Alfred V. Kidder bigraphy, stories - American archaeologist

Alfred V. Kidder : biography

October 29, 1885 - June 11, 1963

Alfred Vincent Kidder (October 29, 1885 - June 11, 1963) was an American archaeologist considered the foremost of the southwestern United States and Mesoamerica during the first half of the 20th century. He saw a disciplined system of archaeological techniques as a means to extend the principles of anthropology into the prehistoric past and so was the originator of the first comprehensive, systematic approach to North American archaeology.

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation

During Kidder’s studies and excavations at Pecos Pueblo, particularly between 1915 and 1929, pottery and other artifacts were sent to the Robert S. Peabody Museum, Andover, Massachusetts, while excavated human remains were sent to the Peabody Museum at Harvard. In the early 20th century, no archaeologist consulted with Native American descendants concerning the excavation of their ancestors' homes and graves. Although Kidder was aware of the long standing relationship between the abandoned Pecos Pueblo and the modern Pueblo of Jemez, he did not consider that any local population had a claim on artifacts and remains.

By a 1936 Act of Congress, the Pueblo of Jemez became the legal and administrative representative of the Pueblo of Pecos, which had been privately owned during Kidder’s excavation. As a consequence of The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which requires federal and other museum facilities to inventory, establish cultural affiliations, and publish in the Federal Register any and all Native American human remains and certain objects in their possession, the Pueblo of Jemez made a formal claim on behalf of the Pecos people. This repatriation was primarily due to the efforts of William J. Whatley, the Jemez Pueblo tribal archaeologist, who searched through museum records for these remains and artifacts for eight years. The human remains from Kidder’s excavations were returned to the Jemez people in 1999 and ritually reburied at Pecos National Historic Park. In a sense, they rejoined Kidder, as he is buried on a hillside not far away, close to Pecos Pueblo.


Kidder’s writings include Introduction to the Study of Southwestern Archaeology (1924) regarded as the first comprehensive archaeological study of a New World area; The Pottery of Pecos (2 vol., 1931-36); The Artifacts of Pecos (1932); and Pecos, New Mexico: Archaeological Notes (1958).

  • Kidder, Alfred V. Prehistoric cultures of the San Juan drainage - 1914. Reproduced in Alfred V. Kidder, by Richard B. Woodbury, Columbia University Press, New York, 1973, pp. 99–107.
  • Kidder, Alfred V. and Kidder, Mary A. “Notes on the pottery of Pecos - 1917," American Anthropologist 19(3):325-360.
  • Kidder, Alfred V., Jennings, Jesse D., Shook, Edwin M. Shook, with technological notes by Anna O. Shepard. Excavations at Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala. Carnegie Institution of Washington. Publication 561. Washington, D.C. 1946.

Early life

Born in Marquette, Michigan, Kidder was the son of a mining engineer. He entered Harvard College with the intention of qualifying for medical school, but found himself uninspired by premedical courses. He applied for a summer job in archaeology with the University of Utah in 1907. Kidder spent two successive summers in the mesa and canyon country of southwestern Colorado, southeastern Utah and areas of New Mexico. Kidder and Jesse L. Nusbaum (later Superintendent of Mesa Verde National Park), came to the Mesa Verde area with ethnologist Jesse Walter Fewkes to conduct an archaeological survey and to photograph ruins. He obtained his bachelor's degree at Harvard in 1908 and a doctorate in anthropology in 1914.

Family life

Although her name rarely occurred on publications, A.V.'s wife M.A. Kidder worked as an archaeologist alongside her husband.Kidder, Madeline and A.V. Kidder. "Notes on the Pottery of Pecos," American Anthropologist. July-Sept 1917. Vol 19, No 3. Kidder's grandson, T.R. Kidder is a noted archaeologist of the southeastern United States.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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