Christopher J. Ellis

Date award received: 
Christopher J. Ellis. Photo courtesy Dept. of Anthropology, UWO website

The Smith-Wintemberg Award is the CAA’s Nobel Prize and was created “to honour professional members of the Canadian archaeological community who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the discipline of archaeology and our knowledge of the archaeological past of Canada.” After careful consideration of a letter of nomination and several solicited letters of support, it is my distinct pleasure to present Christopher J. Ellis with the Smith-Wintemberg Award for 2017.

Chris entered archaeology in the 1970s, completing a B.A. at Waterloo University, doing fieldwork at the famous Parkhill site in southern Ontario. Chris attended McMaster University for his M.A. and Simon Fraser University for his Ph.D., focusing on Paleo-Indians of southwestern Ontario. A year after he completed his PhD in 1984, he secured a teaching position at Waterloo University and after 1990 at Western University in London, Ontario, where he continues to teach and carry out research today. In addition to his landmark research on Paleo-Indians, Chris has made significant contributions to our understanding of the pre-ceramic or Archaic hunter-gatherers of Ontario and northeastern North America. Anyone who knows Chris would agree with this statement in the nomination letter written by Neal Ferris:

Dr. Ellis is truly one of the smartest, productive, collegial and convivial archaeologists in Canada today.

Chris’s research contributions are both exceptional and prolific. As stated by Neal Ferris in the nomination letter:

 His work on the earliest traces of human history in the archaeological record has led to his well-earned reputation as a leading scholar in North America on the North American Paleolithic, and his research has been instrumental in contributing to the advancement of that scholarship to move beyond stone tool typologies and paleo-economic determinism, in order to gain real insight into human decision making and choices . . .

 It is no understatement to say, absent Dr. Ellis' contributions, our understanding of the first three quarters of the very long archaeological history of human life in Eastern Canada would be miniscule.

Chris’s enthusiasm for archaeology is contagious as demonstrated by his publication record and research and conference presentations. Chris is the author and editor of 7 books and monographs, and he has published 45 peer-reviewed book chapters and articles, and close to 100 non-peer reviewed articles and technical reports. As stated in a letter of support for his nomination by Mike Spence:

Chris has accomplished something that few archaeologists have ever managed to do. He has published virtually all of the research that he has engaged in over the years. Most of us have, over the course of our careers, built up a comet’s tail of unpublished research that we spend our later years struggling to catch up on – rarely with much success. Chris takes seriously our responsibility to publish on the sites that we have effectively destroyed with our excavations.

In addition to his prolific research output, Chris has mentored over 60 graduate students, 100s of undergraduates, and has always included members of Indigenous communities and avocational archaeologists in his field and lab research.

In his spare time, Chris has served the Ontario Archaeological Society for a number of years as editor of Ontario Archaeology and Kewa: Newsletter of the London Chapter of the Ontario Archaeological Society and on awards committees for the Canadian Archaeological Association. He puts most of us to shame by his regular attendance at chapter meetings, conferences, and public archaeological events and his dedicated commitment to mentoring avocational archaeologists.

Given his 40-year career in archaeology in Ontario, his innovative research and prolific publication record, and his generous involvement with archaeological organizations and avocationals, it is my sincere pleasure as a colleague and friend to present Chris Ellis with the Smith-Wintemberg Award.