The archaeology program provides opportunities for training and research in several areas. Faculty members have conducted archaeological research in various regions of Europe, Arctic North America, the Great Plains and Southeastern North America, Mesoamerica, and Central America. Their specializations include ancient technology, paleoecology and human adaptation, cultural evolution, variability in hunter-gatherer societies, origins of sociopolitical complexity, ancient American exchange and interaction, study of site formation processes, lithic, faunal, and ceramic analyses, and quantitative and computer applications in archaeology. Emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary ecological and environmental studies supported by faculty members from other departments who offer courses in geology, tropical ecology, geoarchaeology, paleobotany, and paleontology. Current research includes investigation of culture change, through multiple perspectives, on mobile and sedentary adaptations in Europe; study of past human ecology in tropical forest environments of Costa Rica; investigation of hunter-gatherer shell midden sites in the Kentucky, study of variability in Paleoindian land use patterns, group organization, mobility, and technological change in the Central and Southern Plains region, and, investigation of ancient indigenous adaptations in the Kansas area.
Training in archaeology combines a background in both Old World and New World prehistory, a holistic concept of anthropology, and a variety of theoretical perspectives integrated with practical hands-on experience. The program emphasizes application of archaeological methods and theoretical approaches through courses in lithic, ceramic, and faunal analyses, symbol systems, evolutionary theory, origins of cultural complexity, hunter-gatherer variability, as well as topical seminars which examine current issues, and methodological, theoretical, and ethical problems. Students are expected to participate in professional archaeological meetings, as well as field and laboratory research projects at KU or elsewhere.
Student Support. Ongoing faculty research interests in the Great Plains, Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere offer students the opportunity to participate in research and to initiate original studies. These projects often generate student support in the form of research assistantships and they typically provide materials for M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations.
Students are encouraged to take advantage of cultural resource management projects to gain practical experience in a variety of settings. Research opportunities also exist with archaeological collections housed at the Archaeology Research Center. These are commonly used for master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation research. A bi-annual Summer field School in Archaeology for undergraduate and graduate students provides training in field methods and employment opportunities for advanced students. On alternate years a field school in geoarchaeology provides training in the application of quaternary geology, soil science, and study of landscape evolution to archaeological sites and problems.