Dr. William Ernst Engelbrecht, the son of Waldo Ernst Engelbrecht and Margaret Patricia Schall, is an archaeologist whose primary focus continues to be on Northern Iroquoian peoples. After completing his bachelor of arts in anthropology at Northwestern University (1965), where he studied under Sally Binford, Paul Bohanen, Ronald Cohen, Creighton Gable, Bruce Trigger, and Oswald Werner, Engelbrecht entered the University of Michigan in pursuit of his doctorate. At the University of Michigan, he continued his studies while taking classes taught by James B. Griffin, Arthur Jelinek, Frank Livingston, Jefferey Parsons, Roy Rappaport, Marshall Sahlins, Robert Whallon (Engelbrecht’s dissertation adviser), and Leslie White.
In 1965, Engelbrecht received funding from the National Science Foundation, which allowed him to attend a field school in Hay Hollow Valley (Arizona) that was under the direction of Paul Martin. Building on this experience in Arizona, he completed a variety of fieldwork, including his participation (1966) in the Teotihuacan Mapping Project, which was initiated by William Sanders from Penn State and continued by Jeff Parsons. In 1967, Engelbrecht completed fieldwork in Saginaw, Michigan, and in southeastern Missouri.
Engelbrecht was hired by Marian White to run the Highway Salvage Archaeology program at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1969 while finishing his degree at the University of Michigan. White, an archaeologist who was responsible for the identification, examination, and preservation of prehistoric and historic sites throughout the western New York region, provided Engelbrecht with additional direction and an enduring friendship that still motivates and guides Engelbrecht. While overseeing the Salvage Archaeology program, Engelbrecht gained a strong familiarity with the Niagara Frontier and the peoples whose activities in the region preceded any European excursions. The job also provided him with an opportunity to familiarize himself with archaeological collections in the western New York region.
After finishing his graduate studies and obtaining a PhD in anthropology (1971), Engelbrecht received a teaching position at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, where he remained until 1973. In 1973, he was hired as an assistant professor in the anthropology department at Buffalo State College. He served as department chair for 6 years and retired in 2003. During his tenure, he taught an assortment of courses, which allowed him to incorporate his research and field experience into courses focused on human origins, the indigenous populations of North America, ancient civilizations, and archaeological examinations of North America. He also directed 17 archaeological field schools that focused on the excavation of the Eaton Site. Eaton is a multicomponent site located in western New York, which includes a Late Woodland Iroquoian village site occupied circa AD 1550. In conjunction with these field schools, Engelbrecht taught multiple seminars in archaeology that prepared and assisted students in the research and analysis of material from the Eaton Site.
Engelbrecht continues to analyze material collected from the Eaton Site and assist graduate and undergraduate students examining the material. Throughout his career as an educator, he advised countless students in their educational and career pursuits, assisted and encouraged students in their efforts to conduct and publish research, and served as an outside dissertation reader for 19 graduate students. His dedication to his students was recognized in 1990 when he received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Engelbrecht’s research and publication interests varied, but his primary focus remains on Northern Iroquoian peoples, particularly the nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (the Iroquois). His PhD dissertation itself, A Stylistic Analysis of New York Iroquois Pottery (1971), was a study of Iroquois ceramic trends that served as a continuation of Robert Whallon’s study of Owasco and Iroquois ceramics. The examination and analysis of Iroquoian ceramics was a continual focus for Engelbrecht, resulting in additional publications between 1971 and 2003. During this time, he also analyzed and published a large volume of data from the Eaton Site and other sites in the northeastern North American region. Of this work, he placed a considerable amount of attention on the effects of contact between Native Americans and Europeans and the “disappearance” of Iroquoian nations, particularly peoples from the St. Lawrence region. Engelbrecht’s work also included studies of Paleo-Indian “water-craft” (work and publication coauthored with Carl Seyfert) and population changes and social organization among Native American nations. Through it all, however, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy remained a primary interest, leading to Engelbrecht’s comprehensive 2003 publication, Iroquoia: The Development of a Native World.
- Engelbrecht, William E. (1971). A stylistic analysis of New York Iroquois pottery. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, 1971). University Microfilms International.
- Engelbrecht, William E. (2003). Iroquoia: The development of a native world. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press.
- Engelbrecht, William E., & Grayson, Donald K. (Eds.). (1978). Essays in Northeastern anthropology in memory of Marian E. White. Occasional Publications in Northeastern Anthropology, 5.