Phillip Lee Walker

Date of Birth

July 22, 1947

Date of Death

February 6, 2009

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Phillip Lee Walker July 22nd, 1947 – February 6th, 2009

Dr. Phillip Lee Walker, 61, a leading scholar in the field of physical anthropology and a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Santa Barbara for more than three decades, died on February 6, 2009, at his home in Goleta, of a heart attack.

He was born in Elkhart, Indiana on July 22, 1947, to Paul Walker and Bernice (Moore) Walker. He attended Indiana University as an undergraduate and received his PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1973. He was known for his studies of the ways human skeletal remains could be used to address questions regarding health, diet, trauma, and behavior in human populations through time.

At the time of his death, he was working on a number of bio-archaeological projects involving collections of human skeletal remains from many parts of the world. He was a principal investigator for a large, ground-breaking project entitled ” A History of Health in Europe,” a collaboration involving researchers from many countries that combined data from human remains with environmental and cultural data to illuminate the history of human health. He was developing another international collaboration on the peopling of the Pacific Rim that would link American scholars with their counterparts in Asia. He was co-director of an archaeological project in Iceland that includes the excavation of a Viking Age longhouse and graveyard.

He often volunteered his services to public agencies dealing with human remains, and was posthumously commended by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department for his “many years of expert forensic assistance.” He worked closely with Native American groups, especially the Chumash, and advised the U.S. Department of the Interior, the University of California, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Society for American Archaeology regarding repatriation of Native American remains.

Dr. Walker was a past president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was an effective mentor and many of his former doctoral students, trained and inspired at “the Walkerlab” at UCSB, are now established scholars at colleges and universities throughout the country.

Phil was involved with his Goleta neighborhood as a board member of the Santa Barbara Shores Homeowners Association. He worked for the preservation of the Ellwood Mesa, where he walked almost daily with his dog, as a board member of Friends of the Ellwood Coast. He was an artist who enjoyed thinking up art projects to do with visiting grandchildren. He was a musician who not only played folk, blues, and bluegrass on a variety of stringed instruments, but also built and repaired guitars, violins, dulcimers, banjos, mandolins, and even a hurdy-gurdy in his home workshop. He was a creative cook who appreciated getting local food at Fairview Gardens and the Farmers Market, and growing some of his own at home.

Phil is survived by his wife, Cynthia Brock, stepdaughter Melissa Barker and her family (Bridgman, Michigan), nephew Peter Walker and his family (Eugene, Oregon), brother Robert Walker (Blowing Rock, North Carolina) and half-sister Paula Walker Cramer (Gatlinburg, Tennessee) and their families. He was pre-deceased by his mother and father, and by his brother, Ernest Paul Walker.

A memorial gathering was held at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History where he was a Research Associate during his entire career at UCSB. In recognition of Dr. Walker’s dedication to his research and his students, the family will establish a scholarship fund through memorial contributions (for more information, see the website:


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.