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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Anthropology

Program in
Human Ecology and Archaeobiology

Bruce D. Smith has been a Curator of North American Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology, NMNH, since 1978. His primary geographical area of interest is eastern North America, and his general research interests have centered on human-environmental interaction (CV, PNAS profile). 

Since 1985 his research and writing has largely focused on the origins of agriculture, a major evolutionary transition in human history. Smith has documented the transition from hunting and gathering to food production in eastern North America (ENA Research topic , 2006 ENA PNAS, 2009 Riverton), and reanalyzed early domesticated plant remains from Mesoamerica (Mesoamerica Research Topic, 1997 Ocampo Caves LAA, 1997 C. Pepo Science, 2005 Coxcatlan Cave PNAS).

He has also been interested in looking at how and why human societies in different world areas first domesticated plants and animals (2007 Niche Construction EvoAnthro, 2009 Crowded Room CA), and the long transition period between hunting and gathering and agriculture when domesticates played a small role in human economies (1998 Foraging to Farming Science, 2001 LLFP JAR). 

Bruce Smith

Smith is also interested in collaborative research initiatives with geneticists looking at evolutionary changes in ancient crop plants at the molecular level (aDNA Maize research topic, Bottle Gourds Research Topic, 2001 Consilence PNAS, 2003 aDNA Science, 2005 Bottle Gourd PNAS, 2006 Genetics Cell), and is currently working with Tom Gilbert at the University of Cophenhagen on genetic changes in ancient maize (Gilbert link).

In the last five years, Smith has become interested in how small-scale societies manage and manipulate “wild” plants and animals in different ecosystems world-wide, and the general underlying strategies of such human niche construction activities (Human Niche Construction research topic, 2007 Niche Construction EvoAnthro, 2007 Ultimate Ecosystem Engineers Science, 2009 Resource Resilience, 2011 Niche Construction Phil Trans).

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