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Jelmer Eerkens


  • Ph.D., Archaeology, UC Santa Barbara, 2001
  • M.A., Archaeology, UC Santa Barbara, 1996
  • B.S., Computer Science, UC Davis, 1992


Jelmer Eerkens received a B.S. in computer science in 1992 from UC Davis, and an M.A. (1996) and Ph.D. (2001) in archaeology from UC Santa Barbara. During his graduate training, he spent one semester at the University of Missouri at the Research Reactor (MURR), and two semesters at the University of Calgary as a visiting researcher. Prior to coming (back) to UC Davis, he served as assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach. He is also faculty in the UC Davis Forensic Science Graduate Program.

Research Focus

Professor Eerkens is interested in how humans, especially hunter-gatherers, adapt to social and environmental conditions and how these adaptations affect kinship, diet, resource extraction, land tenure practices, and the adoption and modification of material technologies, especially ceramics and stone-tools. He applies evolutionary models to better understand change in the archaeological record, especially ideas from cultural transmission theory. He has conducted archaeological field research in California, Nevada, South-Central Peru, and Northwest Europe. Much of his research incorporates archaeometric applications such as stable isotope analysis, gas chromatography, electron microprobe, neutron activation, and X-Ray Fluorescence. 

Selected Publications

  • Eerkens, J.W., B. Hull, J. Goodman, A. Evoy, J.D. Kapp, S. Hussain, and R.E. Green. Stable C and N isotope analysis of hair suggest undernourishment as a factor in the death of a mummified girl from late 19th century San Francisco, CA. PLoS ONE 12(9): e0184921. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184921
  • Eerkens, J. W., Sullivan, K., & Greenwald, A. M. (2016). Stable isotope analysis of serial samples of third molars as insight into inter- and intra-individual variation in ancient diet. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 5: 656–663.
  • Eerkens, J. W., Bartelink, E. J. Brink, L., Fitzgerald, R. T., Garibay, R., Jorgenson, G. A., & Wiberg, R. S. (2016). Trophy heads or ancestor veneration? A stable isotope perspective on disassociated and modified crania in precontact Central California. American Antiquity 81: 114-131.
  • Eerkens, J. W., Carlson, T., Malhi, R. S., Blake, J., Bartelink, E. J., Barfod, G. H., Estes, E., Garibay, R., Glessner, J., Greenwald, A. M., Lentz, K., Hi, H., & Marshall. C. K. (2016). Isotopic and genetic analyses of a mass grave in central California: Implications for precontact hunter-gatherer warfare. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 159:116-125.
  • Tushingham, S., & Eerkens, J. W. (2016). Hunter-gatherer tobacco smoking in ancient North America: current chemical evidence and a framework for future studies. In Perspectives on the Archaeology of Pipes, Tobacco and Other Smoke Plants in the Ancient Americas, ed. by E.A. Bollwerk and S. Tushingham, pp. 211-230. Springer International Publishing.
  • de Voogt, A., Eerkens, J. W., & Sherman-Presser, R. (2015). Production bias in cultural evolution: An examination of cubic dice variation in experimental and archaeological contexts. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 40:151-159.
  • Eerkens, J. W., Barfod, G. H., Leventhal, A., Jorgenson, G. A., & Cambra , R. (2014). Matrilocality in the middle period in San Francisco Bay? New evidence from strontium isotopes at CA-SCL-287. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology  34: 205–221.


Introduction to Archaeology (ANT 3); World Prehistory (ANT 23); Ancient Crops and People (ANT 24); Mummies of the Ancient World (ANT 26); Andean Prehistory (ANT 175); Prehistory of California (ANT 176); Archaeometry (ANT 182); Prehistoric Technologies (ANT 184)