September 3, 2014

Geoarchaeologist Fekri Hassan ’71, ’73, whose research brings an archaeological perspective to the contemporary challenges of global climate change and food security, has been named the 2014 Wendorf Distinguished Scholar by the Department of Anthropology in SMU’s Dedman College.

Lectures by SMU alumnus Fekri Hassan '71, '73 will launch the Department of Anthropology's Golden Jubilee celebration this weekend.

SMU alumnus Fekri Hassan ’71, ’73 is a renowned expert on the origins of Egyptian civilization and brings an archaeological perspective to contemporary issues related to climate change, water access and food security.

Professor Ron Wetherington says that Hassan was the unanimous choice as this year’s speaker in the prestigious series named for Fred Wendorf, Professor Emeritus and Henderson-Morrison Chair in Anthropology. Wendorf and Wetherington co-founded SMU’s Department of Anthropology in 1964, and the lecture will launch the department’s Golden Jubilee. The series or programs celebrating the 50th anniversary of the introduction of anthropology to the University’s curriculum will continue through summer 2015.

“This is a special year, and we wanted a graduate of the program who has international name recognition and is still active in the field,” Wetherington explains. “Fekri was one of Professor Wendorf’s first graduate students and participated in his Nile Valley project. His credentials since then have been very impressive.”

Hassan, an expert on cultural heritage management and the origins of Egyptian civilization, will travel from Egypt for the honor. He will speak on different aspects of his scholarship at three programs this week:

  • Thursday, September 4 at noon
    On “Think,” KERA Radio’s in-depth interview show, Hassan will talk about how the need for water has shaped civilizations throughout history.
  • Friday, September 5 at 5 p.m., Dedman Life Sciences Building Room 131
    This lecture targeted at students, faculty and other members of the SMU community will include a brief question-and-answer session.
  • Saturday, September 6, at 5:30 p.m., the Martha Proctor Mack Ballroom in Umphrey Lee
    “Living on Edge: Origins and Spread of Food Production in the Near East and North Africa” will be the topic of the Wendorf Lecture. The Golden Jubilee event is free and open to the public. Business attire is recommended.

In an email to Wetherington, Hassan called the honor “a wonderful surprise” and reflected on the “profound” impact of his time at SMU:

I cherish those formative years when you all contributed to opening up the magic box of anthropology with all its dazzling colors, hues, and temptations in front of my eyes. It was a life-changing experience, not just on a professional level, but on a profound human level, and I am indebted to you and those who showed a special caring for me during these early days.”

>See the Golden Jubilee schedule of events

Hassan earned an M.A. (1971) and Ph.D. (1973) in anthropology from SMU. He also received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt.

Now the director of the Cultural Heritage Management Program, French University, Cairo, Hassan is also Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College, London. In addition, he is president of Heritage Egypt, honorary president of the Egyptian Cultural Heritage Organization and a former adviser to Egypt’s Ministry of Culture.

A widely published author, he is a contributing editor for The Review of Archeology, a former editor of The African Archaeological Review and serves on a host of journal editorial boards.

Hassan’s research brings the future into focus by examining the past. In one of  his most well-known works,  Droughts, Food and Culture (Springer Science+Business Media, 2002; reprinted, 2013), for which he was editor and a contributor, more than 10,000 years of African history provide a framework for “interpreting cultural change and assessing long-term response to current climatic fluctuations.

“Recent droughts in Africa and elsewhere in the world, from China to Peru, have serious implications for food security and grave consequences for local and international politics. The issues do not just concern the plight of African peoples, but also our global ecological future,” he writes. “This work aims to bring archaeology within the domain of contemporary human affairs and to forge a new methodology for coping with environmental problems from an archaeological perspective.”

More information about the Wendorf Lecture Series and the Golden Jubilee is available on the Department of Anthropology’s website.