When most people think of an archeological dig, they think of dirt, but some of Tim Kohler’s most productive digs are deep in data.
Kohler, a 2006 Regents Professor best known for his archaeological research in the southwestern United States, has, in some ways, changed the face of archeology with his sophisticated computer analysis of voluminous data related to climate, geography, food sources and other factors that influence human settlements.
“The whole process of research is fun because you are trying to produce new knowledge,” Kohler said. He said one way to do that is to manipulate large data sets in various ways, including through simulation, to find patterns that no one has seen before.
A research associate at the Crow Canyon Archeological Center in Cortez, Colo., and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, Kohler also directs digs to compile new information. But, he said, the Southwest is a particularly exciting area to research because so many researchers before him have compiled so much information with which to work.
WSU anthropology professor William Lipe, one of those researchers and an early mentor of Kohler’s, e-mailed from a hotel in Casablanca to say, “I’m elated that Tim has been promoted to Regents Professor rank. Tim is widely recognized as one of the most creative and productive archeologists working today and this recognition extends internationally.”
That sentiment was echoed by one of Kohler’s very first graduate students, Steve Hackenberger, now a professor of anthropology at Central Washington University.
“He is internationally recognized, along with his student research collaborators, for innovating computer modeling within archaeology,” Hackenberger said.
Perhaps what Kohler is most proud of, he said, is the strong record of graduate education within the department of anthropology.
“For a long time we’ve had a heavy emphasis on graduate studies,” he said. While he wasn’t sure about current figures, a study in the mid-1990s put WSU third in the nation in producing practicing archaeologists with master’s degrees and seventh for its production of Ph.D.-level archaeologists.