May 20, 2016
Texas Tech University's director of the Lubbock Lake Landmark recently was honored with a symposium held in her name by the 81st Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archaeology this April in Orlando, Florida.
Eileen Johnson, Horn Professor in Museum Science and senior curator of anthropology at the Museum of Texas Tech University, was chosen to be honored by the society because of her contributions to Quarternary science and archaeology of the past 2.6 million years and her approach to her work at Texas Tech.
"I was and still am truly amazed, honored, and humbled," Johnson said. "It was very kind of Drs. María Gutierrez and Joaquín Arroyo-Cabrales to organize the symposium and invite people working in the Americas and on the Russian plains to participate. I was rather astonished about what people had to say. I had no idea that my research efforts have had such influence and I was greatly appreciative of this honor."
Organizers for the event said they chose to honor Johnson because they believed her to be a "complete scientist."
"We use this term because she represents a complete scientific career, going beyond pragmatic training and theoretical issues to include public awareness and issues of ethics," said Gutierrez, event organizer, society member and a professor of the Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires. "More broadly, during the course of her career Dr. Johnson has integrated some diverse, disparate disciplines including archaeology, zoology, taphonomy, geology and museum science. Her 45-year career has primarily been devoted to interdisciplinary research on human-environment interactions on the U.S. Great Plains, emphasizing human subsistence, vertebrate taphonomy, and the reconstruction of Quaternary paleoenvironments."
Gutierrez also said Johnson has applied these perspectives across the country and across the Americas in places such as Mexico and Argentina. In addition to her research, Johnson has been involved with the care of the anthropology collection at the museum, working with students and peers, and eager to share what she learns with the public. She was the driving force in developing the Lubbock Lake Landmark interpretive center and outreach program.
"There are also strong personal reasons for us for organizing it," Gutierrez said. "Joaquín Arroyo-Cabrales also helped organize this event. He and I were both international students of Eileen. She was my mentor on what I am working on now. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities she gave me. She gave me not only academic support and generosity but also much love and sympathy, important issues when you are young and far from home."
Johnson has spent her professional career at the Museum of Texas Tech University, where she has worked as a research scientist, curator, professor, and as museum director. She built a regional interdisciplinary Quaternary research program based around the Lubbock Lake Landmark. The Landmark is an internationally known archaeological site containing evidence of almost 12,000 years of continuous occupation by ancient people on the Southern High Plains. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites discovered in the New World.
She has more than 47 years of experience with the cultural and natural history record of the Great Plains, 28 years of which have been spent researching that record on the Southern High Plains. She has conducted archaeological surveys and excavations of sites associated with playa lakes as well as the draw systems on the Southern High Plains and produced resource management plans for these sensitive sites. Her global field and research experience includes work throughout the western US, Mexico, South America and China.
Her research efforts have resulted in almost 200 peer-reviewed publications, 60 governmental reports, and resource management plans for sensitive sites. Recently, she served as coeditor and coauthor for "Plainview. The Enigmatic Paleoindian Artifact Style of the Great Plains" published by Utah University Press.
The Landmark's regional research program, while focusing on the Southern High Plains, stretches throughout the grasslands of the Americas, currently including her research in the Northeastern prairie, valley of Mexico, and the pampas of Argentina.
In 1999, she received an appointment by then Gov. George W. Bush to the Texas Historical Commission as a Commissioner (1999-2007), one of 17 board members governing the state agency for historic preservation with a variety of programs to preserve archaeological, historical, and cultural resources of Texas.
She was distinguished with a Paul Whitfield Horn Professor in 2007 by the university's Board of Regents. Horn Professorships are the highest honor the university can bestow upon faculty.
Johnson currently serves on the Editorial Board of the international journal PaleoAmerica – A Journal of Early Human Migration and Dispersal and just completed her tenure on the Editorial Board of the journal Quaternary International.
Currently, Johnson serves as chair of the Collections Management Committee for the Texas Association of Museums and on the Programs Committee for the Mountain-Plains Museum Association overseeing the Poster Session for the annual conference.