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Jessica Jenkins

Affiliated Scholar

Areas of Specialization: Southeastern Archaeology, Mid-Atlantic Archaeology, environmental archaeology, archaeomalacology, social movements in the ancient past, pottery analyses


Jessica Jenkins is an environmental and anthropological archaeologist with research interests in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions. Jessica attended William & Mary as an undergraduate before receiving her master’s degree and PhD from the University of Florida. Her undergraduate and master’s research focused on studies of archaeological oyster shells to answer questions about human impacts on aquatic resources and how communities in the deep past intervened to sustain, and even proliferate, important resources during times of intensification. For her doctoral dissertation, Jessica’s attention shifted to evaluating the role of social movements in a transformative period on the northern Gulf Coast of Florida. As part of her dissertation, Jessica questioned the concept of “collapse” of complex societies and instead focused on human responses to environmental and social change as well as how people repurposed tradition as innovation for alternative futures. 

As a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Environmental Science and Policy Program, Jessica will work with Dr. Gallivan in the Anthropology department and Dr. Lockwood in the Geology department to bridge the social and natural sciences through a study of the Native polity of Kiskiak in order to explore the relationship of Indigenous communities to the Chesapeake estuary over the long term. The goal of this project is to develop a historical ecological study with relevance to public policy discussions concerning traditional ecological knowledge, biological conservation, and restoration in the Chesapeake. Specifically, Jessica, along with her mentors, hope to identify evidence of the social practices and traditional ecological knowledge instrumental to the oyster fishery’s long-term sustainability.  

Jessica began her career in archaeology at William & Mary working with Dr. Gallivan and is excited to be back at her alma mater both as a researcher as well as a teacher. Jessica will be offering several courses during her time as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, specifically focusing on her areas of expertise. Possible courses she will offer include Environmental Archaeology and Climate Change, Societal Collapse, and Resilience.