For many people, their first real introduction to archaeology begins when they enter college and sign up for an introduction to anthropology or archaeology course. Given the limited exposure people have to archaeology during their K-12 education, providing a strong foundation in archaeological methods, theories, and principles at the undergraduate level is vital for the field to maintain support among the general populations. Below, you will find previous discussion on undergraduate archaeological education, learning activities designed for undergraduate learners, and example curricula for a variety of post-secondary courses.
Seven Principles for Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century
Principle 1: Discuss the importance of stewardship
Teaching Students About Stewardship: Current Concerns And Approaches
Kelly L. Jenks
Principle 2: Take into account the diverse pasts of stakeholders
Integrating The Concept Of Diverse Interest Groups Into Undergraduate Curriculum In Archaeology
Principle 3: Articulate the social relevance of the past
Teaching Archaeology In The Twenty-First Century: Social Relevance
Elizabeth Terese Newman And Benjamin West
Principle 4: Include a consideration of archaeological ethics and values
The Last Chapter: (How) Are We Teaching Archaeological Ethics And Values To Our Undergraduates?
John D. Seebach
Principle 5: Teach effective written and oral communication
Real-World Problem Solving In Archaeology: In And Out Of The Classroom
Benjamin P. Carter
Principle 6: Provide fundamental archaeological skills
Teaching Written And Oral Communication Skills In Archaeology
Principle 7: Incorporate real-world problem solving
Teaching Basic Archaeological Skills: Current Approaches In Undergraduate Field And Classroom Settings
Heather A. Wholey And Carole L. Nash
For more discussions of these principles see:
Bender, Susan J., and George S. Smith (editors)
2000 Teaching Archaeology in the Twenty-First Century [PDF 865 KB]. SAA Bulletin 16(5):22-26.
Davis, Hester A, Jeffrey H. Altschul, Judith Bense, Elizabeth M.
Brumfiel, Shereen Lerner, James J. Miller, Vincas P. Steponaitis, and
1999 Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century: Thoughts on Undergraduate Education [PDF 1.3 MB]. SAA Bulletin 17(1):35-38.
2014 Teaching Archaeology In The First Part Of The Twenty-First Century [PDF 2.1 MB]. The SAA Archaeological Record 14(1):30-39.
Archaeological Methods and Concepts
Applying Excavation Strategies to Case Studies [PDF 209 KB]
This activity is a group discussion exercise for students to apply excavation strategies (introduced via reading and/or lecture) to real-world archaeological contexts and research questions. It introduces students to several different archaeological regions and types of sites and integrates concepts such as context, transforms, and survey methods.
Atlatl Experimental Archaeology [PDF 399 KB]
This activity is an experiential exercise to practice experimental archaeology, derive a dataset, and apply quantitative data visualization and interpretation.
Hunter-Gatherer Settlers Game [PDF 285 KB]
Justin Patrick Williams
This modified Settlers of Catan game allows students to experience several sets of archaeological concepts. The first set of concepts is the mobility styles outlined by Binford (1960). Students will find that a logistical mobility pattern is required to win, but will be asked how the rules can be changed to allow for victory using a residential style. Storage is also required for victory and again students will be asked how the rules could be changed to waive this requirement. This could also lead to a discussion of storage in general.
Store Typology [PDF 202 KB]
This activity is an individual assignment for students to complete outside of class. Students visit a local store, choice as certain type of object, and determine a set of "finds" as iterations of that object (e.g. different types of plates found at Target stores). Students describe their finds in detail and then create types. The students are asked to reflect on what feature of their finds was most important as they created their typology as a way to connect to discussions of artifact analysis.
Archaeology Day or Archaeology in Your Own Backyard [PDF 812 KB]
Many of us are familiar with famous archaeological sites throughout the world, such as the Great Pyramids in Giza, Egypt. But what about the remains that exist where you live? This exercise will explore the archaeological record in your own backyard in connection with Archaeology Day.
Stakeholder Meeting Simulation [PDF 397 KB]
Kelly L. Jenks
In this hypothetical scenario, multiple stakeholders are asked to weigh in on a proposal to allow hydraulic fracturing in an area rich with cultural resources. Students are assigned the roles of stakeholders, and are given time to research their roles before participating in a simulated stakeholder meeting.
