Robert L. Kelly is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wyoming, where he has previously served as department head. He came to the University of Wyoming in 1997 from the University of Louisville, Kentucky, where he served as Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology and coordinator of the Program in Archaeology. Kelly earned his B.A. from Cornell University in 1978 and his M.A. from the University of New Mexico in 1980. In 1985, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan for his dissertation entitled Hunter-Gatherer Mobility and Sedentism: A Great Basin Study. In 2000, he was voted president-elect of the Society for American Archaeology and served as President from 2001 to 2002. He has also previously served as secretary of the Archaeology Division of the American Anthropological Association and secretary of the Great Basin Anthropological Association.
Bob Kelly began archaeological fieldwork when he was a sophomore in high school. His research interests include evolutionary ecology of hunter-gatherers, lithic technology, initial colonization of the New World, and archaeological method and theory. He has conducted research throughout the United States, and also in Chile and Madagascar. Much of his work has been carried out in the Great Basin and recently he has been exploring Paleoindian use of caves and rockshelters in Wyoming and Nevada. Kelly has participated in ethnoarchaeological research among the Mikea of Madagascar in order to learn more about social environments created in a farmer-forager society, as well as the role of food sharing within a behavioral ecology framework.
At the University of Wyoming, Kelly teaches an Introduction to Archaeology class, as well as upper level classes including Lithic Analysis, Hunter-Gatherers, North American Archaeology, and Human Behavioral Ecology. Outside of research and teaching, Kelly has served as an Amicus Curiae in the case Bonnichsen vs. United States (also known as the Kennewick Man Controversy) on behalf of the Society for American Archaeology when he was acting President in 2001. The affadavit called for a balance between science and NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) and concerned the "cultural affiliation" of Kennewick Man. The case was resolved in 2004, but cultural identity and the right to prehistoric remains are still at the forefront of political issues in archaeology today.
Kelly's most influential work regarding human behavioral ecology of hunter-gatherers is his book The Foraging Spectrum: Diversity in Hunter-Gatherer Lifeways, originally published in 1995 and updated in 2007. In this book, Kelly tackles preconceived notions of what it means to be a member of a hunter-gatherer society by examining ethnographic literature and exposing the diversity in the lifeways of modern foragers. The results of Kelly's synthesis call for a change in the structure and application of models to the archaeology of hunter-gatherers. He incorporates optimal-foraging models from ecology and illuminates the differences between the diet-breadth and patch-choice models. This work is a landmark in archaeology and anthropology, but can also be useful to ecologists, behavioral psychologists, and those interested in human evolution. Other books by Kelly include Prehistory of the Carson Desert and Stillwater Mountains (2001) and Archaeology (5th edition, 2009), an introductory textbook written with David Hurst Thomas.
The Application of Behavioral Ecology to the Archaeology of Hunter-Gatherers
2009 Kelly, R.L. and David Hurst Thomas. Archaeology, 5th Edition. Wadsworth Publishing.
2008 Larsen, C.S., R.L. Kelly, M. Schoeninger, C.B. Ruff, D. Hutchinson, and B. Hemphill. Living on the Margins: Biobehavioral Adaptations in the Western Great Basin. In Case Studies in Environmental Archaeology, edited by E.J. Reitz, C.A. Scarry, and S.J. Scudder, pp. 161 -189 (Update of 1995 publication). New York: Springer.
2007 Kelly, R.L. The Foraging Spectrum: Diversity in Hunter-Gatherer Lifeways. Revised version. Percheron Press, Clinton Corners, New York.
2007 Kelly, R.L. and M. Prasciunas. Did the Ancestors of Native Americans Cause Animal Extinctions in Late Pleistocene North America? In Native Americans and the Environment: Perspectives on the Ecological Indian, edited by M.E. Harkin and D.R. Lewis, pp. 95-122. Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press.
2007 Kelly, R.L. Mustang Shelter: Test Excavation of a Rockshelter in the Stillwater Mountains, Western Nevada. Nevada Bureau of Land Management Cultural Resource Series 18.
2005 Kelly, R.L. Hunter-Gatherers, Archaeology, and the Role of Selection in the Evolution of the Human Mind. In A Catalyst for Ideas: Anthropological Archaeology and the Legacy of Douglas W. Schwartz, pp. 19-39, edited by Vernon Scarborough and Richard Leventhal. Santa Fe, School of American Research Press.
2005 Kelly, R.L., Poyer, L., and B. Tucker. An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Mobility, Architectural Investment, and Food Sharing among Madagascar's Mikea. American Anthropologist 107: 403-416.
2003 Kelly, R.L. Maybe We Do Know When People First Came to North America; And What Does it Mean if We Do? Quaternary International, 109-110: 133-145.
2003 Kelly, R.L. Colonization of New land by Hunter-Gatherers: Expectations and Implications Based on Ethnographic Data. In Colonization of Unfamiliar Landscapes: The Archaeology of Adaptation, edited by M. Rockman and J. Steele, pp. 44-58. London, Routledge.
2001 Kelly, R.L. Prehistory of the Carson Desert and Stillwater Mountains. Anthropological Paper 123, University of Utah Press.
1999 Kelly, R.L. Hunter-Gatherer Foraging and Colonization of the Western Hemisphere. Anthropologies 37:143-153.
1988 Kelly, R.L. and L.C. Todd. Coming into the Country: Early Paleoindian Hunting and Mobility. American Antiquity 53:231-244.
1988 Kelly, R.L. The Three Sides of a Biface. American Antiquity 53:717-734.