Richard Fitzgerald, Associate State Archaeologist

Richard Fitzgerald

Senior State Archaeologist

Cultural Resources Division
1416 9th Street, Room 902
Sacramento, CA 95814
P.O. Box 942896, Sacramento, CA 94296-0001

Phone: (916) 653-2030


California Archaeology Journal: The Antiquity and Significance of Effigies and Representational Art in Southern California Prehistory

Ancient long-distance trade in Western North America: new AMS radiocarbon dates from Southern California

BIO INFO: I am a third generation San Franciscan, of Irish/Portuguese descent. After my father returned from the Army after the Korean War, my family left San Francisco for San Carlos, a small town on the Peninsula where I was raised with my three siblings. For most of my life I have lived in northern and central California but have also lived in various areas of the United States and Europe. My home now is the idyllic little agricultural town of Winters, where I live with my wife Allika who also is an archaeologist.

Rick Fitzgerald at "Salmon Ruins"

CAREER: It is not clear to me when I first became interested in archaeology but I know I was quite young. Certainly, it was a professor of physical anthropology I had in junior college that really drew me in to the discipline.

Upon being accepted at San Francisco State University,  I chose anthropology as my major, a decision I have never regretted. At “State” I was initially fascinated by primates, “visual” anthropology, and then finally Mayan and South American archaeology. Before graduating, I decided to attend an archaeological field school to earn some extra credits for graduation. I chose a program run by Eastern New Mexico State, which was excavating “Salmon Ruins,” a Chaco pueblo outlier in Northern New Mexico. It was a great experience that changed my life. As I later learned, I had the good fortune to be working for Cynthia Irwin Williams, a renowned southwestern archaeologist. After I graduated with my B.A. in anthropology I returned to Salmon Ruins which led to my first job with the National Park Service (NPS).  With NPS, I was sent back east to work at a variety of historic national parks and monuments, including Harpers Ferry, Forts Necessity and Washington, Appomattox, and the estate of Martin Van Buren. I spent two seasons in the east interspersed with an extensive trip to Central America.

These days of traveling culminated with a two year stay in Europe where I held a variety of jobs (grape picker, factory worker, truck driver and English teacher).  All these experiences had one thing in common: none was as interesting as my work in archaeology. Anxious to begin again in archaeology, I returned to California.

Through sheer luck I got my first field experience in California on the “Blood Alley” Highway 101 project in southern San Jose. This eventually led me to the anthropology department at San Jose State University, where I became a graduate student. It was at San Jose State that I was either taught or came in contact with many prominent California archaeologists including James Bennyhoff, Steve Dietz, Dave Fredrickson, Bert Gerow, Bill Hildebrandt, Tom Origer, and Claude Warren, to name a few.  During my graduate school years I gathered a great deal of field experience  working for a variety of agencies including the NPS in Yosemite, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) in the Bay Area, the U.S. Forest Service on the Mendocino National Forest, the anthropology lab at Sonoma State and many private firms.

After receiving my master's degree from San Jose State I returned to NPS where I spent two years as the assistant Park archaeologist at four northern California national parks. After a four-year period of working and living on the central coast, where I have done my most important work and research, I returned to the Bay Area with Caltrans as an Associate Archaeologist for the Environmental Branch of District 4. In the last 15 years or so I have also managed to gain some valuable field experience in Denmark, France, Mexico and Peru, and most recently returned  New Mexico completing the circle I started some 25 years ago.

Rick Fitzgerald at Cross Creek (CA-SLO-1797)

RESEARCH:  There are few areas of California prehistory in which I do not find some kind of interest, but lately have now become more focused on the very earliest periods of California prehistory.  My master's thesis on the early inhabitants of the Bay Area introduced me to this topic and over the years I have been fortunate to work on several important sites of great antiquity including Cross Creek (CA-SLO-1797),  a 10,000 year old deposit on which I directed excavations for the Department of Water Resources.  I am very interested in the Late Pleistocene/ Early Holocene Transition period and how the Californian archaeological record of this time articulates with the colonization of the New World.

I have come to the Cultural Heritage Section of DPR after five and a half years at Caltrans and am very excited about the opportunity to work for an organization whose stated purpose is to preserve California’s invaluable, and irreplaceable, cultural resources.