Richard E. Morlan

Date award received: 
Heather Morlan and Jack Brink

The Smith-Wintemberg Award is presented to honour members of the Canadian archaeological community who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the discipline of archaeology. This, our highest award, is presented in any year, as merited, to recognize outstanding achievement or service. This year the Smith-Wintemberg award, as unanimously approved by the executive, is awarded to Richard E. Morlan.

In support of this recognition, I am pleased to provide the following summary of Dick's career. My thanks to Jeff Huntson, John Matthews, Ray Le Blanc, and especially to Ian Dyck who prepared most of this material.

During a 36-year career in Canadian archaeology Richard E. "Dick" Morlan touched many people with the intelligence, breadth, and aptness of his work. He was a prodigious scholar, a first-rate scientist, an effective collaborator, a mentor to students, a discipline-builder and a warm, welcoming friend.

After university training at George Washington University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he received his MA and PhD in Anthropology, Dick joined the National Museum of Man in 1969 as Yukon Archaeologist. One of the first tasks he took on was editorship of the fledgling Canadian Archaeological Association's Bulletin, predecessor of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology. He also plunged into field work. During the next dozen years, Dick laid the groundwork for studies of the later prehistory and early history of the Yukon with his reports on Klo-kut, Cadzow Lake and other sites. In addition, he published important studies on lithic technology and launched the Yukon Refugium project, a multidisciplinary search for evidence of the earliest peopling of North America. Six years of work on the Refugium project generated much-improved knowledge about the Pleistocene deposits most likely to contain ancient artifacts. In the end, Dick did not find the primary archaeological sites he was searching for. Yet, the skills and interests Dick honed in his investigation of the peopling of the Americas, of chronology, faunal analysis, taphonomy and, more broadly, paleoenvironmental studies, set the course for most of his subsequent research. Despite several geographic turns in Dick's career, he continued to be regarded internationally as one of the finest scholars in the field of bone modification.

In 1981, Dick turned his attention to Plains archaeology. Initially, he worked in southern Alberta, collaborating with me at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. Then, he shifted his attention to south-central Saskatchewan and a long-term collaboration with Ernie Walker and University of Saskatchewan students at the many archaeological sites within Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Beyond his own contributions to this work, he became an adjunct professor at the University and supervised numerous graduate students. Later, he collaborated with Ian Dyck in the analysis of another Saskatchewan locality, the Sjovold site, a multicomponent Middle and Late Period campsite. Much of his attention in these collaborations was devoted to innovative kinds of faunal analysis.

During the time that he was Plains Archaeologist for the National Museum of Man (1981-1989), Dick assumed two other duties which he discharged with great distinction - technical editorship of the Museum's Archaeological Mercury Series and management of the Museum's radiocarbon dating program. During his editorship, the Mercury Series flourished, becoming the pre-eminent outlet for book-length reports in Canada. Milestone studies for every region of the country appear in this series. With regard to the radiocarbon dating project, Dick saw the limited value of unorganized and generally unavailable radiocarbon dates being amassed for archaeological sites, and took on the daunting task of assembling this information in a format that would be accessible to all. The result, created without research assistance, is the Canadian Archaeological Radiocarbon Database (CARD), a massive, easily searchable, electronic database housed on the Canadian Archaeological Association Web site and available free to all users. The impact this database has had on chronology in Canadian archaeology since the 1990s is inestimable.

A truly outstanding aspect of Dick's career was the breadth of his interests and the enthusiasm with which he embraced collaborative research with scholars in related fields. Blessed with an expansive mind, and an astonishing capacity to absorb the intricacies of other disciplines, Dick was equally at home discussing glacial till sections with a geologist, collecting and identifying fossil beetles, sampling soil for seeds and volcanic ash, banding birds, running through camp at dusk with a butterfly net, and identifying microtine teeth under a microscope. When Dick and I walked around Head-Smashed-In we had to stop at every fence post so Dick could collect raptor pellets from around the bases of the posts where hawks perched. Dick was, in the truest sense, a renaissance man. He was also as fine a companion in the field or lab as anyone could hope to work with. His colleagues are unanimous that any project which included Dick was considered a dream assignment. From personal experience I can assert that you seldom, if ever, had more fun than you did when working with Dick Morlan.

Throughout his career, Dick Morlan disseminated the results of his research to a broad range of people by giving local talks, arranging tours and conferences, speaking on radio and television, writing for newspapers and magazines and preparing exhibits. Among other accomplishments, he was a sessional lecturer at Carleton University, a councillor for the American Quaternary Association, an associate editor for Arctic Anthropology, a collaborator in the Faunmap Project, Illinois State Museum, a Schindler Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Arkansas, and twice President of the Canadian Archaeological Association. One of his proudest moments was when he received the Yukon Beringia Research Award in 1999. Thus, Dick Morlan had an outstanding career in Canadian archaeology, pushing the frontiers of knowledge and inspiring all who had the pleasure to work with him. Throughout his entire career Dick brought international distinction to Canadian archaeology. As such he is a thoroughly deserving recipient of the Smith-Wintemberg Award.

Sadly, we lost Dick Morlan in January 2007. His wife Heather is here this evening, and I would ask that you warmly welcome her to the podium to accept this award on Dick's behalf.

Jack Brink
May 10, 2008
Peterborough, Ontario