Dr. Peter Ramsden

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Dr. Peter Ramsden

Born in London, England, Peter Ramsden moved to Canada during his childhood and it was in Toronto while attending public school that he became interested in archaeology. To our collective benefit Peter followed this developing interest joining the Ontario Archaeological Society while still in High School and beginning a career path that has archaeologists in their training and pursuit of historic and culturally mediated knowledge.

Peter’s formal education in Archaeology began with his undergrad in Anthropology; completed at the University of Toronto in 1967. During his undergrad Peter began working in the Canadian Arctic; a research area that hold persistent interest for him. The follow year, 1968, he completed his MA in Archaeology at the University of Calgary. While in Calgary Peter studied with Scotty MacNeish – whose influence many can detect in the direction of Peter’s later research and also in his attention to survey methods and interdisciplinary collaboration. Peter returned to the University of Toronto for his Doctorate; which he completed in 1975 under the supervision of J.N Emerson. His thesis, “A refinement of some aspects of Huron ceramic analysis” was subsequently published in the Archaeological Survey of Canada Mercury Series and remains one of our central sources for interpreting Huron ceramics today.

After a brief stint at the University of Waterloo, Peter joined the Department of Anthropology at McMaster University where he stayed for 25 years. During his time at McMaster Peter supervised over 25 MA and PhD students. It is during his time at McMaster that Peter developed his “silverback” status within Iroquoian Archaeology and also entrenched himself as a researcher of Paleoeskimo and Thule culture in the Central Canadian Arctic, and of Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements in Ireland. Over 1980-1982 Peter held two major research grants from SSHRC to pursue his research in the Canadian Arctic In his Great Lakes Region research Peter has challenged traditional paradigms. Peter’s research papers cover topics as wide ranging as the impacts of disease on pre-contact Iroquoians, wealth dispersal, settlement patterns, politics, symbolism and meaning from archaic to proto-contact communities. Peter’s work is exhaustive on the subject of Archaic through Iroquoian prehistory. In 1990 he offered a measured consideration of the evidence for and against Saint Lawrence Iroquoian movement into the Upper Trent River Valley which reflects his attention to the cultural meanings behind archaeological materials in our assessment of any hypothesis about the past. Alongside these academic pursuits Peter has also contributed greatly to contract and consulting archaeology. He and Dean Knight founded one of the first consulting companies in the country.

When Peter retired in 2001 his research focus shifted to include Paleoeskimo and Thule research in the Eastern Subarctic. With this expansion came Peter’s move to St. John’s NL and his research association with the then Department of Anthropology (now the department of Archaeology) at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. Peter continues to live in St. John’s and his research continues to evolve. Peter has recently drawn on his experience on both sides of the North Atlantic to publish his consideration of the similarities within Neolithic and Archaic prehistory on both coastlines.

He was, until June of 2011, the coordinator for the SSHRC funded CURA Project "Understanding the Past to Build the Future”; a five-year multidisciplinary study of the history of the Inuit Métis of southern Labrador. Peter left this position to return to his Ontario and Iroquoian research roots. In the fall of 2011 Peter’s began a new research project in South Ontario to further his work on the Archaic and Iroquoian Periods.

Peter is the manager of Copetown Press and editor of the journal Occasional Papers in Northeastern Archaeology. He has published four books, over 30 research papers, and offered countless talks and public lectures.