Origins of complex societies; West African Iron Age archaeology, with particular emphasis on the interior floodplains of the Senegal and Niger rivers; ceramic analysis; human osteology; cultural property, heritage, and sociopolitics
McIntosh holds advanced degrees from Cambridge University (M.A.) and the
University of California at Santa Barbara (Ph.D.) Since 1981, she has taught at Rice University
where she is the Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Anthropology. In 1989–1990, she
was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at
Stanford. She is the co-author or editor
of four major monographs on field research in Mali and Senegal at the sites of
Jenné-jeno (1980 BAR; 1995 University of California Press) Sincu Bara (2002
CRIAA/IFAN), and Cubalel (2013 Yale University Publications in
Anthropology). A fifth book, Beyond Chiefdoms (1999 Cambridge
University Press), explored the use of African data for understanding the
emergence and development of complex societies.
In 2000, Columbia University Press published The Way the Wind Blows, the proceedings of a conference on climate
change and human response in history, which she organized and edited with J.
Tainter and R.McIntosh. In addition, she
has authored or co-authored over 60 articles on West African fieldwork or
issues relating to complex societies in Africa.
She has also authored a series of overviews of West African archaeology.
She has co-directed field research in the two great floodplains of the Middle
Niger and the Middle Senegal Valleys for
eleven seasons since 1980, funded by grants from the National Science
Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and a private foundation.
Because of the growing problem of
looting of terracotta statuettes from Middle Niger sites, she became involved
in issues of archaeological heritage and cultural property and has published
and lectured widely on these topics. In
1996, she was appointed by President Clinton to the Cultural Property Advisory
Committee, where she served two terms, until 2003. She has also served as a member of the
Archaeology Panel at NSF. She is on the
editorial boards of numerous journals, and from 2002–2004, she served as
President of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists.
current research focuses on the emergence of large-scale, complex societies in
Africa, the impact of climate and environmental change on human society in the
past, and the politics of archaeology and archaeological representations of the
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