National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: John W. Arthur

Affiliation: University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

John Arthur is Associate Professor with the Department of Society, Culture, and Language at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, and holds his degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at San Antonio (MA), and the University of Florida (PhD).  His research interests are ethnoarchaeology, the archaeology of beer, ceramic technology, experimental archaeology, craft specialization, complex societies, African archaeology and North American archaeology, and his current project is on interpreting social stratification from African archaeological and living contexts.  His work in the Gamo highlands (southwestern Ethiopia) with Kathryn Arthur and Matthew Curtis led to the 2015 article in Science describing a 4,500 year old male human skeleton from Mota Cave that provided the first complete ancient human genome sequenced from the African continent found.


Beer is and has always been more than an intoxicating beverage. Ancient beer produced in the Near East, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas was a food that had a remarkable role in shaping the development of agriculture and some of the earliest state-level societies. Its invention 13,000 years ago was one of the fundamental motivations for the domestication of grains around the world. In early states, the control over the technological knowledge and resources to produce beer contributed to social hierarchies. Beer even likely provided the capital to motivate laborers to construct the ancient pyramids and other large-scale public works. The fermentation of beer also provided a healthy and safe alternative to the contaminated drinking water in early states and it continues to do so among rural Indigenous populations today. Beer brings people together and, in many Indigenous societies both past and present, is a gift connecting people to their ancestors. The same innovations pioneered by ancient brewers are transforming the types of ingredients and flavors produced by the global craft beer industry.

support Us

The AIA is North America's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to archaeology. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference.