University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Department of Anthropology

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Subfields

Archaeology

Overview

Cover art from Virginia Kern's 2003 book, Scenes from the High Desert: Julian Steward's Life and Theory

Started by the preeminent Julian H. Steward, Donald Lathrap, John C. McGregor, and Charles Bareis, the archaeology program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, has traditionally emphasized strong training in archaeological methodologies, comparative approaches, theory, and fieldwork. Archaeology is concerned with the recovery, analysis, and interpretation of the material remains of past cultures and societies. Archaeologists seek to understand how humans in the past created and interacted with their social and natural environments, and to conserve this history for present and future learning. Our program offers B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees, including a new M.A. track concentrating on Cultural Heritage and Landscape studies, offered in conjunction with the Department of Landscape Architecture. (We do not offer a terminal M.A. track; students earn M.A. degrees as part of the Ph.D. program.) Our graduate program provides students with in-depth training and education in a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to archaeological investigations.

Aerial view of Monks Mound, Cahokia, part of Dr. Pauketat's research focus

Our department archaeologists, including Drs. Stanley Ambrose, Christopher Fennell, Susan Frankenberg, Lisa Lucero, Timothy Pauketat, and Helaine Silverman, maintain active research programs in prehistoric, contact, and historic period sites located throughout the Americas and eastern Africa. Our graduate students are currently undertaking doctoral research throughout the world. More than a dozen other archaeologists are affiliated as adjunct faculty or as faculty and staff with other departments and programs at the University, including the program in Ancient Technologies and Archaeological Materials (ATAM).

Nazca lines of Peru, part of Dr. Silverman's research focus

Archaeology faculty regularly offer an array of methods courses (Archaeometry, Lithic Analysis, Ceramic Analysis, Surveying Techniques, GIS, Quantitative Analysis), regional survey courses (Africa, Central America, Central Andes, Europe, Maya and Aztec Archaeology, Mississippian Archaeology, prehistoric and historic period North America), topical courses (Cultural Heritage Management, Museum Studies, Historical Archaeology, Landscape Archaeology) and theory courses (History of Archaeology, Archaeological Theory, Chiefdoms, Social Construction of Space). In addition, theory seminars are offered on a wide array of topics. In recent years, these seminars have included subjects such as: Advanced Archaeological Methods, Archaeological Approaches to Cultural Complexity, Archaeological Theory -- An European Perspective, Chiefdoms and Early States, Human Evolutionary Ecology, Origins of Modern Humans, and Prehistory of Europe.

Excavations at historic period site of New Philadelphia, Illinois, directed by Dr. Fennell and others

We offer many opportunities for students to conduct research with faculty in our archaeology labs and in our extensive research collections. A number of our faculty are conducting multi-year research programs in historic and prehistoric period archaeology, funded by grants from sources such as the National Science Foundation. For examples of long-term research projects and related training opportunities, read about our Belize, Cahokia, and New Philadelphia Archaeology Field Schools.

Dr. Ambrose and Acheulian artifact

The Anthropology Department Stable Isotope Laboratory (129 Davenport Hall) and Mass Spectrometry Laboratory (31 Natural Resources Building), directed by Dr. Ambrose, provide facilities and opportunities for students to conduct research on reconstruction of prehistoric diets, climates and environments by analysis of bones, shells, plants and soils. The Lithic Technology lab contains comparative reference collections and resources for high magnification use-wear analysis. Dr. Ambrose also conducts archaeological, isotopic, and geoarchaeological field research in the Kenya and Ethiopia Rift Valley on the environmental context of early hominids, and the origin of modern human behavior.

Regional studies of Mississippian period cultures in the American Bottom

Graduate and undergraduate students conduct research in Dr. Pauketat's North American lab (196 Davenport Hall). His more recent research projects focus on regional archaeological investigations in the American Bottom and upper Midwest, exploring dynamics of large-scale changes to everyday life during the Mississippian period, and change over time in social practices under conditions of resettlement and physical displacement created by the impacts of urbanization at key centers such as Cahokia. In just the past few years, Dr. Pauketat has directed excavations at several large village sites and homesteads dating from the 9th through 13th centuries AD. These have been excavated with field school students and crews funded by the National Science Foundation. The analysis of the site-locational data along with the remains from over 250 domestic structures and numerous pits and midden areas excavated at these sites is being facilitated by the development of an Arcview GIS model.

