Robert Connolly

Robert Connolly

Assistant Professor and Director, Chucalissa Museum

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  • Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1996

Fields of interest

Prehistoric Monumental Architecture, Public Archaeology, Museum Studies

My initial research interest was the organization of corporate space in the prehistoric New
World. In my doctoral dissertation I utilized linguistic and built environment models to
hypothesize function and meaning of 2000 year old earthwork complexes of the Hopewell
culture in the Ohio Valley. Upon completing graduate studies, I continued pursued my
research interest as the Station Archaeologist at the Poverty Point earthworks in Northeast
Louisiana. Besides curation responsibilities for the several hundred cubic feet of excavated
materials and associated records from the site, my research focused on the technological and
social organization of Native Americans who built and occupied the set of six concentric
ridges and numerous earthen mounds constructed of the complex around 1800 B.C.

My evolving research over the past 20 years logically lead me to museum studies. Besides
utilizing the untapped potential of previously excavated collections, I am interested in
exploring and implementing creative and informative means for developing a greater
appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of our region in school, museum, and other public
venue contexts. The C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, where I am the Director, is an ideal
place to carry out that research.

There are many opportunities for students to get involved at Chucalissa, located in southwest
Memphis adjacent to the T.O. Fuller State Park. See our website at chucalissa.memphis.edu
for detailed directions. We have the need for student assistance in graphic design, web
development, artifact processing, exhibit design, video work, museum guides, community
outreach, assistance with visiting school groups, gardeners, organizing files, data entry . . . to
name a few. As well, the Museums collections and the Chucalissa temple mound complex
offer considerable and varied formal research opportunities for students on both the graduate
and undergraduate level. Chucalissa serves as the location for a host of projects and
internships in the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis.
Besides my formal research interests, I enjoy a wide range of other study and exploration
including a 10-week field season at the Kinal site in the Peten of Guatemala, several trips to
the Lake Yojoha region of Honduras with Habitat for Humanity, a few Medical Mission trips
among the Kuna and Embera in Panama, and other travel in Central America. Most recently,
my wife Emma and I were members of a delegation of Mississippians who traveled to Turkey
as part of the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue.

Selected Publications

  • From Actors to Directors and Producers: The Evolving Voice of Native Americans at Chucalissa. Practicing Anthropology 2010
  • An Assessment of Radiocarbon Age Results from the Poverty Point site Louisiana Archaeology Volume 28. 2007
  • The Fort Ancient Earthwork: Prehistoric Lifeways of the Hopewell in Southwestern Ohio, Ohio Historical Society. 2005
  • Final Report on the 1980 - 1982 Excavations, Northwest Ridge One, The Poverty Point Site, (16WC5). Louisiana Archaeology, Volume 25. 2003
  • The Architectural Grammar of Middle Woodland Hilltop Enclosures: Fort Ancient as a Case Study. In Ancient Earthen Enclosures of the Eastern Woodlands, edited by Lynne Sullivan and Robert Mainfort, University Press of Florida, Gainesville. 1998