Joan Margaret Gero (1944-2016) was an American archaeologist and co-organizer, with Margaret W. Conkey, of the "Women and Production in Prehistory" Conference that took place April 5-9, 1988 at The Wedge Plantation in South Carolina (sometimes referred to as the "Wedge Conference"). The conference was, according to Gero (personal correspondence, 2015), "the first archaeological conference in the United States convened specifically to discuss women's roles in prehistory." The resulting book, Engendering Archaeology: Women and prehistory, was the first to consider women's roles in prehistory. It was re-printed six times, and has had a major impact on the archaeological field.
Gero was a specialist in feminist archaeology, the socio-politics of archaeology, the ethics of archaeological practice, global and community archaeology, and Andean prehistory. She was perhaps best known for her foundational work to create a field of gender archaeology alongside Margaret Conkey, Janet Spectre, Alison Wylie and others.
Gero was born in New York City in 1944. She completed her B.A. in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, her M.A. in Elementary Education from Boston College in 1970, and her degrees in Anthropology (M.A. in 1977 and Ph.D. in 1983) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
During her career, Gero held professorships at the University of South Carolina (Assistant, 1984-1990, Associate 1990-1997) and American University (Associate 1998-2007; Emerita 2008-2016). She also held visiting professorships at the University of Cambridge (1991 and 2004-5), the Universidad Nacional del Centro de Buenos Aires, Olvarria in Argentina (1992), the Universidad Nacional de Catamarca in Argentina (1994), the University of Umeå and Uppsala in Sweden (1997), and was a Research Associate with Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) (1996-2016).
Most of Gero's fieldwork was carried out in Argentina and Peru. Gero served from 1994-2004 as co-director (with M.C. Scottolin) of Proyecto Cajón, including Excavations at Yutopian, Valle del Cajón, and Provincia Catamarca. She conducted formative work for those excavations at Valle del Cajón in 1992 and 1993. From 1985 to 1989 Gero was Director of the Callejón de Huaylas Archaeological Project (northcentral Peruvian highlands). Prior to that, Gero was a lithics analyst for the Huaricoto Project in Callejón de Huaylas, Peru (1978-1979), and a crew member on the Harvard Moche Valley/Chan Chan Project in north coastal Peru (1973). Her first fieldwork was in Hampshire, England as a crew member on an Iron Age/Roman Excavation. She also served as crew chief for a field school in the Connecticut River Valley (Massachusetts. 1976), co-director for a field school at Mulberry Mound (Camden, South Carolina, 1985), and research assistant to Smithsonian Maritime Archaic excavations in Labrador (1971 and 1983).
Gero was Head Series Editor for the One World Archaeology book series, and served on the advisory board for Archaeologies: The Journal of the World Archaeological Congress.
Gero was an active member of a number of professional organizations, including the World Archaeological Congress, where she was senior North American representative from 1999-2008, and member of a Standing Committee on Ethics from 2007 to her death in 2016.
Gero received a number of awards and honors during her career. In 2013, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Archaeology Congress. In 2007, the American Anthropological Association presented Gero with the "Squeaky Wheel" Award for her work affecting change for women in archaeology. In 2016 the World Archaeological Congress created the Joan Gero Book Award in her honor.
The conference that this collection pertains to was planned with funds from two successful grants Gero wrote with Margaret Conkey. The first was from the National Science Foundation. The second was from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Both were entitled "Women's Production in Prehistory: An International Conference" and received in April 1988.
Gero was married to Stephen Loring, an Archaeologist in the NMNH's Department of Anthropology and Arctic Studies Center.
1944 May 26
Gero born in New York City
Gero receives B.A. in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania
Gero receives M.Ed. in Elementary Education at Boston College
Gero receives M.A. in Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Gero receives Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts-Amhearst
1988 April 5-9
Women and Production in Prehistory Conference
Engendering Archaeology: Women and prehistory published
2016 July 14
Joan M. Gero dies in Washington, D.C.