Katherine Sterner

Assistant Professor

Katherine Sterner

Contact Info


Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2018
M.S., Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2012
B.A., Anthropology, Penn State University, 2009

Areas of Expertise

Experimental Archaeology
Community Organization
Lithic Technology
Use-Wear Analysis
Geographic Information Systems
Cultural Resource Management
Archaeological Collections Management


Katherine Sterner is an anthropological archaeologist interested in community organization and gendered labor among late-precontact Native American groups in the Eastern Woodlands of North America. Dr. Sterner received her B.A. in Anthropology at Penn State University in 2009. She completed her M.S. in 2012 and her Ph.D. in Anthropology from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2018. Before becoming a professor at Towson University, she was a principal investigator for Cultural Resource Management Services at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Dr. Sterner’s research centers on understanding the function(s) of prehistoric stone tools. She uses this information to make inferences about the community organization, division of labor, gender roles, settlement strategies, subsistence strategies, and mortuary practices of stone-using peoples living in the American Eastern Woodlands between 6,000 and 500 years ago. Her dissertation work examined lithic tool using microregional communities of practice among two localities in southern Wisconsin. She used a combination of assemblage, microscopic use-wear, and blood residue analyses to develop a picture of the role lithic production, use, and discard played in the daily of lives of the people living in southern Wisconsin between A.D. 1050 and 1650. 

She has two ongoing research projects. One examines the role of extraction camps in the village-centric agricultural settlements during late prehistory. She is particularly interested determining how smaller auxiliary extraction sites may contribute to the expression of the gendered division of labor in the archaeological record and identifying the role they play in the development of community identity.

Her other research project examines lithic artifacts from the Late Archaic period that are typically identified as ceremonial and often associated with human burials. The utility of these artifacts between manufacture and deposition has long been the subject of speculation. Additionally, there is little known about the non-mortuary component of occupations from this time period. Comprehensive use-wear analyses of these artifacts indicate that they were, in fact, used prior to deposition. Building a larger functional dataset for these artifacts will allow archaeologists to expand the conversation about their significance to include not only information about their depositional and formal characteristics but their active social and economic characteristics as well.


  • 2020 “Upper Mississippian Stone Tools and Community Organization,” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology Occasional Papers 4, 27-46.
  • 2020 w/ Robert J. Jeske and Richard W. Edwards, IV “New Perspectives from Lake Koshkonong,” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology Occasional Papers 4, 1-26.
  • 2019 w/ Madeleine McLeester, Mark Schurr, and Robert Ahlrichs “Marine Shell Working in Protohistoric Northern Illinois,” American Antiquity 87:3, 549-558.
  • 2017 w/ Robert J. Jeske “A Multi-Method Approach to Inferring Early Agriculturalists’ Stone Tool Use at the Crescent Bay Hunt Club Site,” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 41:2, 1-27.
  • 2015 w/ Robert J. Jeske “Microwear Analysis of Bipolar Tools from the Crescent Bay Hunt Club Site (47Je904),” Lithic Technology 40:4, 366-376.