Field Archaeology2020

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 2020
T/Th 12:30- 1:45 PM

Instructor Information

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

Our TA: Deborah Grieder ’21

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 component of the human endeavor- the colliers who produced charcoal along the Blue Mountain in East Penn, PA. From the 18th until the early 20th century, iron production was fueled by charcoal (though it began to be replaced by coal in the 1840s). Charcoal had to be produced from trees and vast tracts of forest 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. This particular project has been the home for two rounds of Field Archaeology (2016 and 2018), for independent studies, interdisciplinary research, honors theses, and research assistantships.

As you know, this semester is a bit different than all the rest! The class is online and yet, normally, it has a central component of doing research in the field. So, the course has been completely reworked to make it into a remote project but with a field site! There will be a couple of field trips (definitely two, but I’m working on a third). We will do our very best to figure out a time that works for all students, but I certainly recognize that being remote carries additional responsibilities for many of you. All field trips will be hybrid (that is, both virtual and in-person for those who are local). Although participation in these is extremely important in understanding the landscape, they will also be recorded.

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


Book: Burke, Heather, Claire Smith and Larry J. Zimmerman. The Archaeologist’s Field Handbook, North American Edition. Altamira Press, New York. ISBN= 0759108838 (Full Preprint text available here)
Many readings are not in the textbook, but will be available for download via 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 (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 Trips: As mentioned above, we will attempt to do 2-3 field trips. Students who are local will be able to participate- of course, social distancing and mask wearing will be required. Students who are not local will also be able to participate- hopefully live, but definitely in a recorded version. We will schedule these field trips together.

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 publication quality maps
– Explicate the importance of spatial relationships
– Process and organize artifacts
– Develop adaptive skills through the use of new tools (including open source software). 
– Share research through digital means
– Understand the detailed past of charcoal production in the Lehigh Valley. 
– Communicate the importance of charcoal production to a broader audience
– Explain the difference between a site-based archaeology and one based upon a landscape perspective.

Distribution of assessments:

  • Research Journal- 20%
  • Wiki- 20%
  • Map- 20%
  • Research Project/ Presentation- 20%
  • Field Trip Participation- 10%
  • 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, discussion and any other feedback that you may have. You will have an assignment for nearly every class session whether it is feedback on readings, thoughts on what you saw for the field trip, etc. but, this is also a location where you can record any “extra” thoughts, suggestions, etc. regarding the class or the research. While these are central to the process they are also difficult to grade. You will receive feedback on these- if you address that feedback, you will receive full credit for the assignment. 

Wiki- When we discuss the historical content associated with the research, you will contribute to a page in the wiki. There are two parts to this assignment. On the day that the content is assigned, let’s say on charcoal production, you will be asked to contribute to that page. However, these “contributions” are largely notes. At this point, you are NOT responsible for cleaning the page up- we’ll just have with a bunch of disconnected notes. Then, each student will be assigned one of these pages AND, by later in the semester, you will be required to organize, clarify and integrate those notes into wiki page. 

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. We will spend nearly a month learning how to make maps and then making them. Our maps will then help us both demonstrate the data as well as raise new questions. You will have small incremental assignments (for example, draw a polygon representing a town) and a larger final map. 

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. In the past, these have been public presentations (at the National Museum of Industrial History and the Lehigh Gap Nature Center), but given the current conditions, we will likely try to do some type of virtual presentation. But, we will discuss this in class. 

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.