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David Webster

David Webster

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology

323 Carpenter Building
University Park , PA 16802
Office Phone: (814) 865-1897


  1. B.A., University of Minnesota, 1965
  2. M.A., University of Minnesota, 1967
  3. Ph.D., University of Minnesota,1972



Areas of topical interest include cultural evolution, particularly the origin of complex societies; cultural and political ecology; prehistoric warfare, settlement patterns, household archaeology, demographic reconstructions, and the origins of agriculture.  In 2000 Professor Webster completed four seasons of settlement surveys and household excavations around the Classic Maya site of Piedras Negras, in northwestern Guatemala, and in 2003 turned his attention again to examining archaeological evidence of ancient Maya warfare.

Webster, along with his late colleague William T. Sanders, served as academic directors of the Out of the Past video project, sponsored by the Annenberg/CPB Project and other funders.  This project, completed in 1993, was designed as a telecourse and its main component is a 8-part (8 hour) instructional television series.  This series, along with its associated textbook and ancillary course material, has been since widely used in classrooms and is repeatedly shown on television. Out of the Past is now continuously streamed on the internet, and may be freely accessed through the Annenberg/CPB website.



As a graduate student Webster worked in several parts of the world, including Turkey and Yugoslavia.  One of his early interests was the origins of agriculture, and he spent two field seasons in Turkey working at the Neolihic site of Cayonu with Robert Braidwood.  Webster later turned his attention to Mesoamerica and ancient warfare. His PhD fieldwork centered on the great Preclassic earthwork system at Becan, Campeche, Mexico.   Between 1980 and 1997 he participated in many seasons of fieldwork  in the Copan Valley of Honduras, where he and his students carried out settlement surveys and large-scale excavations of both commoner and elite household remains.  He continued this kind of research between 1997 and 2000 at Piedras Negras, Guatemala, and most recently returned to one of his early interests – warfare – when supervised an NSF field project at Tikal, Guatemala, between 2003-2006.

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