John Ives, PhD (University of Michigan), MA (University of Alberta), BA (University of Saskatchewan)


Faculty of Arts - Anthropology Dept


Area of Study / Keywords

Archaeology Kinship and Socioeconomic Organization Dene Language Family Apachean Migration Subarctic Plains and Great Basin Archaeology Paleoindian


Dr. Ives’ interests lie in Plains, Subarctic, Great Basin and Northeast Asian prehistory (Palaeolithic, Jin Dynasty), archaeological theory (kinship and economic organization), Paleoindian studies, and Public Archaeology. In a large interdisciplinary project, he is currently investigating the Promontory Caves of Utah for traces of Dene ancestors who had left Subarctic Canada and were on their way to becoming the Navajo and Apaches of the American Southwest. Ives maintains the Western Canadian Fluted Point Database, is working with MA and PhD students on Besant and Sonota archaeological sites in Canada and the United States, and is conducting research at the University of Alberta’s Mattheis Ranch north of Brooks, Alberta.

From 1979-2007, Ives served with the Archaeological Survey of Alberta, the Royal Alberta Museum, and the Historic Resources Management Branch, with senior management responsibilities as Alberta’s Provincial Archaeologist for 21 years, and extensive cross-ministry experience in Aboriginal policy initiatives (including leading the drafting team for Canada’s only repatriation legislation, the First Nations Sacred Ceremonial Objects Repatriation Act of Alberta). He has undertaken executive and curatorial roles in developing the World Heritage Site of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, the Royal Alberta Museum’s Gallery of Aboriginal Culture and international exhibitions (Rise of the Black Dragon). Ives is the recipient of the University of Michigan’s Distinguished Dissertation Award, three Alberta Premier’s Awards, and the University of Alberta’s Landrex Distinguished Professorship (2012-2017). He was honoured to receive the name Awoutaan from distinguished Blackfoot ceremonialists Allan Pard and Blair First Rider.


From 2008-2019, Dr. Ives' research interests were closely connected with the Institute of Prairie Archaeology (now the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology), which promoted archaeological, anthropological and interdisciplinary research in the northern Plains region of western Canada and the northern United States. Its work is intended to enhance public, First Nations and rural engagement with the University of Alberta in these research areas, and particularly, to provide leadership in the training of archaeologists through field schools and other professional work, while cultivating a strong intellectual presence in the Plains region of North America.

His research at the Institute involved several programs. One continuing SSHRC funded program investigates how Navajo and Apache ancestors left Subarctic Canada a little over 1,000 years ago, making their way to the American Southwest and southern Plains. This work focuses on the Promontory Caves of Utah, where extraordinary preservation conditions left a wealth of normally perishable material culture (including hundreds of moccasins), some of it typical of the Canadian North. 

Our Apachean Origins work has for more than a decade had close ties with the work of Professor Sally Rice (Linguistics) and her students, involving the Pan-Athapaskan Comparative Lexicon. Dr. Ives looks forward to continued collaborative work as a co-investigator in their recent KIAS Cluster Grant award, Documenting the Dene Diaspora: Towards a Living Digital Archive of Dene Language and Culture.

Dr. Ives and his students have worked with avocational collections from all time periods, but especially from western Canada’s terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene, 9,000 to 13,000 years ago, and the biological and human implications of the deglaciating corridor that opened between eastern Beringia (Alaska and the Yukon) and interior North America at the end of the Ice Age. He also maintain interests in the prehistory of the Boreal Forest in northern Alberta, particularly with respect to the greater Oil Sands region.

Another research program concerns the Besant and Sonota eras on the northern Plains, extending from the Dakotas to Alberta. Between roughly 1,500 and 2,500 the northern Plains inhabitants of western Canada were in contact with Eastern Woodlands populations of the United States, sharing ideas and exotic toolstones. 

Finally, the Dr. Ives has offered field schools at sites ranging from the 10,000 year old Ahai Mneh site near Lake Wabamun to the tipi rings and bison kill complex on the Mattheis Ranch in southern Alberta. There, we work closely with the Rangeland Research Institute, Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences, providing students the opportunity to learn field survey and excavation methods in undisturbed prairie at the Mattheis Ranch (near Brooks, Alberta) and to work with Treaty 7 ceremonialists. In field school work on the Mattheis Ranch during 2017 and 2019, we explored the fascinating transition from the Avonlea to Old Women's Phase at the Mattheis Ranch, a time range when the Blackfoot cultural identity becomes clear in the archaeological record.


