Jacob L. Fisher, PhD

  • Contact Information

  • Title: Assistant Professor, NAGPRA Director
  • Office Location: Mendocino Hall 4018
  • Office Hours: Wed 2:00pm - 3:00pm, or by appointment
  • E-mail: jlfisher@csus.edu
  • Office Phone: (916) 278-4555
  • Mailing Address: Department of Anthropology, California State University, Sacramento, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819-6106
  • Where to find me: MND 4018 (office) or MND 1012 (Archaeological Curation Facility)

Recent courses that I teach

  • ANTH 15: World Prehistory
  • ANTH 114: North American Prehistory
  • ANTH 126: Archaeological Analysis & Typology: Analysis of Faunal Remains
  • ANTH 192/195: Lab Work in Archaeology
  • ANTH 292/295: Lab Work in Archaeology (advanced course)

In addition to courses, I supervise undergraduate and graduate student volunteers in the Archaeological Curation Facility. Individuals interested in volunteering are encouraged to complete the form located here


Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Washington, 2010
Dissertation Title: Costly Signaling and Changing Faunal Abundances at Five Finger Ridge, Utah

M.A., Anthropology, University of Washington, 2004

B.A., Anthropology, University of California at Santa Cruz, 2000

Research Interests

My interests as a zooarchaeologist primarily lie in the understanding of the role faunal resources played in prehistoric foraging societies by using theory and models developed in human behavioral ecology. One of my current research goals is to bridge existing optimal foraging models based on energy with costly signaling theory in an effort to recognize other payoffs that might influence foraging decisions among small-scale hunter-gatherers. In addition to understanding the underlying decisions made during hunting forays, much of my research attempts to understand the subsequent transportation and culinary processing decisions after the successful capture of prey. My region of interest is western North America, primarily the California and Great Basin regions. As the NAGPRA Director for the campus Archaeological Curation Facility, much of my work also involves implementation of NAGPRA and collaboration with descendent communities.

Some themes of my recent research include:

  • Shifts in the use of animal resources by indigenous groups during the Historic Period. Currently, I am working with a set of undergraduate and graduate students on the analysis of a rockshelter located in Butte County, California that was occupied by Native Californians pre- and post-contact (based on presence of trade beads and glass projectile points). One goal is to evaluate how faunal resources were exploited after the intrusion of Europeans, Americans, and Chinese miners and ranchers into the region. Future work on fauna from sites occupied along the American River may continue this research focus.
  • Mountain sheep (Ovis canadensis) hunting in the Great Basin and adjacent regions. This work largely stems from my past work at Five Finger Ridge, a Fremont site in Utah, where diachronic changes in sheep hunting, paleoclimate data, and isotopic analysis collectively suggest that the species may have responded to climate change by shifting their ranges away from the site to higher elevations. I have since been researching the fauna from alpine sites located in the White Mountains, California to determine whether the shifting use of the alpine zone can be explained by similar climate-related shifts in mountain sheep availability that impacted settlement-subsistence strategies due to changes in transportation costs.
  • Archaeological signatures of culinary processing decisions. In particular, I am interested in identifying how small mammals are prepared for consumptions in the absence of common butchering and processing signatures. My work at Antelope Cave emphasizes the intensive processing of jackrabbits that may relate to overall resource stress or feasting related to communal drives.
  • Identification of sacred animal remains from archaeological sites using the definition of sacred objects provided under NAGPRA. Our facility has begun discussions with the Native community on what kinds of animals were used strictly for ritual and ceremonial purposes, and developing expectations for the contexts and form these animals should appear in the archaeological record.
  • Use of stable isotopes (oxygen, carbon, and strontium) to infer exploitation and transportation of faunal resources.
  • Prehistoric biogeography as inferred from archaeofaunal data. This includes past work on western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) in the Puget Sound region, mountain sheep in the Great Basin, and leporid species at Five Finger Ridge, Utah.

Selected Publications

Fisher, Jacob L. and Keith L. Johnson, 2014. Culinary Processing of Jackrabbits at Antelope Cave, Arizona. Kiva 79(3):307-333.

Fisher, Jacob L. Joel C. Janetski, and Keith L. Johnson, 2013. Variability in Far Western Puebloans Subsistence Strategies: The View from the Uinkaret Plateau, Northwest Arizona. Journal of Arizona Archaeology 2(2):140-162.

Fisher, Jacob L. and Benjamin Valentine, 2013. Resource Depression, Climate Change, and Mountain Sheep in the Eastern Great Basin of Western North America. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 5(2):145-157.

