheiber, Laura L., Judson Byrd Finley, and Maureen P. Boyle. Bad Pass Archaeology. American Surveyor 5(4):12-23.