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William Duncan Strong (1899 – 1962) was an American archaeologist and anthropologist noted for his application of the direct historical approach to the study of indigenous peoples of North and South America.

Strong was born in Portland, Oregon and initially studied zoology, but changed his focus to anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, under the influence of Alfred L. Kroeber, who became his "principal teacher, mentor, and friend"[1]. Strong completed his doctorate in 1926 with a dissertation on "An Analysis of Southwestern Society"[2]. A related study of "Aboriginal Society in Southern California"[3], presenting his detailed fieldwork among the Serrano, Luiseño, Cupeño, and Cahuilla peoples, has been characterized as "one of the earliest and one of the best efforts by a United States anthropologist to combine structural-functional analysis with historical data and interpretation"[4]. Strong also did ethnographic field research among the Naskapi of Labrador.

Most of Strong's anthropological contributions were specifically in archaeology. He did pioneering fieldwork in California's San Joaquin Valley, the Pacific Northwest, the American Great Plains, Labrador, and Honduras. In Peru, he developed statistical methods to seriate pottery styles and is credited with the discovery of the tomb of the war god Ai apaec in 1946.[5] His 1935 study, "An Introduction to Nebraska Archaeology"[6], is credited with providing a major impetus for the direct historical approach in archaeology.[7]

Strong held academic positions at the University of Nebraska and Columbia University. Among his notable students were the archaeologists Waldo Wedel and Gordon Willey.


  1. ^ Ralph L. Beals. 1972. Forward. In Aboriginal Society in Southern California, by William Duncan Strong, pp. vii-ix. Malki Museum Press, Banning, California.
  2. ^ Published in American Anthropologist, vol. 29, pp. 1-61.
  3. ^ 1929. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, vol. 1-358. Berkeley.
  4. ^ Beals, op. cit., p. ix.
  5. ^ "William D. Strong", in Hutchinson Encyclopedia of Biography. 2000. Helicon, Abingdon.
  6. ^ Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. 93, no. 10. Washington, D.C.
  7. ^ Gordon R. Willey and Jeremy A. Sabloff. 1980. A History of American Archaeology. 2nd ed. W. H. Freeman, San Francisco.

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