Morgan, Christopher, Monique Pomerleau, and Jacob L. Fisher, 2012, High-Altitude Intensification and Settlement in Utah’s Pahvant Range. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 31(1): 27-45

Fisher, Jacob L., 2012, Shifting Prehistoric Abundances of Leporids at Five Finger Ridge, a Central Utah Archaeological Site. Western North American Naturalist 72(1): 60-68.

Fisher, Jacob L., 2010, Costly Signaling and Changing Faunal Abundances at Five Finger Ridge, Utah. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle. Committee Chair: Donald K. Grayson

Fisher, Jacob L., 2009, Unmodified Faunal Remains from Antelope Cave, Arizona. Prepared for Keith Johnson, Chico State University.

Grayson, Donald K. and Jacob L. Fisher, 2009, Holocene Elk (Cervus elaphus) in the Great Basin. In, Past, Present, and Future Issues in Great Basin Archaeology, Cultural Resource Series 20, edited by B.S. Hockett. Bureau of Land Management.


Fisher, Jacob L. and Shannon Goshen, 2013, Why So Many Sheep? Coldwater Fauna and the Costly Signaling Debate. Paper presented at the 7th Annual Keeler Conference, Independence, California.

Fisher, Jacob L. and Shannon Goshen, 2013, Old Bones, New Data: Results of the Reanalysis of the Coldwater Site, White Mountains Faunal Assemblage. Poster presented at the Society for California Archaeology Annual Meeting, Berkeley, California. 

Fisher, Jacob L., 2012, Explanations within Human Behavioral Ecology: The Role of Costly Signaling in Great Basin Anthropology. Paper presented at the Great Basin Anthropology Conference, South Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

Fisher, Jacob L. and Shannon Goshen, 2012, Old Bones, New Data: Results of the Reanalysis of the Coldwater Site, White Mountains Faunal Assemblage. Poster presented at the Great Basin Anthropology Conference, South Lake Tahoe, Nevada. 

Fisher, Jacob L. and Shannon Goshen, 2012, A New Look at an Old Site: Reanalysis of the Coldwater Faunal Assemblage. Paper presented at 6th Annual Keeler Conference, Tom’s Place, CA.

Fisher, Jacob L., 2012, Challenges in Identifying Communal Hunting of Jackrabbits using Archaeofauna Data: A Case Study from Antelope Cave, Arizona. Paper presented at 77th Annual Meeting for the Society for American Archaeology in Memphis, TN.

Fisher, Jacob L., 2011, Stable Isotopes, Climate, and Shifting Patterns of Mountain Sheep Hunting in the Great Basin. Paper presented at the 5th Annual Keeler Conference, Tom’s Place, CA.

Fisher, Jacob L., 2011, Climate Change, Isotopes, and Mountain Sheep Hunting at Five Finger Ridge, Utah. Paper presented at the 76th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Sacramento, CA.

Fisher, Jacob L., 2010, Fauna, Isotopes, and Climate Change at Five Finger Ridge, Utah. Paper presented at the Great Basin Anthropology Conference, Layton, UT.

Fisher, Jacob L., 2010, Processing and Consumption of Jackrabbits at Antelope Cave, AZ. Paper presented at the 75th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, St. Louis, MO.

Fisher, Jacob L., 2007, Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata): Archaeology and Biogeography in the Puget Sound region. Poster presented at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Austin.

Janetski, Joel C., Jacob L. Fisher, Rebecca A. Kessler, Megan Herkelrath, and Donald K. Grayson. 2005 Paleoarchaic Occupations in the GSENM: Data from North Creek Shelter

Professional Associations

  • Society for American Archaeology
  • Society for California Archaeology
  • International Council of Archaeozoology
  • Great Basin Anthropological Association

Eagle Lake

The library quad

Illustration of jackrabbit skeleton with images of articulated specimens from Antelope Cave, Arizona

Jackrabbit butchering at Antelope Cave, Arizona. (image by J. Fisher)

Highly fragmented tooth specimens from Coldwater, White Mountains, California

Highly fragmented tooth specimens from the Coldwater site, White Mountains, California. (photo by S. Goshen)

Mountain Sheep (Ovis canadensis) tooth with serial sampling for stable isotope analysis

Mountain sheep (Ovis canadensis) molars showing serial sampling for stable isotope analysis. From Five Finger Ridge, Utah. (photo by J. Fisher)