Mystery Surrounds Sudden Firing Of Notable Archaeologist. What Was He Digging Up?

(Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)/Screenshot/Youtube/TheTexasBucketList

Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
Font Size:

World-renowned archeologist and university professor David Keller was mysteriously released from his job in December, and no one will go on record to say why.

Keller, 52, is best known as an award-winning author and intrepid researcher of human history and for bringing grants to his former employer of 21 years, the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross State University, according to a report from mid-2022. Keller was fired from his position at the school despite being in the throes of research.

“It was humiliating and sad and infuriating all at the same time,” Keller told Texas Monthly following his firing. “That was my career, my livelihood, and much of my identity. To fire me in such a swift and cavalier manner felt very unfair considering my time there.” Keller said he planned to retire in five years anyway and was in the middle of three major projects for the institution.

According to Keller, the school told him, “We’re not going to tell you why, and we appreciate your service, and you need to pick up your stuff and go.” He further claimed that the school told him the decision had something to do with his work at Big Bend National Park, where Keller’s permit was suspended in December.

Keller’s former colleague had a different take on the situation. “I don’t see how there’s a story here,” Center for Big Bend Studies program coordinator Michelle Lacey-Olivares told me before I explained that their refusal to say why Keller was fired was what made it a story. I also Lacey-Olivares asked if she or anyone else at the institution would be willing to talk to me about why Keller was fired. She told me that “he knows why he was fired” and hung up the phone.

No one else at the Center for Big Bend Studies answered their phones or responded to emails or voicemails. After finally getting through to Sul Ross’s president’s office, I was transferred to the communications department, which had no comment.

Keller has had an exemplary career, which not only includes his academic and literary successes, but also work with Friends of the Ruidosa Church — which supports the preservation of a historic Catholic church in Ruidosa, Texas — and multiple other nonprofits dedicated to protecting American history and landscapes. It’s clear that something is seriously amiss in this situation.

Part of me wants to believe that Keller posed a threat to the narrative. Just two years ago he discovered evidence that a group of Mexican boys and men were shot to death in 1918 by Texas Rangers and suspected U.S. Cavalry members. While this might seem like a nothingburger story, there is no end to the vitriolic, childish hatred spewed by Big Archaeology, as the likes of writer Graham Hancock know all too well. (RELATED: Ancient Mayan Cities And ‘Super Highways’ Revealed In Shocking Study)

Or was there something more at play here? No one at Sul Ross would follow up with me regarding the comments made by the program coordinator, and after leaving messages with every organization and publisher who appeared to have worked with Keller, I couldn’t get a response before publication.

Will there be more to this story in the future, or will it, like a majority of human history, be lost forever, thanks to the pedantic silence of those who feel they have power?