Kelley A. Hays-Gilpin, PhD

Kelley A. Hays-Gilpin Chair & Professor
Northern Arizona University
Blg 65 Rm #230
Phone: 928-523-6564


  • archaeology
  • ceramics
  • visual arts
  • gender
  • rock art
  • US Southwest
  • museums


BA, University Michigan
MA, PhD, University of Arizona 1992


Dr. Kelley Hays-Gilpin is a Professor and the Edward Bridge Danson Chair of Anthropology at the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA). Hays-Gilpin, an archaeologist, has a three-year contract to serve as the part-time chair of Anthropology at MNA.

She is currently working on several publications for MNA, planning an exhibit in collaboration with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, and performing curatorial tasks, as well as teaching and advising students at NAU. With Anthropology, Art History, and Applied Indigenous Studies faculty, she is working to plan and develop a Native American Museums Studies program for NAU and MNA.  

Current research and applied projects

Hays-Gilpin’s current research, undertaken in collaboration with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, explores Hopi history and culture from prehistory to present through cross-media comparison of style and iconography (including but not limited to pottery, textiles, mural painting, rock art), visual and verbal metaphors, and gender arrangements.

In addition, she and her NAU students regularly undertake service-learning projects such the Picture Canyon rock art mapping and management plan project, ceramic conferences, and online ceramic identification manuals.

Hays-Gilpin places a high priority on publications for both scholarly and popular audiences. Her most recent book, Ambiguous Images: Gender and Rock Art, won the 2005 Society for American Archaeology Book Award. She recently edited two issues of MNA’s Plateau Magazine on rock art, kiva murals, and painted pottery of northern Arizona, and co-edited three volumes of a new journal called Heritage Management. 

The Hopi Iconography Project led Hays-Gilpin to an interest in borderlands archaeology, and long-term, long-distance connections between the Southwest and Mesoamerica. She has taken part in an NEH summer seminar and several conferences on this topic in Mexico and co-organized the “Common Roots” conference in Flagstaff several years ago.

Over the past three years, her attention to archaeological method and theory has been directed toward the increasingly important topic of archaeology of religion. She edited a volume entitled “Belief in the Past: Theorizing an Archaeology of Religion,” with D.S. Whitley, and wrote an article on archaeology of religion in the Southwest Pueblo region for Timothy Insoll’s encyclopedia of archaeology of religion.

Hays-Gilpin is also collaborating on a book about Chaco Canyon rock art that will include discussion of religion, sacred landscapes, and phenomenology, as well as iconography.

Hopi Iconography Project

At the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA), Dr. Hays-Gilpin directs the Hopi Iconography Project, a collaboration between the museum and the Hopi Tribe’s cultural preservation office. They are exploring Hopi cultural continuity through pottery, rock art, mural painting, and fiber perishables, including baskets and textiles.

Archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, and art historians are working together with Hopi artists, language specialists, archaeologists, and other cultural specialists to study nearly two thousand years of Hopi history, values, aesthetics, technology, subsistence, and artistic expression.

Archaeologists usually study the past for its own sake, but we are trying to understand the meanings of the past in the present, and how distinctively Hopi ways of thinking about ecology, health, and community values have been expressed in material culture over centuries if not millennia.

Most important, we want to explore ways that Hopi traditions can help shape a sustainable future for Hopi communities and beyond, through subsistence farming, craft production, public health programs, and cultural revitalization.

In some ways, it’s more important to Hays-Gilpin that ancient objects do have significance for contemporary indigenous people, and less important what the exact meanings of ancient symbols are—so it’s less about reading the past like a text, and more about having a conversation in the present about ancestors, sacred places, and making aesthetic and emotional connections between past and present.

It’s about being able to hear messages from the past that help us live better lives today—whether it’s how to grow food in the desert, how to have a healthy diabetes-resistant diet, how to deal with drought, how to continue one’s cultural heritage in new artforms, or how to help outsiders understand and appreciate one’s art heritage.

Thus far, Dr. Hays-Gilpin’s research with this project has resulted in four scholarly articles and book chapters, two issues of MNA’s Plateau magazine, and a research bulletin entitled Painting the Cosmos.

Southwest pottery traditions

Dr. Hays-Gilpin also directs traditional archaeological research on pottery traditions in the northern Southwest, in collaboration with our national parks, forests, and other agencies, tribes, and museums.

Graduate student service projects that she has directed include a web-based field identification manual for Pueblo IV period decorated pottery from the Agua Fria National Monument, and analysis of Cohonina pottery from sites excavated near Sitgreaves Mountain by joint MNA-NAU field schools.

Her graduate students are presently preparing a field identification manual, type collection, and additional analysis of pottery from the area north and west of the Colorado River (sometimes called “Virgin Anasazi” or the “Arizona Strip” region).

She has authored pottery identification manuals and compiled type collections for Wupatki National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, and the Navajo Nation’s Chambers-Sanders Trust Lands.

Collectively, her experience with pottery from a wide geographic range and many time periods results in deep understanding of pottery production, distribution, chronology, and cultural affiliation across the northern Southwest/southern Colorado Plateau. 

Additional Links: 

 Noroeste – Southwest :  raíces comunes / Common Roots

Gender in Archaeology 2000

Southwest Ceramic Identification Manuals

Resources for Red Rock Area (Sedona) Guides