In Memoriam - Harvey Bricker


Professor Emeritus of Anthropology Harvey Miller Bricker died at the age of 76 on January 18, 2017, in Gainesville, Florida, after a short illness. He was born on June 29, 1940, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, attended local schools, and graduated summa cum laude from Hamilton College in 1962 with a major in Russian history.

Harvey Miller Bricker, Tulane University
Harvey Miller Bricker, Professor Emeritus Department of Anthropology

After entering the graduate program in anthropology at Harvard, he focused on prehistoric archaeology and the material culture of the earliest modern (Perigordian) humans in southern France, joining a Harvard excavation at the Abri Pataud in the Dordogne. He pursued this interest for the rest of his life, publishing monographs and articles on this site and on a contemporaneous open-air site, Les Tambourets, which he excavated in 1975 and 1980. In 1987 he was named "Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques" by the French Minister of Education for his important research in this field.

In 1981 Harvey embarked on a second academic career, the study of the Maya knowledge of astronomy as seen in their remaining hieroglyphic books. Aided in this endeavor by his expertise in computing, he collaborated with his wife, Professor Victoria Bricker, an expert in Maya hieroglyphic writing. Most of his many publications in the years following are in the field of Maya archaeoastronomy, and nearly all of these present joint research. These decades of study culminated in the Brickers' monumental volume entitled Astronomy in the Maya Codices, published by the American Philosophical Society in 2011, for which they received the Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize for Historical Astronomy in 2013.

Harvey joined the Tulane faculty in 1969 as a Visiting Instructor. He was appointed Assistant Professor after receiving his Ph.D. degree in 1973, then Associate Professor in 1976, and Professor in 1984. He served four terms as anthropology department chair between 1975 and 1995, and two terms as Director of the Center for Archaeology.

Harvey taught a range of undergraduate and graduate courses at the core of the archaeology curriculum. Those most closely identified with him are those on Paleolithic archaeology in the Old World, the rise of Old World civilizations, and technological analyses in archaeology.

In his 37 years as a Tulane faculty member, Harvey served the university and the College of Arts and Sciences in many ways, among which the following seem most noteworthy. In his early years he chaired ad hoc and senate committees on student affairs and the quality of the freshman year, receiving the John H. Stibbs Award from the Associated Student Body Senate in 1980. He was Vice-Chairman of the University Senate and Chairman of the University Senate Committee on Educational Policy from 1982 to 1984, and a member of the President's Faculty Advisory Committee for three terms in the '80s, '90s, and early '00s. From 1987 to 1990 he was Director of University Accreditation, an enormously time-consuming position. For six years between 1995 and 2002, Harvey was the Faculty Representative to the University Board of Administrators.

After Katrina and their retirement at the end of 2005 the Brickers bought a home in Gainesville, where they held courtesy memberships in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida. They divided the year, spending winters and springs in New Orleans and the hurricane months in Florida. Harvey's goals in retirement were to finish, with Vicki, the huge book on astronomy in the Maya codices, and to publish the final report on his excavations at his open-air French Upper Paleolithic site in the journal Paleoanthropology. He succeeded in both and was happily working on new projects.

Harvey is survived by his wife of 52 years, Victoria R. Bricker, and his sister, Helen Bricker Smith and her children. Generations of colleagues and students will miss his brilliance, wit, warmth, and friendship.