Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Anthropology | Colin Grier

Ph.D., Arizona State University (2001)
Professor, Vancouver campus

Research Interests

Regional: Northwest Coast of North America, Alaska/Arctic, Pacific Rim societies (Korea and Japan)

Thematic: complex hunter-gatherer-fisher societies, social inequality, households, political economy, social networks, landscape construction and management practices, monumentality and terraforming

Methods: zooarchaeology; quantitative methods; geophysics and remote sensing; spatial analysis/GIS

Applied: integrating indigenous perspectives in archaeological research, collaborative archaeology, sustainability & resilience, ecological and restorative justice

Current Research

Research on Complex Hunter Gatherers

My core research interest concerns the organization of complex hunter-gatherer-fisher societies. For this, I take a comparative perspective, drawing on case studies from primarily coastal regions around the world.

I adopt a theoretical perspective that situates human agency in the context of the constraining and enabling structures in which humans exist, including social networks, political institutions and ecological and socially-constructed landscapes.

My research focus is on the emergence of supra-household institutions in small-scale societies, including the formation of large households, structured communities and regional sociopolitical systems. I have a strong interest in household change, and how resources become increasingly controlled within the context of households. This approach situates my research in the context of one of the long-standing questions addressed by anthropology—how does social inequality emerge in small-scale societies?

Areas of the world and peoples on which I have carried out research, and which inform my perspective, include the Northwest Coast of North America, the Korean peninsula and Pacific Rim, Arctic whaling societies, coastal Florida, and the European Upper Paleolithic/Mesolithic. I am constantly looking to expand the ethnographic, archaeological and theoretical frameworks in which questions concerning complex hunter-gatherer-fisher organization can be addressed.

Northwest Coast Complexity

My archaeological research on the Northwest Coast of North America centers on investigating the economic organization, social institutions and political economy of precontact complex hunter-gatherers. Much of this research takes place in the Salish Sea in southwestern British Columbia, the traditional territory of Coast Salish peoples. Here, I am looking into the relationship between the development of large households, village formation, social inequality, resource ownership and intensive storage economies.

My research in the Gulf Islands has been driven by on-going fieldwork involving excavations at early village sites and settlement pattern research. For these projects, I work collaboratively with the Penelakut and Lyackson First Nations, and other Nations of the Hul’qumi’num peoples.




  • ANTH 230 – Introduction to Archaeology
  • ANTH 430 – Introduction to Archaeological Method and Theory


  • ANTH 540 – Prehistory of the Northwest Coast
  • ANTH 546 – Complexity in Small Scale Societies

Graduate Students

The graduate students I currently supervise:

PhD Students

James Brown, Kate Shantry, Erin Smith, Emily Whistler

MA Students

Michael Lorain, Kathleen Scanlan

I am always interested in talking with prospective students who share my research and theoretical interests, and who can contribute skills and enthusiasm to the research team.

Research Publications

PDFs of many of these are available through my site.

2018 Hopt, Justin and Colin Grier — Continuity amidst Change: Village Organization and Fishing Subsistence at the Dionisio Point Locality in coastal southern British Columbia. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 13(1)21-42.

2017 Grier, Colin, Bill Angelbeck, and Eric McLay — Terraforming and Monumentality as Long-term Social Practice in the Salish Sea Region of the Northwest Coast of North America. Hunter Gatherer Research 3(1):107–132.

2017 Grier, Colin and Margo Schwadron — Terraforming and Monumentality in Hunter-Gatherer-Fisher Societies: Towards a Conceptual and Analytical Framework. Hunter Gatherer Research 3(1):3-8.

2017 Grier, Colin and Bill Angelbeck — Tradeoffs in Coast Salish Social Action: Balancing Autonomy, Inequality, and Sustainability. In The Give and Take and Sustainability: Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives on Tradeoffs, edited by Michelle Hegmon, pp. 198-221. Cambridge University Press.

