Daniel Odess

Cultural Specialist

Daniel (Dan) Odess has conducted archaeological research across the Arctic, including Zhokhov Island in the Russian High Arctic, the coast of Chukotka, dozens of sites in interior and coastal Alaska, and Baffin Island in Canada. 

Dan’s work focuses on a variety of topics that relate to how people have met the challenges of living in extreme environments, including: what they ate and how they procured it, how they organized their technology, their social strategies, and what it meant to colonize a place where nobody had ever lived before. 

During his time at Brown University, Dan conducted his doctoral dissertation on Baffin Island, where he focused on the Dorset Paleo-Eskimos and examined how interaction between distant groups of people affected their ability to survive over time. He has studied the origins of whaling and its effects on Arctic peoples, the colonization of the Arctic and the New World, and prehistoric demography. He is also interested in the philosophy of science, including how we know what we know and ways to apply the scientific method to test our understanding and assumptions, solve new problems, and answer new questions.

His approach to research is multidisciplinary, involving collaboration with paleoecologists, biologists, paleontologists, physicists, and geologists, among others. He is keenly interested in how the knowledge of indigenous people can inform our understanding of the past and how in turn, the study of the past can help inform the decisions we face today.  

Dan is a natural teacher, with great enthusiasm for archaeology and the Arctic, and is a firm believer that far more can be learned and taught in the field than in the classroom. In addition to his work as professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska, he has led field courses in Iceland, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Alaska. His hobbies include kayaking, birding, hiking, cooking, gardening and, since leaving Alaska in 2007, growing orchids. 

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