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Faculty Portrait

Contact Information

Name: Jacob L. Fisher, PhD

Title: Associate Professor; Director of the Archaeological Curation Facility; Graduate Coordinator

Office Location: Mendocino Hall 4018


Office Phone: (916) 278-4555

Mailing Address: Department of Anthropology, California State University, Sacramento, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95819-6106

Office Hours: Thurs 1:00pm - 3:00pm, or by appointment

Where to find me : MND 4018 (office) or MND 1012 (Archaeological Curation Facility)

Recent courses that I teach

  • ANTH 3: Introduction to Archaeology
  • ANTH 15: World Prehistory
  • ANTH 109: Ecological and Evolutionary Approaches to Anthropology
  • ANTH 114: North American Prehistory
  • ANTH 126: Archaeological Analysis & Typology: Analysis of Faunal Remains
  • ANTH 192/195: Lab Work in Archaeology
  • ANTH 196T: Zooarchaeology
  • ANTH 292/295: Lab Work in Archaeology (advanced course)
  • ANTH 203: Graduate Seminar in Archaeology

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.

More information regarding the graduate program in archaeology can be found here.


Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Washington, 2010
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. Further, I am interested in prehistoric biogeography as inferred from archaeofaunal data. 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.

Recent research projects include:

  • Demographic Collapse and Protohistoric Large Game Rebound in Native California. Analyses completed by undergraduate and graduate students on the Kathy's Rockshelter (Butte County, CA) demonstrate a significant increase in the use of high cost resources (small game and geophytes) that reverses dramatically between ca. AD 1465 and 1645. I am currently evaluating whether this change is due to demographic collapse of Native populations resulting from epidemics prior to the Mission Period, or alternatively, a reflection of changing climate. 
  • Bighorn 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 responded to climate change by shifting their ranges to higher elevations. Most recently, I have been working on the faunas from alpine sites located in the White Mountains, California to evaluate changes in butchering and transportation that may correspond with shifting settlement-subsistence strategies.
  • Culinary Processing at Antelope Cave. I am interested in identifying how small mammals are prepared for consumption. I identifed intensive processing of jackrabbits at Antelope Cave that may relate to overall resource stress based on predictions formed using the marginal value theorem. Alternatively, heavy processing may relate to feasting associated with communal jackrabbit drives.
  • Identification of Sacred Animal Remains. The Archaeological Curation Facility has begun discussions with the Native community on what kinds of animals were used strictly for ritual and ceremonial purposes, and we are developing expectations for the contexts and form these animals should appear in the archaeological record to allow repatriation under NAGPRA.

Selected Publications

Fisher, Jacob L., 2015. Faunal Quantification and the Ascendance of Hunting Debate: Reevaluation of the Data from Southeastern California. American Antiquity 80(4):767-775

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.

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.

Select Paper Presentations

Goshen, Shannon and Jacob L. Fisher, 2015. Bighorn Sheep Processing in the White Mountains, California. Paper presented at the Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, Calif. 

Fisher, Jacob L., 2015. Patch Choice Model Predictions for Jackrabbit Processing at Antelope Cave, Arizona. Paper presented at the Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, Calif. 

Fisher, Jacob L., 2015. Demographic Collapse and Protohistoric Large Game Rebound in Butte County, California. Paper presented at the Society for California Archaeology Annual Meeting, Redding, California.

Fisher, Jacob L., Kristin Macak, and Wendy Nelson, 2013. Ancestral Remains as Numbers; Problems with Calculating MNI under NAGPRA. Poster presented at the First Annual Western Bioarchaeological Group (WeBiG) Conference, Berkeley, California.

Fisher, Jacob L., 2013. The Road Home: NAGPRA from a Museum Perspective. Poster presented at the California Indian Conference and Gathering, Sacramento, 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., 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., 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.

Professional Associations

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

Bottle glass projectile point from Kathy's Rockshelter (CA-BUT-301)

Bottle glass projectile point from Kathy's Rockshelter (CA-BUT-301).

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)