Lewis Binford photoDistinguished author and archaeology scholar Lewis Binford died on Monday at age 79. UC Press published his last major work, Constructing Frames of Reference, which won the Society for American Archaeology’s book prize, as well as his essay collection In Pursuit of the Past.

Binford was an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and a formidable force in his field for decades. Many consider him to be the single most influential figure in archaeology in the last half-century.

In a letter to members, World Archaeological Congress President Claire Smith gave this brief summation of Binford’s career:

“Lewis Binford was a pioneer in the ‘New Archaeology’ movement of the 1960s. His vision for a scientific approach to archaeology led the discipline away from the cataloguing of cultural histories to the use of scientific methods aimed at explaining cultural processes and site formation processes. Binford’s academic career was based at the University of New Mexico and subsequently at Southern Methodist University. He was an inspiring, committed researcher and a kind and generous teacher. He was one of archaeology’s great minds.”