Field Archaeology

diderot for syllabus II

“Agriculture and Rural Economy – Charcoal .” The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2010. (accessed 8/22/2016). Originally published as “Agriculture et économie rustique – Charbon de bois,” Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 1 (plates) (Paris, 1762).

Course Basics

Anthropology 317-00: Field Archaeology
Fall 2018
Sociology/Anthropology 25
M/W 12:30- 1:45 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 including how to make maps, decide where to excavate, lay out grids, collect artifacts, excavate in natural and arbitrary levels and much more. The more specific goal, however, is to research a particular site- the charcoal pits of the Blue Mountain in East Penn, PA. Throughout the late 18th until the late 19th century, iron production was fueled by charcoal. Charcoal had to be produced from forest and vast tracts of lands were harvested. In the decades after 1840, the Lehigh Valley became a center for iron production- due to the discovery and extraction of coal. Coal-fired iron production in the Lehigh Valley has been well studied. But, charcoal-based iron production has not. We intend to change that. Although the class will decide on research questions, potential topics include; sustainability, the life of a collier, socioeconomic differences in iron and charcoal production and many more.

This class is unlike most. It requires a great deal of time outside of the classroom doing activities that you are not normally required to do. Primarily, this includes eight trips to East Penn, PA on Sundays (I often provide options for Saturday, but we can’t do that this year because of hunting season). This is not the only out-of-class requirement. There are, of course, significant readings. But there are also other tasks that must be completed, such as loading the van, washing artifacts, labeling artifacts, etc. You will also be asked to buy some equipment (please know that I consider this when choosing a book)

Prerequisite: ATH 155- Archaeology and Prehistory.


Book: Burke, Heather, Claire Smith and Larry J. Zimmerman. The Archaeologist’s Field Handbook, North American Edition. Altamira Press, New York. ISBN= 0759108838
Articles: These readings are not in the textbook, but will be available for download via Canvas. See schedule.

Software: You are required to have access to QGIS, 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 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Be sure to download the “Long Term Release” version because it is the best supported and the most stable).

Field Days: We will be in the field 7-8 weekend days (or possibly Fridays). Your participation is required! If you cannot make it, you must notify the instructor in advance and have a documented excuse. Even so, because the class is so heavily dependent upon fieldwork, you may only miss one before your absence affects your grade. We meet at the department at 8 am and will return at approximately 4:30. Please know that, because we must finish what we start in the field, we may not make it back exactly at 4:30 though I will certainly do my best. You must bring all of the tools indicated below. While in the field you must abide by the ethical premises of archaeology and of working with community partners and the public in general.

Tools: For this class, you are required to have the following equipment as a bare minimum. The list below includes the name and catalog code from Stoney Knoll Archaeological Supply (, where you can purchase all of these items. Search for these items using the Search tool (low on the left side of the webpage). Many of these items can be found in a local hardware store (e.g., whisk broom) where they may be cheaper. However, some are more difficult to find. For example, your trowel must be a Marshalltown- other brands cannot take the punishment of archaeological work- and some hardware stores (Home Depot) carry Marshalltown, others do not. Your measuring tape must be metric and at least 2 meters long- hardware stores rarely carry metric measuring tapes. The “field desk” need only be a clipboard that has a compartment that you can open and close to store paper forms when not in use- you can find these at Walmart for a much lower price.
Marshalltown 4.5″ Pointing Trowel 45PTHW – $14.25
3 Meter Pocket Tape LPT3M- $14.95
Whisk Broom WB -$6.50
The Newly Designed Field Desk -RRFDCB $19.95

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
– Present results to the public
– Assess and analyze historic documents for archaeology
– Create a site grid
– Take appropriate notes and complete forms
– Create publication quality maps and drawings
– Write a site report
– Explicate the importance of spatial relationships
– Record spatial relationships (i.e. map) using a compass and pace and a total station.
– Process and organize artifacts
– Develop adaptive skills through the use of new tools (including open source software)

Distribution of assessments:

  • Quizzes- 5%
  • Field Work- 35%
    • Attendance (5%)
    • Completion (10%)
    • Quality
      • Activity (10%)
      • Recording (10%)
  • Research Products- 55%
    • Background Paper (10%)
    • Map (5%)
    • Research Design(5%)
    • Notes (5%)
    • Bibliography (5%)
    • Rough Draft (10%)
    • Final Draft (10%)
    • Presentation (5%)
  • In-class Participation- 5%

*****Since the majority of graded work in this course is based upon participation that cannot be completed once the course is over, grades of Incomplete will not be granted.*****

Quizzes: You will have a short quiz for each day that we have a reading.

Field Work: The main portion of your assessment is your field work. This is composed of four portions. The first is simple attendance. The second is completion of the task you are given (mapping or excavation, etc.). The third is the quality of the work you complete. The first two are easy. The third is much more difficult and requires that you pay attention to the minutest detail. The third is also broken into two parts. You will be assessed on the quality of the physical work that you complete (e.g., mapping or excavation) and upon the completeness and accuracy of your notes, along with the promptness in which you enter your data into the database.

Map- As you already know, context is everything in archaeology. In order to understand the landscape in which a site exists, we always map it. We will collect data using a digital form and you will use this data to make a map using QGIS.

Notes- Taking accurate, well-referenced notes is essential for this project. We will collaborate on the notes. I will only grade notes from assigned readings, even though notes from your own research are incredibly important to you.

Bibliography- Nothing is more important to a project like this. We will use many more resources than those assigned in this syllabus. You MUST reference them appropriately. We will build this bibliography together.

Background Paper- This is your paper about the background of the site. You will receive more details, but this is essentially the first part of your second paper.

Research Design Proposal- This paper conceptualizes why we are excavating and justifies the ethical implications. It also provides logistical details and cost analysis.

Final Paper- This is an archaeological report. It reports why we are excavating, the background of the site (your introductory paper is a draft of this section), what we did, what we found and, finally, what it all means. Please know that this document should employ many illustrations (maps, photos, etc.).

Presentation- We will present our research publicly and you must participate.

Participation- This is a small class and your absence will be noticed and noted. Absences and lack of participation in this class will negatively affect your participation grade.