Dr. George Frison, Wyoming’s first State Archaeologist in 1967, died Monday at his home in Laramie. He was 95.
An internationally revered archaeologist, Dr. Frison amassed a litany of achievements spanning six decades. Although he was not the first archaeologist to work in Wyoming, Dr. Frison in many ways defined what it means to do Wyoming archaeology. He combined his practical experience as a Ten Sleep rancher and hunter with an insatiable curiosity for the past, a generosity with Wyoming’s public, a tireless work ethic, and a novel scientific approach that combined insights from paleontology, zoology, wildlife biology, and other disciplines into an archaeological practice that we today call Wyoming archaeology.
Dr. Frison’s archaeological books, technical manuscripts, and scientific papers are recognized internationally as some of the finest works of hunter-gatherer archaeology ever produced. These scientific achievements earned him membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1997, and he is the only resident of Wyoming to have ever earned this honor.
Dr. Frison was also a kind, generous, and honorable man who found joy in mentoring students at the University of Wyoming Department of Anthropology until his health prevented him from doing so in June 2020.
As a World War II veteran, rancher, and world-renowned scientist, a trip to Dr. Frison’s office could often turn into a 2-hour conversation spanning a wide array of topics, many decades, and several continents. Dr. Frison was a keen observer of the human experience, a trait he brought into his work as an archaeologist tasked with explaining the motivations of people that lived thousands of years in the past.
Dr. Frison will be deeply missed by the scientific community, but more so by those who knew him personally and benefitted from having had the opportunity to enjoy his company.