anna roosevelt

Born in 1946, Anna Curtenius Roosevelt, the great-granddaughter of the United States President Theodore Roosevelt, is an archaeologist and a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

From a young age, Anna knew she wanted to be an archaeologist. Her mother was a painter, who grew up in Arizona living among archaeologists, and later took her own daughters to visit archaeological sites in the region. While earning her Bachelor’s degree at Stanford, Anna did an internship at the Museum of Natural History in New York. During her Ph.D. at Columbia University, she opted to study communities that lived on the floodplains of the Onrico River (now located in present-day Venezuela), before European colonization. 

Anna specializes in two main geographical areas, the Middle Amazon and the Congo Basin. For 25 years she has studied the long-term human environmental interaction in the tropics. Her research has been funded by the University of Illinois, as well as the National Science Foundation.

She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Geographical Society. She has also been awarded a 5-year McArthur Fellowship. She has earned the Explorers Club Medal, the Society of Women Geographers’ Gold Medal, Order of Rio Blanco and Bettendorf Medals, and honorary doctorates from Mount Holyoke and Northeastern University. She received the 2003 WINGS WorldQuest Humanity Award.

Her first book, published in December of 1980, is called “Parmana” and reviews the theories of five scholars of Aboriginal Amazonia. In 1991, she published “Moundbuilders of the Amazon,” an exploration of the archaeology of Marajoara Island, located in the mouth of the Amazon River.


Born: 1946

Hometown: Evanston, IL

Education: Ph.D. in Anthropology

Occupation: Archaeologist, human ecologist, and professor

Expeditions: Venezuela, Brazil, Central African Republic, Peru

Favorite Place: Baja, California

Best Discovery: Early projectile points in the Cavern of the Painted Rock, Brazil

Favorite Item In The Field: My 1971 Pentax camera

Personal Hero: My great aunt, Ethel R. Derby

Hobbies: Running, swimming, weight-lifting, gardening, dancing, museums, old houses, cooking, decorative arts, singing

Advice: Be true to yourself, be persistent and flexible, laugh, learn from others, share information with others. Never give in to fear.