Dean J. Saitta

Dean J. Saitta

Director, Urban Studies; Professor, Anthropology

  • Faculty

What I do

Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Urban Studies program.


Anthropological Theory, North American archaeology, Evolutionary Anthropology, Urban Studies

Professional Biography

I received my PhD in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1987. I’ve taught at DU since 1988. I teach courses in anthropological theory, North American archaeology, evolutionary anthropology, and urban studies. My early work inquired into social change in ancient Zuni society of west-central New Mexico, where I directed DU archaeological field schools throughout the 1990s. Other publications focused on the great Native American cultural centers at Cahokia and Chaco Canyon. Between 1997-2004 I co-directed the Colorado Coal Field War Archaeological Project, dedicated to better understanding events related to the 1913-14 Colorado Coal Field strike including the infamous Ludlow Massacre. This research included significant public outreach and K-12 education initiatives and culminated, in 2009, with the designation of the Ludlow Massacre site as a National Historical Landmark. I’m the author of The Archaeology of Collective Action, and co-author of Denver: An Archaeological History. In 1998 I earned the University Scholar-Teacher of the Year award, and from 2000-2003 I served as University Professor of Social Science. In 2013 I convened the John Evans Study Committee that investigated the university founder’s culpability for events that culminated in the massacre of peacefully camped Native Americans at Sand Creek in 1864. I’m currently researching and writing about issues facing the contemporary city from a cross-cultural and deep-time perspective. I write and edit a blog called Intercultural Urbanism, and I’m a featured essayist for the public interest urban planning website Planetizen.


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, U of Massachusetts, 1987
  • MA, Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, 1980
  • BA, Anthropology, Wake Forest University, 1977

Professional Affiliations

  • American Anthropological Association
  • Society for American Archaeology

Areas of Research

Urban Studies
Evolutionary Anthropology
North American Archaeology

Key Projects

  • Archaeology of the Colorado Coal Field War, 1913-1914
  • Global Cities / Global Citizenship: Transformations of Urban Areas in Europe and the USA

Featured Publications

Saitta, D. J., Nelson, S., Berry, K. L., Carrillo, R., Clark, B., & Rhodes, L. (2001). Denver: An Archaeological History. University of Pennsylvania Press.
Saitta, D. J. (2007). The Archaeology of Collective Action. University Press of Florida.


  • William S. Tacey Award, American Association of University Professors
  • Stephen H. Hart Award for Historic Preservation, History Colorado
  • University Professor of Social Science, University of Denver
  • University Scholar-Teacher of the Year, University of Denver