In Memoriam: Dr. Bruce Huckell

Departmental News

Posted:  May 17, 2024 - 12:00am

Dr. Bruce Huckell, Associate Professor of Anthropology at UNM, passed away on May 13, 2024. Dr. Huckell was a leader in the fields of geoarchaeology, lithic technology, and early prehistoric foragers in North America. He received his bachelor's degree in 1972, his master of arts in 1976, and his doctorate degree in Arid Lands Resource Sciences in 1990, all from the University of Arizona.

Dr. Huckell’s archaeological research focused on the investigation of past subsistence choices, lithic technological organization, and mobility patterns of hunting-gathering societies in arid and semiarid environments of the North American Southwest and western North America. He’s particularly noted for his contributions to our understanding of Paleoindian and Archaic prehistoric populations in Arizona and New Mexico.

bruce.jpgOver his career, Dr. Huckell authored or coauthored nine books and monographs, edited or co-edited another three volumes, and had several volumes in preparation or in press at the time of his death. He also authored or co-authored more than 85 peer-reviewed articles and book and monograph chapters.

Leslie Spier Distinguished Professor Lawrence Straus writes of Dr. Huckell: His skills and experience in Archaic and Paleoindian archeology, geomorphology, and lithic analysis were well reflected in his many publications and in the dissertations of his many students. He was the "go-to" specialist in NM on matters Paleoindian (and Pleistocene faunal finds) and a rigorous critic of overblown claims of great antiquity for human presence here and throughout North America.

Dr. Huckell’s career at UNM began in 1994, when he was appointed Senior Research Coordinator in the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology and Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology. He advanced to Research Associate Professor in 2000, served as Interim Director of the Maxwell Museum from 2005 to 2007, and from 2014, was a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology.

He was a dedicated teacher and mentor. He chaired (or co-chaired) 14 PhD committees at UNM and supervised additional Public Archaeology MA students and undergraduate honors theses. His former students have earned appointments at colleges and universities in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, California, and Nebraska. Because Dr. Huckell’s experience included work in cultural resource management (CRM) and publication of a technical monographs based on this work, he encouraged students to consider careers in public and private CRM organizations. 

Joe Birkmann, UNM PhD student, writes: I have spent the better part of the last 6 years sitting roughly 8 feet from Bruce in his Hibben Center office. Bruce was a model of archaeological practice. As a scholar, he was careful, deliberate, detail-oriented, practical, empirical, and, most importantly, honest. His work was driven not by a desire for disciplinary accolades or what limited fame is associated with the small community of preceramic North American archaeologists but by a genuine desire to tell the story of the early peoples of Southwestern North America better and more accurately. As a mentor, he was also exemplary. Bruce was patient, kind, giving, and encyclopedic in his knowledge. He not only taught his students how to conduct research but also how to be professionals. I’ll miss the scholar, and I’ll miss my mentor, but most of all I’ll miss my friend.

His expertise included lithic technology, and he was an accomplished flint-knapper, providing demonstrations to undergraduate and graduate students at UNM and to the public. He taught the UNM Southwestern Archaeological Field Schools, focusing on Paleoindian sites in central New Mexico.

Caption: UNM Southwestern Archaeological Field Schools in 2006

Most importantly, Bruce was a devoted husband to paleoethnobotanist Lisa W. Huckell, his wife, collaborator, and best friend. The pair could often be seen trekking out across the landscape, along with their canine companion, Noche, always on the lookout for a lithic scatter or some unique vegetation. Over their 50-year careers, the pair shared a love for the landscape of the Southwest, its people, and its history.

During the fall semester, the department will host a memorial for Dr. Huckell in the Hibben Center.


UNM Southwest Field School 2006