World Heritage in Danger [PDF 711 KB]
The archaeological record is a non-renewable resource that is under threat from many different sources. This exercise will raise awareness of the urgency of protecting the past and highlight the need to approach sites from a sustainable viewpoint.
Introduction to Archaeology [PDF 568 KB]
This course presents archaeological approaches to understanding human cultures of the past. Students receive instruction in general anthropological concepts and specific archaeological methods and theories. Particular case studies are presented to illustrate several aspects of archaeological practice, and to show how archaeologists develop their understandings of cultural variation and change.
Great Discoveries in World Archaeology [PDF 792 KB]
Exploration of some of the most well-known archaeological discoveries from the distant and recent past (such as Olduvai Gorge, Ice Age Caves, Jericho, Egyptian pyramids, Harappa, Stonehenge, Xianyang, Teotihuacan, Cahokia, Mesa Verde, Great Zimbabwe, Chichén Itzá, Machu Picchu, Ozette, etc.). Offers global coverage and scientific interpretation incorporating a large visual component.
Archaeology of Conflict and Violence [PDF 376 KB]
Violence can be, and is, perpetrated by individuals, groups, and nations, Violent actions can be traced back as far as the very earliest human beginnings, and are commonplace today. Violence can be explicit or ambiguous, condoned or condemned. Anthropologists and other social scientists have long suspected that violence and warfare may have played a major role in shaping past and present societies.
Childhood and Archaeology [PDF 267 KB]
Many aspects of societies deal with raising children, but archaeological scholarship of childhood is rare. This course is designed to help students learn about previous research into children and childhood, as well as make their own contributions to this scholarship.
Experimental Archaeology and Ethnoarchaeology [PDF 337 KB]
Kathryn Kamp and John Whittaker
Archaeological evidence consists of material remains and the patterns in which they are found, but as anthropological archaeologists, we strive to make statements about all aspects of human culture. The goal of Ethnoarchaeology and Experimental Archaeology is to study the relationship between material remains and human behaviors in order to allow the interpretation of archaeological remains in terms of the human behaviors structured by cultural rules.
Archaeology of North America [PDF 395 KB]
A semester cannot do justice to all of North America, so this course will focus on major regions and themes. Coverage will emphasize three general aspects: 1) Basic culture history -- what happened in ancient America, prehistoric ways of life; 2) Some knowledge of American archaeology today -- methods, goals, theoretical stances, political and ethical issues; 3) Particular topics of current or abiding interest throughout the American continent.
Old World Prehistory [PDF 366 KB]
This course is intended to consider important problems and processes in Old World prehistory and give an overview of the major developments starting with Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and the Neolithic beginnings of agriculture. The emphasis will be on the title themes, concerning the development of complex societies and civilization, and the use of archaeology to understand the social as well as the technological aspects of past cultures. The Old World is too large to be completely covered, and we will try to present an overall framework, while focusing on particular issues and important or famous examples in several major areas of the world.
Prehistory of South America [PDF 347 KB]
This course examines the diversity of ancient societies in the prehispanic South America. The course is a combination lecture and seminar format organized into two major sections. The first segment of the course is an overview of South American prehistory. The second segment of the course is focused on directed student research projects, culminating in a written research paper.
Professionalization Seminar [PDF 118 KB]
During the semester we will explore the practical aspects of constructing a successful research proposal, including your Curriculum Vita (CV) and Biographical Sketch, writing a compelling "Project Summary" (a detailed abstract), and integrating theory with method and data into a compelling and successful proposal. We also will consider broader aspects of functioning within the professional community of anthropologists, including making presentations at professional meetings, applying for teaching/research positions, ethics in the subfields of anthropology, and other relevant topics.
Recommended Model Curriculum for a Masters in Applied Archaeology [PDF 115 KB]
Applied Archaeology refers to the application of archaeological research and its results to address contemporary human problems, including (but not limited to) issues that involve cultural resource management, heritage tourism and development, long-term modeling of human/environment dynamics, and public education aimed at awareness and stewardship of archaeological remains. This concise curricular outline was developed by the SAA Committee on Curriculum in conjunction with other SAA committees.