Alumnus Dr. Henry Miller Awarded J.C. Harrington Medal in Historical Archaeology

Photo of Dr. Henry Miller

The Department of Anthropology is thrilled to congratulate Dr. Henry Miller for being awarded the Society for Historical Archaeology’s J.C. Harrington Medal for 2020. This recognition is the highest international award for scholarly contributions to the field of historical archaeology. An alumnus of the MSU Department of Anthropology, Dr. Miller earned his PhD in 1984 with Dr. Charles “Chuck” Cleland as his advisor. Dr. Miller is the first MSU graduate to receive the honor and expresses that this department made a significant impact on his life. The award was presented to Dr. Miller at the society’s annual conference in recognition of a lifetime of contributions to the field in scholarship, mentorship, service, and collegiality.

Dr. Miller’s early engagement with the emerging field of historical archaeology began as a college student, when he took part in a field school at the site of the earliest European settlement in Arkansas. The next summer, he was hired as an excavator at St. Mary’s City—the first European settlement and capital of Maryland. This was a pivotal experience for Dr. Miller, as this site and academic area strongly resonated with him. He was later accepted into the new, formative MSU program for the study of historical sites and studied with Drs. Charles Cleland, Moreau Maxwell, and Larry Robbins.

During his studies, zooarchaeology became a major interest and the focus of Dr. Miller’s seminal doctoral research, which was the first large scale study of colonial Chesapeake diet and subsistence patterns. His pioneering work in zooarchaeology is also known through his collaborative research that analyzed previously overlooked oyster shells as ecological evidence at archaeological sites.

Much of Dr. Miller’s career has been dedicated to historic St. Mary’s City, serving as the Director of Research there since 1987. His extensive and dynamic research activities extend to his first excavations at St. Mary’s City and have resulted in profound contributions to the scholarship of historic Chesapeake Bay and the Mid-Atlantic region. Dr. Miller’s research interests include foodways and colonial architecture, ceramics, tobacco pipes and oyster shells, changing landscapes over time, and the intellectual influences that shaped early Maryland. Among the numerous archaeological projects at St. Mary’s City in which Dr. Miller has been integral was the excavation and investigation of the parish church burials including members of Lord Baltimore’s family, the Calverts, Maryland’s founding family. This project involved a large collaborative, multidisciplinary research team and garnered international attention.

Dr. Miller next to an excavated lead coffin
Dr. Miller with a lead coffin (1683) excavated from historic St. Mary’s City, MD

Throughout his career, Dr. Miller has been devoted to translating these archaeological and historical findings into a multitude of informative and engaging public exhibits. Dr. Miller was one of the core planners for the highly successful “Written in Bone: Forensic Files from the 17th Century Chesapeake” exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution Natural History Museum, which ran from 2009–2014 and featured findings from St. Mary’s City. An upcoming volume co-edited by Dr. Miller titled “Unearthing St. Mary’s City: 50 Years of Archaeology at Maryland’s First Capital” (University of Florida Press) presents the vast discoveries from St. Mary’s City and will be available May 2021.

With his significant contributions to Maryland’s history, Dr. Miller became the first Maryland Heritage Scholar in 2011. His mentorship has been appreciated by many in various roles, including as a long-time adjunct professor of anthropology at St. Mary’s College. Dr. Miller has held multiple leadership positions with the Society for Historical Archaeology and contributed to the establishment of the first professional standards for the care of historic archaeological collections.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Henry Miller on this prestigious recognition of his myriad of achievements.

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