A life in archaeology

You are here

A life
in archaeology

The regional trace of Richard Cooke is recognized in a Costa Rican anthropology magazine

June 7, 2019

The trajectory of the renowned archaeologist of the Smithsonian Institution in Panama spans half a century and has had a tremendous impact in the field of Central American archeology and the careers of dozens of researchers. A magazine from the University of Costa Rica honors him.

In recent days, the journal Cuadernos de Antropología of the University of Costa Rica published a volume in honor of the renowned archaeologist of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Dr. Richard Cooke. The issue was based on the presentations given during the XI Congress of the Central American Anthropology Network in Costa Rica in 2017: “After a millenary cultural heritage: Richard Cooke’s contributions to the archaeology of the Isthmo-Colombian Area”.

Dedicating a congress –and now a journal volume– to highlight the contributions of this researcher throughout a career spanning half a century, reflects the impact that he has had in the Central American archaeology field, for understanding the pre-Columbian populations of the region, and the variety of themes his work has covered.

“Richard has had such a remarkable professional career that it is impossible to refer to Panamanian archaeology and even the Isthmo-Colombian Area without naming him,” highlights an introductory text to the most recent edition of this journal.

The nine articles, by speakers from Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States and Canada, emphasize several qualities of the English archaeologist based in Panama, who last year received the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Among these outstanding characteristics are his insatiable thirst for knowledge and his commitment to the Panamanian people.

Several texts highlight how Richard Cooke has strived to make the results of his research accessible to professionals in training and to the general public, and the profound influence that his methodologies, interdisciplinary approach, discoveries and theories have had on his pupils’ careers.

Finally, the generosity of the veteran researcher is evident. For example, by making his collections available to the world, as in the case of the La Mula-Sarigua project, one of the first and largest settlements in the Panamanian Central Pacific, unique lithic and ceramic resources now feed a public digital archive for the use of future researchers.

Some presentations of the symposium, which did not make it into this edition of Cuadernos de Antropología, underscore other legacies of Richard Cooke that will mark the new generations of archaeologists. These include his reference collection of the fauna of tropical America, one of the best in the world, and the human remains excavated by him decades ago at Cerro Juan Díaz, which are revealing surprising new data on the demography, diet, health and cultural practices of those people.

“In October I will celebrate my 50th anniversary of having arrived in Panama to begin my career in archaeology. I thank everyone for their careful editing and the nice articles that sometimes blush me and sometimes make me burst out laughing,” said a smiling Cooke, in a video thanking the commemorative journal.

Back to Top