In the fall term of 2021, Dr. Ives will offer ANTHR 256:A1 Alberta Archaeology and ANTHR 486/586:A1 Human Journeys--Migration & Anthropology. In Winter 2021, he will be teaching ANTHR 311:B1 North American Archaeology and ANTHR 206:B1 Introduction to Archaeology.

Course Portfolio:

ANTHR 206: Introduction to Archaeology

ANTHR 256: Alberta Archaeology

ANTHR 303: Development of Anthropological Archaeology 

ANTHR 311: North American Archaeology 

ANTHR 396: Archaeological Field Methods 

ANTHR 486/586: Human Journeys--Migration & Anthropology Basic Course Information at

ANTHR 486/586: ANTHR 486/586:A1 Archaeology & the Anthropocene, Modern Day Relevance of the Human Past, Basic Course Information at:

ANTHR 484/584: Plains Archaeology 

ANTHR 486/586: The Paleoindian Phenomenon

ANTHR 491: Stone Tools

ANTHR 501/601: Graduate Colloquium, incoming Ph.D. and M.A. students

Graduate Supervision

PhD, In Progress

Zhang Zhe. Analysis of aurochs trench remains at the Neolithic site of Houtaomuga, Jilin, China using methods applied to North American bison kill and fur trade sites. (Supervisor, successful candidacy examination April 8, 2019)

A. Lints. Research into phytolith and starch residues from earliest (Besant-Sonota) ceramics on the northern Plains, and implications for the adoption of pottery. (Supervisor, successful candidacy examination March 8, 2018).

E. Sutherland. Skill transmission and variability in the construction of Promontory Cave moccasins. (Supervisor, accepted Fall 2017).

K. Latham. Indigenous Dogsledding in the Western Region of Arctic North America. (Co-supervisor with Robert Losey, successful candidacy examination June 4, 2020).


I can be reached by email ( to answer questions about forthcoming 2021-2022 fall classes, ANTHR 256:A1 (Alberta Archaeology) and ANTHR 486/586:A1 (Anthropology & the Anthropocene), focusing on modern day relevance of the human past, with lessons for the most pressing issues in the human career today.

Featured Publications

Mobility, Exchange and the Fluency of Games: Promontory in a Broader Sociodemographic Setting

Yanicki, Gabriel M. and John W. Ives

In Prehistoric Games of North American Indians: Subarctic to Mesoamerica, edited by Barbara Voorhies. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.. 2017 July;

billinger, Michael S. and John W. Ives

American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 2015 January; 156 (1):76-89

Ives, John W., Joel C. Janetski, Duane Froese, Fiona Brock, and Christopher Bronk Ramsey

American Antiquity. 2014 October; 79 (4):616-637

Stephens, Lucas et al. (102 ARCHAEOGLOBE Project co-authors including John W. Ives)

Science. 365 (6456):897–902

Heintzman, Peter D., Duane G. Froese, John W. Ives, André E. R. Soares, Grant D. Zazula, Brandon Letts, Thomas D. Andrews, Jonathan C. Driver, Elizabeth Hall, P. Gregory Hare, Christopher N. Jass, Glen MacKay, John R. Southon, Mathias Stiller, Robin Woywitka, Marc A. Suchard and Beth Shapiro

Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA. 113 (29):8057-8063.

Ives, John W., Gabriel Yanicki, Courtney Lakevold, and Kisha Supernant

PaleoAmerica. 5 (2):143-156.

Potter, Ben A., Alwynne B. Beaudoin, C. Vance Haynes, Vance T. Holliday, Charles E. Holmes, John W. Ives, Robert Kelly, Bastien Llamas, Ripan Malhi, Shane Miller, David Reich, Joshua D. Reuther, Stephan Schiffels, Todd Surovell

Science Advances. 4 (8):eaat5473

Kristensen, Todd J., Thomas D. Andrews, Glen MacKay, Ruth Gotthardt, Sean C. Lynch, M. John M. Duke, Andrew J. Locock, and John W. Ives

Journal of Archaeological Science Reports. 23

Kristensen, Todd J., Gregory Hare, Ruth Gotthardt, Norman Easton, John W. Ives, Robert Speakman, and Jeff Rasic

Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 56