Ayala's 1615 drawing of Inca king performing ceremonial offering to ancestors

Our archaeology faculty working in foreign countries facilitate fieldwork opportunities in those countries for graduate students in our program. Dr. Silverman is an Andeanist specialized in the complex societies of the region; her particular area of expertise is south coastal Peru (the Paracas and Nasca cultures). Her current research has turned from the excavated past to the appropriation of the past in the present. She recently completed a project in Cuzco, the former Inca capital, that investigated the conjunctions of archaeological heritage management, the globalized tourism industry, nationalism, and the production of local identities. Her new project is a comparative study of these issues at international World Heritage Sites. She is also doing research in the field of critical museum studies, which addresses similar issues of representation, historicity, identity, political power, tourism, and globalization. Dr. Silverman is the Co-Director of Collaborative for Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices (CHAMP), and Co-Coordinator of the new interdisciplinary graduate track in Heritage Studies. Through Spring 2011 she is the Co-Editor of the journal Latin American Antiquity.

Prof. Lucero

Dr. Lucero includes undergraduate and graduate students in field and lab projects. She works with students interested in the Ancient Maya, Mesoamerican cultures, complex societies, political systems, ritual and politics, and water management. Dr. Lucero currently is exploring the politics of temple construction in complex societies. Worldwide, various groups use temples as political arenas to attract supporters. The role of Classic Maya temples (c. A.D. 250-850) is not so clear. All major centers have several temples, but it is not known if royals built them all, or if other groups did as well, or whether the Maya built them for specific gods. Dr. Lucero is exploring this topic; her field goals for the next few years include the collection of data from the six temples at the Maya center of Yalbac as part of the Valley of Peace Archaeology (VOPA) project in central Belize.

Town boundary overlay on site of New Philadelphia, 2005 aerial photo

Undergraduate and graduate students can also utilize research opportunities provided through Dr. Fennell's Historical Archaeology lab (296 Davenport Hall). His research initiatives include the development of interpretative frameworks focusing on regional systems theories, African diaspora studies, theories concerning ethnicities and racialization, stylistic and symbolic analysis of material culture, and the significance of consumption patterns. Dr. Fennell's projects include multi-year research concerning the social history of New Philadelphia, Illinois, an integrated town founded by a free African American in 1836. This project, which includes field schools funded by the National Science Foundation, attained designation of New Philadelphia as a National Historic Landmark based on its archaeological resources. Other new initiatives are focusing potential long-term research on Brooklyn, Illinois, the first incorporated black town, and the African American settlement of Equal Rights outside Galena, Illinois, and the 19th century pottery communities of Edgefield, South Carolina. Read more about our Department's Historical Archaeology program.

Mapping tools

Dr. Susan Frankenberg is an archaeologist and bioanthropologist with broad interests in collections management, data curation, and the evolving roles of museums and their communities. Formerly a curator and member of international archaeological expeditions in Greece and Israel, she also conducted large scale archaeological surveys and excavations in the Tennessee Valley and cemetery excavations in Appalachia, the Midwest and mainland Greece. Her archaeological area of expertise is mortuary and ritual behavior during the Early to Middle Woodland in the eastern U.S. and in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age. Her current research focuses on issues of past population structure, and on changing interfaces between the public, professionals and the academy in museums. She is the Coordinator of the nascent interdisciplinary Museum Studies program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a Faculty Fellow of the Academy of Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Birger figurine, Mississippian period, uncovered at the BBB Motor site in Madison County, Illinois, near Cahokia

The University supports two cultural resource management programs. The Public Services Archaeology and Architecture Program (PSAP) carries out CRM work across the country and provides students both employment and opportunities to gain experience in CRM archaeology. Research and employment opportunities as well as experience in curating and analyzing collections are also provided by the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (or ISAS, formerly the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program). ISAS, directed by Dr. Thomas E. Emerson, has 12,000 cubic feet of archaeological materials from over 3,000 Illinois sites, including historically important collections made by A.R. Kelly and Warren K. Moorehead from the world heritage and state historic site of Cahokia, early Hopewell mound excavations in the Illinois River valley by Moorehead and John McGregor, from the massive American Bottom FAI-270 Project collections, and from more recent work at sites such as Hoxie Farm and the East St. Louis Mound Center. The Illinois Geological Survey also maintains facilities on the University campus for isotope analysis, such as radiocarbon dating techniques.

House structure made with mammoth bones, paleolithic period

Additional collections of archival and artifactual materials are curated by the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures, directed by Dr. Wayne Pitard, the University Archives, University Library, and Krannert Art Museum. The Krannert collection includes ancient Peruvian pottery covering the major pre-Columbian periods. The Department of Anthropology also engages in public outreach efforts and participates in the annual Illinois Archaeology Awareness program. We also host the African Diaspora Archaeology Network and Newsletter.

Excavator's trowel

We invite you to contact the Anthropology office or any one of the above named faculty and staff for more information on Archaeology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Students interested in applying for admission to our graduate program can also consult our online guidelines and forms.