Gayle Fritz

Gayle Fritz

​Professor Emerita of Archaeology
PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1114
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

​Professor Fritz works with archaeobotanical remains to answer questions about how people interacted with plants so that they could eat and drink well, manage their landscapes, restore and maintain health, perform rituals, negotiate trade relationships, and enhance many other economic and social activities.

Much of Fritz's research focuses on processes of plant domestication and sequences leading to the development of agricultural systems worldwide, but especially in North America and Mexico. General concerns and approaches involve cultural, ecological, and biological aspects of subsistence change and continuity.  She has conducted research in the Ozarks and elsewhere in the trans-Mississippi South (on pre- and post-maize agriculture), the Lower Mississippi Valley (transition to farming by complex hunter-fisher-gatherers), the American Bottom region (biologically diverse Cahokian farming systems), and the Greater Southwest (earliest farmers in Chihuahua and Hohokam amaranth use). Certain plants continue to grab her attention, notably grain amaranth and chenopod, maygrass, tobacco, and hickory nuts. She was fortunate to collaborate with Cherokee colleagues in eastern Oklahoma in interviewing modern makers of ku-nu-che, the traditional hickory nut soup, gaining ethnoarchaeological insights along with appreciation for the continuing relevance of ancient foods for American Indian people.

Fritz is also interested in foodways resulting from interaction between Native Americans and European colonizers. She worked at the Berry site in western North Carolina as a member of the Exploring Joara project, seeking to understand relationships between 16th century Spanish soldiers and the Joarans, especially Native women who grew and prepared the corn that dominates the assemblage. She recently completed the book Feeding Cahokia (University of Alabama Press, January 2019), in which she takes a broad look at early agriculture in the American Bottom region. Emphasis is again on women as farmers and key agents of decision making and social integration.

Selected Publications

2019 Feeding Cahokia: Early Agriculture in the North American Heartland. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

2018 (Browman, David L., Gayle J. Fritz, and BrieAnna S. Langlie. ). Origins of Food-Producing Economies in the Americas. In The Human Past, 4th edition, edited by Chris Scarre, pp. 303-343. Thames and Hudson, London.

2017 (G. J. Fritz, M. C. Bruno, B. S. Langlie, B. D. Smith, and L. Kistler). Cultigen Chenopods in the Americas: A Hemispherical Perspective. In Social Perspectives on Ancient Lives from Paleoethnobotanical Data, edited by M. Sayre and M. C. Bruno. pp. 55-75. Springer, Cham, Switzerland.

2017 (N. G. Mueller, G. J. Fritz, P. Patton, S. Carmody, and E. T. Horton). Growing the Lost Crops of Eastern North America’s Original Agricultural System. Nature Plants 3, 17092.

2016 (N. G. Mueller and G. J. Fritz) Women as Symbols and Actors in the Mississippi Valley: Evidence from Female Flint-Clay Statues and Effigy Vessels. In Native American Landscapes: An Engendered Perspective, edited by Cheryl Claassen, pp. 109-150. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

2016 (G. J. Fritz and A. L Miller) Sediment Worlds: Soil and Agriculture in the American Bottom. “American Bottom Itinerary.” Mellon Urban Humanities Initiative.

2016 (Kelsey Nordine, Gayle J. Fritz, and Jocelyn Turner). “In Short, They Gave Us What They Had”: Archaeological Plant Remains from the Wallace Bottom Site, Arkansas. In Papers in Honor of Thomas Green, edited by Mary Beth Trubitt. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville.

2016 (R.A. Beck, G. J. Fritz, H.A. Lapham, C. B. Rodning, and D. G. Moore) The Politics of Provisioning: Food and Gender at Fort San Juan de Juora, 1566-1568.  American Antiquity 81(1):3-26.
2016 Ethnobotany and Early Frontier Food. In Fort San Juan and the Limits of Empire: Colonialism and Household Practice at the Berry Site, edited by Robin A. Beck, David G. Moore, and Christopher B. Rodning. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.
2015 (Cagnato, C., G. J. Fritz, and S. L. Dawdy) Strolling through Madame Mandeville’s Garden: The Real and Imagined Landscape of Eighteenth Century New Orleans, Louisiana. Journal of Ethnobiology 35(2):235-261.

