Field Archaeology 2022


Course Basics

Anthropology 317-00: Field Archaeology
Fall 2022
F 11:00 am- 1:50 pm

Instructor Information

Dr. Benjamin Carter
Up-to-date contact information (including office hours) is available here

General Policies

You are required to read Dr. Carter’s Policies. You are responsible for understanding and following these policies. If you have a question, please ask in class as your fellow students will benefit.

Course Description

This class is about how to DO archaeology and, more broadly, any research project. All of our knowledge of “prehistory,” and much of history, comes from archaeological research. You will learn the basics of archaeology. The more specific goal, however, is to research a particular component of the human endeavor- the community of Six Penny Creek, a small, rural Black Community from the 19th century.  Our research will aid in telling the story of Six Penny Creek. For this round of the course, we will focus on the relationship between the community and the landscape and in particular the charcoal landscape surrounding the community. Charcoal had to be produced from trees and vast tracts of forest were harvested. The charcoal landscape was both created by members of Six Penny Creek as well as deployed by these same people to support their survival, to promote the construction of a “fugitive” community (we’ll talk lots about this term) and to aid previously enslaved Black Americans.

Prerequisite: ATH 155- Archaeology and Prehistory or permission of the instructor.


Required Text: All readings will be available in pdf format for download through Canvas.

Software: You are required to have access to QGIS, an open source software for geographic information systems (i.e. mapping). While this program is available in the classroom, I highly encourage you to download it onto your own computer. You will find it here– note that you won’t need it until later in class. Be sure to download the “Long Term Release” version because it is the best supported and the most stable.

Field Trips: This class is primarily about working in the field. This semester we will be mapping and surveying. This will be supplemented with a field trip to Philadelphia to visit two museums.

At the end of this course, students will be able to:
– Design and propose a research project
– Understand and act upon general archaeological ethics and ethics of working with community partners and the public
– Interact with the public to promote archaeology and stewardship of archaeological resources
– Assess and analyze historic documents for archaeological research
– Take appropriate notes
– Create maps
– Explicate the importance of spatial relationships
– Develop adaptive skills through the use of new tools (including open source software).
– Share research.
– Recognize the importance of small, rural Black communities to the Underground Railroad
– Understand the detailed past of charcoal production and it’s relationship to Black communities.
– Explain the difference between a site-based archaeology and one based upon a landscape perspective.

Distribution of assessments:

  • Research Journal- 20%
  • Research Proposal- 20%
  • Timeline- 10%
  • Map- 10%
  • Research Project/ Presentation- 10%
  • Field Trip Participation- 20%
  • In-class Participation- 10%

Assignment Descriptions

Research Journal- One of the most important aspects of any research project is the research journal. This serves as a central location for storing all you your thoughts, perspectives, etc. regarding your readings, discussion, field trips, and any other feedback that you may have. You will submit an entry in your Research Journal for every class session. Additional details are here: 

Research Proposal- Later in class, we will write a research proposal. Writing these proposals is an important skill in any research project. This will be produced collaboratively.  

Timeline- In order to keep track of the temporal relationships between events we will be construction timelines. We will do this using TimelineJS, an easy-to-use online tool. You will be constructing your own timeline, but we will also construct a collaborative timeline as a class.

Map- Mapping is central to archaeology. Both because context (that is the relationships of objects to each other and to the landscape) is essential but also because they one of the primary ways that archaeologists communicate. However, mapping can also be used in a wide range of other disciplines and can be extremely useful in many professions. This will be divided up into incremental, learning assignments. 

Research Project/ Presentation- We will discuss what format this will take, but the basic idea is to present our research and the research that has been conducted by the past two Field Archaeology classes. The goal is to provide an overview of the research that is appropriate for the “public” audience with little or no background in the subject. 

Field Trip Participation- We are going to do our best to try to conduct 2-3 field trips. Hopefully, those of you who are local will be able to accompany me. Those you who are not will also be able to accompany me in some virtual way, but I’m still working out those details. You are required to participate.

In Class Participation- For this course, participation in class is incredibly important. We will hold class virtually. Please come to class prepared to discuss the assigned material. We will primarily use videoconferencing technology (Zoom or an alternative) and I expect participation.