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Vincas Steponaitis, Ph.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Vincas Steponaitis, Ph.D. Vincas Steponaitis, Ph.D.

W.E. Leuchtenburg Distinguished Professor, Department of Anthropology; Adjunct Professor, Archaeology, College of Arts and Sciences | UNC-Chapel Hill


Precolonial Indian cultures of the American South, origins of political centralization, ancient art styles, analysis of ancient ceramics.



Vincas Steponaitis, Ph.D. Publication Vincas Steponaitis, Ph.D. Publication Vincas Steponaitis, Ph.D. Publication



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Feltus Mounds UNC archaeologists unearth history at president's house




Vincas Steponaitis is Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology and Secretary of the Faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill. He was Director of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology for nearly three decades, and Chair of the Curriculum in Archaeology in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences. His archaeological research interests focus on the precolonial Indian cultures of the American South, the origins of political centralization, chiefdoms, studies of ancient art styles, and the analysis of ancient ceramics.

He has served as president of the Society for American Archaeology (1997-1999), president of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference (1990-1992), chairman of the board for the Archaeological Conservancy (2003-2007), member of the NAGPRA Review Committee (2004-2008, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior), editor of the scholarly journal Southeastern Archaeology (1984-1987), and on numerous other professional boards and committees.

In addition to numerous articles, his books include "Ceramics, Chronology, and Community Patterns: An Archaeological Study at Moundville" (Academic Press 1993; reprinted U. Alabama Press 2009), and "Archaeology of the Moundville Chiefdom" (co-edited with V.J. Knight, Smithsonian Inst. Press 1998; reprinted U. Alabama Press 2007), and "Rethinking Moundville and Its Hinterland" (co-edited with C. Margaret Scarry, U. Press of Florida 2016). He co-created "Excavating Occaneechi Town" (UNC Press 1998), one of the first digital monographs in archaeology, which won the PSP Electronic Product Award from the American Association of Publishers.

Other honors include the Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring (UNC-Chapel Hill), the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching (SUNY system) and the University Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (SUNY-Binghamton). He has been a principal investigator on grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Areas of Expertise (7)

Pre-Colonial Indian cultures of the American South

Origins of political centralization


Studies of ancient art styles

Analysis of ancient ceramics

The history of Moundville (Alabama)

Digital publications in archaeology

Accomplishments (4)

Faculty Award for Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring (2015) (professional)

UNC Chapel Hill

C. Felix Harvey Award (2015) (professional)

UNC Chapel Hill

Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer (2008) (professional)

International Science Honor Society

Circle Award (2002) (professional)

Carolina Indian Circle, UNC-Chapel Hill

Education (3)

University of Michigan: Ph.D., Anthropology 1980

University of Michigan: M.A., Anthropology 1975

Harvard University: A.B. (Magna Cum Laude), Harvard University 1974

Affiliations (6)

  • The Heritage Education Network: Board of Directors
  • Native American Repatriation Review Committee: Smithsonian Institution
  • Center for Maya Research : Board of Directors
  • National Science Foundation Archaeology Program : Advisory Panel
  • American Anthropological Association: Fellow
  • Southern Cultures (Magazine) : Editorial Board

Media Appearances (4)

Honoring an extraordinary Natchezian

The Natchez Democrat  online

Feb. 24, 2015 Dr. Vin Steponaitis of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill stated, “Through James F. Barnett, Jr.'s effective and dedicated stewardship of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, he educated many thousands of visitors about the culture and accomplishments of the Native people who lived there. And his books on Mississippi’s Indians set a standard of erudition, eloquence, and clarity that will be very hard to surpass.”

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Series of lectures planned at University of Alabama’s Moundville Archaeological Park

Tuscaloosa News  online


“Archaeology and Art: Understanding Moundville through Different Disciplines,” will be at11 a.m. Sept. 20 at the park’s riverside conference center. Vincas Steponaitis of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will discuss the history of archaeological investigations at Moundville and an examine how scientific techniques have changed over time to refine and increase knowledge of the Moundville people. Kent Reilly of Texas State University, San Marcos, will then present recent findings in the iconography of Moundville art...

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Former UNC President's House Unearthed

Chapelboro  online

Aug. 22, 2014 “We knew that there was a site here, but what was unexpected here was having it kind of turn up as this driveway was being resurfaced,” says Vin Steponaitis, the Director of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology, Chair of the Curriculum in Archaeology, and an Anthropology Professor at UNC. “We’d actually been given a heads up that there was going to be some work done here, but we didn’t know quite how deep it was going to go. So, in the place where they went deeper is where we encountered the site.”

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Who Owns the Past? The Controversy Over Antiquities

Duke Today  print


Archaeologist Vincas Steponaitis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said getting Americans to shirk the habit of acquiring Native American artifacts as souvenirs is a different challenge altogether. "Everybody in the Southwest digs up Indian sites as a hobby," Stepnaitis said. "It took decades for judges and juries to think that it's okay to convict people who dug up these sites."...

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Event Appearances (6)

Fort Rosalie: A History in Maps

Grand Village of the Natchez Indians  Natchez, Mississippi


One Hundred Fifty Years of Moundville Archaeology: A Brief Overview

Moundville Archaeological Park, 75th Anniversary Lecture Series  Moundville, Alabama


Moundville Archaeological Park

75th Anniversary Lecture Series  75th Anniversary Lecture Series

Mississippian Effigy Pipes: Provenance, Style, and Iconography

Friends of Ethnic Art  San Rafael, California


Mound Construction and Ritual at Feltus, An Ancient Ceremonial Center in Mississippi

Archaeological Institute of America, Central Carolinas Society, Davidson College  Davidson, N.C.


Natchez Archaeology in the 1840s: Montroville Dickeson and the Egan Panorama

Grand Village of the Natchez Indians  Natchez, Mississippi


Articles (7)

More publications

by Vin Steponaitis

Click on link for more on Vin Steponaitis' research

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“The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians Was Indee d Grand: A Reconsideration of the Fatherland Site Landscape"

University of Alabama Press

In press In "Forging Southeastern Identities: Social Archaeology and Ethnohistory of the Mississippian to Early Historic South," edited by Gregory A. Waselkov and Marvin T. Smith (Co-authored with Ian W. Brown)

“Moundville as a Ceremonial Ground"

University Press of Florida

2016 In "Rethinking Moundville and Its Hinterland," edited by Vincas P. Steponaitis and C. Margaret Scarry Other chapters include "New Directions in Moundville Rsearch" and "Moundville Palettes: Prestige Goods or Inalienable Possessions?"

“Cahokia’s Coles Creek Predecessors"

SAR Press, Santa Fe

2015 In "Medieval Mississippians: The Cahokian World," edited by Susan M. Alt and Timothy R. Pauketat, pp. 12-19. (Co-authored with Megan C. Kassabaum and John W. O’Hear).

“A Tale of Two Pipes"

Gilcrease Journal

2014 (Co-authored with David T. Dockery III)

“Between Surface and Summit: The Process of Mound Construction at Feltus”

Archaeological Prospection

2014 (Co-authored with Megan C. Kassabaum, Edward R. Henry, and John W. O’Hear)


The Oxford Companion to Archaeology , second edition

2012 (edited by Neil Asher Silberman) Oxford University Press