PhD Student Andy Upton receives Wenner-Gren

Andy Upton, Phd Candidate

Analysis of cooking jars and serving plates from the Star Bridge Mississippian town site at the Western Illinois Archaeological Research Center

Andy J. Upton has been awarded three prestigious grants to assist in the completion of his dissertation research. In 2017, he was awarded the American Anthropological Association Archaeology Division Student Membership Award; a Wenner-Gren dissertation fieldwork grant for “Modeling Networks of Interaction, Identification, and Exchange through Mississippian Period Pottery in the US Midwest,” and a National Science Foundation Archaeology Program Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant for “Doctoral Dissertation Research: The Role of Network Relationships in Intercultural Contact.” In 2016, he was awarded the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fund Individual Grant for “Factionalism, Migration, and Conflict in the Late Prehistoric Central Illinois River Valley” and in 2015 he won the Chicago Field Museum Elemental Analysis Facility National Science Foundation Subsidy Grant for “Factionalism, Migration, and Conflict in the Late Prehistoric Central IL River Valley: A Pilot Study using LA-ICP-MS.”

Andy’s dissertation research looks at how network relationships among complex and smaller-scale societies are restructured by migration. Mr. Upton feels that archaeology is well suited to explore the complex sociocultural formations resulting from intercultural contact because it captures transformations in relationships between communities following contact. His work contributes to the broader social and intellectual theory by enhancing the understanding of the impact of migration on social structure, which is an important analytical issue due to the prevalence of migration induced by war, climatic instability, economic insecurity, and social unrest in both contemporary and prehistoric settings.

His dissertation project, under the direction of Dr. Jodie O’Gorman, examines the role network interrelationships play as indicators of how both local societies and non-local migrant peoples approach intercultural social and economic relations. In particular, Andy’s research addresses the role of the ceramic industry, circa A.D. 1300, and how the in-migration of an Oneota tribal group restructured social relationships in a mostly Mississippian chiefly society across the Middle to Late Mississippian transition in the Late Prehistoric central Illinois River valley (ca. A.D. 1200-1450). This research is an outgrowth of the ongoing collaborative research of Dr. O’Gorman and Dr. Michael Conner, Dickson Mounds Museum of the Illinois State Museum.

How these communities negotiated multicultural regional cohabitation is another important and relevant aspect of his work. Through his work, Andy hopes to model social networks through clay resource acquisition and the exchange of cooking and serving pottery. Networks of communication are identified based upon the stylistic decorations on pots as well as their form, exhibiting shared relationships of learning and the transmission of culture through time. By providing a dynamic and multi-faceted view on social structure, Andy’s dissertation research contributes to a more nuanced understanding of social and economic transformations resulting from cultural contact.
Currently, Andy works as the Program Coordinator for the Graduate School at the University of Cincinnati where he lives with his wife Sarah and their dog Avey. Andy hopes to defend his dissertation in 2018.