2017 Grier, Colin — Expanding Notions of Hunter-Gatherer Diversity:Identifying Core Organizational Principles and Practices in Coast Salish Societies of the Northwest Coast of North America. In The Diversity of Hunter-Gatherer Pasts, edited by Graeme Warren and Bill Finlayson, pp. 16-33. Oxbow Books.

2017 Dolan, Patrick, Colin Grier, Katie Simon and Christine Markussen — Magnetic gradient survey of the Marpole Period Dionisio Point (DgRv-003) Plankhouse village, Northwest Coast of North America. Journal of Field Archaeology 42(5):437-449.

2017 Grier, Colin, Lilian Alessa and Andrew Kliskey — Looking to the Past to Shape the Future: Addressing Social-Ecological Change and Adaptive Trade-offs. Regional Environmental Change 17:1205–1215.

2016  Grier, Colin — Review of Constructing Histories: Archaic Freshwater Shell Mounds and Social Landscapes of the St. Johns River, Florida by Asa Randall (2015). American Antiquity 81(3):600-601.

2015  Grier, Colin — Past Perspectives and Recent Developments in the Archaeology of the Northwest Coast. Cultural Antiqua 67:45-56. (In Japanese. English version available from the author)

2015  Rorabaugh, Adam, Nichole Davenport and Colin Grier — Characterizing Crystalline Volcanic Rock (CVR) Deposits from Galiano Island, B.C., Canada: Implications for Lithic Material Procurement at the Dionisio Point Locality. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports 3:591-602.

2015  Witt, Kelsey E., Kathleen Judd, Andrew Kitchen, Colin Grier, Timothy A. Kohler, Scott G. Ortman, Brian M. Kemp and Ripan S. Malhi — DNA Analysis of Ancient Dogs of the Americas: Identifying Possible Founding Haplotypes and Reconstructing Population Histories. Journal of Human Evolution 79:105-118.

2014  Grier, Colin — Landscape Construction, Ownership and Social Change in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 38(1):211-249.

2014  Grier, Colin — Which Way Forward? Introduction to the Special Section. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 38(1):135-139.

2014  Kemp Brian M, Cara Monroe, K. G. Judd, Erin Reams, and Colin Grier — Evaluation of Methods that Subdue the Effects of Polymerase Chain Reaction Inhibitors in the Study of Ancient and Degraded DNA. Journal of Archaeological Science 42: 373-380.

2014  Angelbeck, Bill and Colin Grier — From Paradigms to Practices: Pursuing Horizontal and Long-Term Relationships with Indigenous Peoples for Archaeological Heritage. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 38(2):519-540.

2013  Grier, Colin, Kelli Flanigan, Misa Winters, Leah G. Jordan, Susan Lukowski and Brian M. Kemp — Using Ancient DNA Identification and Osteometric Measures of Archaeological Pacific Salmon Vertebrae for Reconstructing Salmon Fisheries and Site Seasonality at Dionisio Point, British Columbia. Journal of Archaeological Science 40(1):544-555.

2013  Monroe, Cara, Colin Grier and Brian M. Kemp — Evaluating the Efficacy of various Thermo-stable Polymerases against co-extracted PCR Inhibitors in Ancient DNA Samples. Forensic Science International 228:142-153.

2012  Angelbeck, Bill and Colin Grier — Anarchism and the Archaeology of Anarchic Societies: Resistance to Centralization in the Coast Salish Region of the Pacific Northwest Coast (with Comments and Reply). Current Anthropology 53(5):547-587.

2012  Grier, Colin and Jangsuk Kim — Resource Control and the Development of Political Economies in Small-Scale Societies: Contrasting Prehistoric Southwestern Korea and the Coast Salish Region of Northwestern North America. Journal of Anthropological Research 68(1):1-34.

2012  Grier, Colin and Susan Lukowski — On Villages, Quantification and Appropriate Context: A Comment on “Social Archaeology of a Northwest Coast House” by Paul A. Ewonus. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 7(3):430-436.

2012  Grier, Colin — Thinking through Local and Regional Histories: Recent Research at Dionisio Point and in the Outer Gulf Islands. The Midden 44(1):6-9.

