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Alfred L. Kroeber

Alfred Louis Kroeber
Alfred Louis Kroeber

Alfred Louis Kroeber (June 11, 1876October 5, 1960) was one of the most influential figures in American anthropology in the first half of the twentieth century.

Kroeber was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. He received his doctorate under Franz Boas at Columbia University in 1901, basing his dissertation on his field work among the Arapaho. He spent most of his career in California, primarily at the University of California, Berkeley. The anthropology department's headquarters building at the University of California is known as Kroeber Hall.

Although he is known primarily as a cultural anthropologist, he did significant work in archaeology, and he contributed to anthropology by making connections between archaeology and culture. He conducted excavations in New Mexico, Mexico, and Peru.

Kroeber and his students did important work collecting cultural data on western tribes of Native Americans. The work done in preserving California tribes appeared in Handbook of Indians of California (1925). These efforts to preserve remaining data on these tribes has been termed "Salvage Ethnography." He is credited with developing the concepts of Culture Area and Cultural Configuration (Cultural and Natural Areas of Native North America, 1939).

His influence was so strong that many contemporaries adopted his style of beard and mustache as well as his views as a social scientist.

He is noted for working with Ishi, who was claimed (though not uncontroversially) to be the last California Yahi Indian. His second wife, Theodora Kroeber, wrote a well-known biography of Ishi, Ishi in Two Worlds.

His textbook, Anthropology (1923, 1948), was widely used for years.

Kroeber was father of the academic Karl Kroeber and the fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin by his second wife, Theodora. He also adopted the two children of Theodora's first marriage, Ted and historian Clifton Kroeber . Clifton and Karl recently (2003) edited a book together on the Ishi case, Ishi in Three Centuries. This is the first scholarly book on Ishi to contain essays by Indians.

Last updated: 09-02-2005 16:52:30