Kroeber, Alfred Louis

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American anthropologist who made great contributions to American Indian ethnology; to the archaeology of New Mexico, Mexico, and Peru; and to the study of linguistics, folklore, kinship, and social structure. He was one of the small group of scholars whose work laid the basis of New World archaeology as a scientific discipline. His first work was in preparing a typological seriation of potsherds from Zuñi sites of the American southwest, and his work, together with that of Kidder and Nelson in the same area, showed how archaeological methods could reveal time depth and cultural change in North America. From 1921, Kroeber applied the same techniques to Max Uhle's Peruvian collections. He worked out a scheme for Peruvian archaeology which formed the basis of all studies of the subject for the next 20 years. Kroeber explored much of the Peruvian coast, especially the Nasca Valley where he made the first-ever stratigraphic excavation of a Peruvian midden. Kroeber continued to write about the ethnology of North American Indians and also concentrated on theoretical aspects of anthropology, in particular the processes of culture change. His "Configurations of Culture Growth" (1945) sought to trace the growth and decline of all of civilized man's thought and art. "The Nature of Culture" (1952) was a collection of Kroeber's essays published on such topics as cultural theory kinship social psychology and psychoanalysis.