My research focuses on historical anthropology, or the integration of theory and Professor Ortman’s research focuses on historical anthropology, or the integration of theory and data from many fields to understand the long-term histories of indigenous peoples. He is especially interested in the causes and consequences of major transitions – periods when new societies formed, old ones collapsed, or new scales of organization emerged. As examples, Professor Ortman has investigated Tewa Pueblo origins in the Northern Rio Grande region of New Mexico; the growth and collapse of villages in the Mesa Verde region of Colorado; and more recently, the accumulation of social complexity on a global scale. He is currently working on the Neolithic Revolution in the U.S. Southwest in collaboration with Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and the CU Museum of Natural History, the emergence of towns in the Tewa Basin, and complex systems approaches to human societies in collaboration with the Santa Fe Institute.
Since 2003, Professor Ortman has been involved with the Village Ecodynamics Project, a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional collaboration that investigates long-term human-environment interactions in the U.S. Southwest. Prior to coming to CU, he was Director of Research at the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Cortez, Colorado, and an Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.