2010  Grier, Colin — Probable Pasts and Possible Futures: Issues in the Reconstruction of Complex Hunter-Gatherers of the Northwest Coast. In La Excepción y la Norma: Las Sociedades Indígenas de la Costa Noroeste de Norteamérica desde la Archaeología,edited by A. Vila and J. Estévez, pp. 116-134. Treballs D’Ethnoarqueologia, 8, Madrid. (In Spanish with extended English abstract; English version available).

2010  Grier, Colin — Review of Projectile Point Sequences in Northwestern North America. In Canadian Journal of Archaeology 34:115-118.

2009  Grier, Colin; Patrick Dolan, Kelly Derr and Eric B. McLay — Assessing Sea Level Changes in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia Using Archaeological Data from Coastal Spit Locations. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 33:254-280.

2009  Corr, Linda T., Michael P Richards, Colin Grier, Alexander Mackie and Richard P. Evershed — Probing Dietary Change of Kwaday Dan Ts¹inchi, An Ancient Glacier Body from British Columbia II: Deconvoluting Whole Skin and Bone Collagen Delta 13C Values via Carbon Isotope Analysis of Individual Amino Acids. Journal of Archaeological Science 36:12-18.

2008  Grier, Colin and Chief Lisa Shaver — Working Together: The Role of Archaeologists and First Nations in Sorting Out Some Very Old Problems in British Columbia. The SAA Record 8(1):33-35.

2007  Grier, Colin — Consuming the Recent for Constructing the Ancient: The Role of Ethnography in Coast Salish Archaeological Interpretation. In Be Of Good Mind: Essays on the Coast Salish, edited by Bruce G. Miller. UBC Press, Vancouver, Canada.

2006  Colin Grier, Jangsuk Kim and Junzo Uchiyama (editors) — Beyond Affluent Foragers: Rethinking Hunter-Gatherer Complexity. Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK.

2006  Grier, Colin — Affluence on the Prehistoric Northwest Coast of North America. In Beyond Affluent Foragers: Rethinking Hunter-Gatherer Complexity, edited by Colin Grier, Jangsuk Kim and Junzo Uchiyama, pp. 126-135. Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK.

2006  Kim, Jangsuk and Colin Grier — Beyond Affluent Foragers. In Beyond Affluent Foragers: Rethinking Hunter-Gatherer Complexity, edited by Colin Grier, Jangsuk Kim and Junzo Uchiyama, pp. 192-200. Oxbow Books, Oxford.

2006  Grier, Colin — Temporality in Northwest Coast Households. In Household Archaeology on the Northwest Coast, edited by Elizabeth A. Sobel, D. Ann Trieu Gahr, and Kenneth M. Ames, pp. 97-119. International Monographs in Prehistory, Ann Arbor.

2006  Grier, Colin — The Political Context of Prehistoric Coast Salish Residences on the Northwest Coast.In Palaces and Power in the Americas: From Peru to the Northwest Coast, edited by J.J. Christie and P.J. Sarro, pp. 141-165. University of Texas Press, Austin.

2003  Grier, Colin — Dimensions of Regional Interaction in the Prehistoric Gulf of Georgia. In Emerging from the Mist: Studies in Northwest Coast Culture History, edited by R.G. Matson, Quentin Mackie, and Gary Coupland, pp. 170-187. UBC Press, Vancouver.

2000  Grier, Colin — Labor Organization and Social Hierarchies in North American Arctic Whaling Societies. In Hierarchies in Action, Cui Bono?, edited by Michael W. Diehl, pp. 264-283. Center for Archaeological Investigations Occasional Paper No. 27, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois.

1999  Grier, Colin — The Organization of Production in Prehistoric Thule Whaling Societies. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 23:11-28.

1994  Grier, Colin and James M. Savelle — Intrasite Spatial Patterning and Thule Eskimo Social Organization. Arctic Anthropology 31(2):95-107.




Contact Information

Vancouver campus office: VMMC 202M
Vancouver campus lab: VCLS 312