Archaeology

Archaeology is the study of the human culture  through investigation of material traces (artifacts, food remains, features, structures, etc.) and their relationships in space and time, combined with other forms of historical information (texts, oral traditions, etc.) when available. Drawing on a wide range of explanatory theory and rigorous methodologies, archaeologists use material records of human activities to better understand human technological, economic, social, and cultural evolution from the deep past (Lower Paleolithic) to the present. 

The UW Archaeology Program is dedicated to an explicitly scientific approach to the study of the human past and present on the basis of material remains. We believe that the most fruitful and enduring research derives from the systematic application of scientific methodology (deduction of hypothesis and empirical evaluation). It lies at the heart of our teaching program at both undergraduate and graduate levels. We regularly engage undergraduate and graduate students in field and laboratory research.
 
We share many intellectual, theoretical, and methodological interests with our colleagues in other sub-disciplines of anthropology and around the UW campus. The archaeology faculty has affiliations and collaborations with the Quaternary Science Center, the Burke Museum, Museology, Engineering, Material Science, Earth and Space Science, Geography, Physics, Forestry, Chemistry, and Oceanography. Despite this diversity, archaeology remains integral as a subunit within anthropology, and it is our focus on the temporal dimension of human diversity through the study of artifacts (broadly defined) that unites us.
 
Our core curriculum includes strong theoretical and methodological training based on the hands-on analysis of empirical data (e.g., lithics, archaeofaunal remains, ceramics, geoarchaeological records, and landscapes). In our undergraduate classes, we seek to train students broadly in the following archaeological topics:
  • Social relevance (how lessons from archaeology can be applied to contemporary concerns of diverse interest groups)
  • Basic archaeological skills (how we can use the archaeological record to draw inferences about the past)
  • Stewardship (how we can preserve archaeological information for the benefit of the present and future)
  • Real-world problem solving (knowing the rules, law, process, and responsibilities)
  • Communication (writing, speaking, and digital communications)
  • Professional ethics and values
Graduate students in the archaeology program obtain a solid foundation in archaeological method and theory, the full range of laboratory techniques, and research design. Each student also achieves competence in a major cultural area of his or her choice. Currently, students are working in many areas of the world. Each student is expected to acquire substantial field experience beyond the field school level, although the dissertation need not be based on this work. Dissertations are based on original research and represent significant contributions to archaeology.