2014 (Langlie, B. S., N. G. Mueller, R. N. Spengler, and G. J. Fritz), Agricultural Origins from the Ground Up: Archaeological Approaches to Plant Domestication. American Journal of Botany, special issue “Speaking of Food” 101(10): 1601-1617.

2014 (C. T. Adams and G. J.Fritz) Using Biocultural Collections for Education. In Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook, edited by Jan Salick, Katie Konchar, and Mark Nesbitt, pp. 347-363. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in association with Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis.

2014 (G. J. Fritz) Maygrass (Phalaris caroliniana Walt.).  In New Lives for Ancient and Extinct Crops, edited by Paul E. Minnis, pp. 12-43. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

2014 (Gayle Fritz and Mark Nesbitt) Laboratory Analysis and Identification of Plant Macroremains. In Method and Theory in Paleoethnobotany, edited by M. Marston, J. D’alpoim Guedes, and C. Warinner.  University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

2013 (R. N. Spengler, M. D.Frachetti, and G. J.Fritz).  Ecotopes and Herd Foraging Practices in the Steppe/Mountain Ecotone of Central Asia during the Bronze and Iron Ages. Journal of Ethnobiology 33(1):125-147.

2011 The Role of  “Tropical” Crops in Early North America.  In The Subsistence  Economies of Indigenous North American Societies, edited by Bruce D. Smith, pp. 503-516.  Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, Washington, D.C. (Published in cooperation with Roman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.)

2010 (Michael D. Frachetti, Robert N. Spengler, Gayle J. Fritz, and Alexi N. Mar’yashev ) Earliest Direct Evidence for Broomcorn Millet and Wheat in the Central Eurasian Steppe Region. Antiquity 84:993-1010.

2009 (W. L. Merrill, R. J. Hard, J. B. Mabry, G. F. Fritz, K. R. Adams, J. R. Roney, and A. C. MacWilliams) The Diffusion of Maize to the Southwestern United States and its Impact.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(50):21019-21026.

2009 (G. J. Fritz, K. R. Adams, G. E. Rice, and J. L. Czarzasty)  Evidence for Domesticated Amaranth (Amaranthus) from a Sedentary Period Hohokam House Floor at Las Canopas.  Kiva 75(3):393-418.

2008 Paleoethnobotanical Information and Issues Relevant to the I-69 Overview Process, Northwest Mississippi.  In Times River: Archaeological Syntheses from the Lower Mississippi River Valley, edited by Janet Rafferty and Evan Peacock, pp. 299-343.  University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

2008 The Transition to Agriculture in the Desert Borderlands: An Introduction.  In Archaeology Without Borders: Contact, Commerce, and Change in the U.S. Southwest and Northwestern Mexico, edited by L. D. Webster and M. E. McBrinn, pp. 25-33  University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

2007 Keepers of Louisiana’s Levees: Early Moundbuilders and Forest Managers.  In Rethinking Agriculture: Archaeological and Ethnoarchaeological Perspectives, edited by T.P. Denham, José Iriarte, and Luc Vrydags, pp. 338-368.  Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek.

2007 Pigweeds for the Ancestors: Cultural Identities and Archaeological Identification Methods.  In The Archaeology of Food and Identity, edited by K.C. Twiss, pp. 288-307. Center for Archaeological Investigations, Occasional Paper No. 34.  Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

2006 Introduction and Spread of Mexican Crops.  In Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 3, edited by D. Ubelaker and B. D. Smith, pp. 437-446.  Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.

2005 Paleoethnobotanical Methods and Applications. In Handbook of Archaeological Methods, edited by Herbert D.G. Maschner and Christopher Chippindale, pp. 771-832. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, CA.

2001 (G. J. Fritz, V. D. Whitekiller, and J. W. McIntosh) Ethnobotany of Ku-Nu-Che: Cherokee Hickory Nut Soup. Journal of Ethnobiology 21(2):1-27.