Archaeology is the study of past societies and cultures through their material remains. In general, archaeologists working in this subfield of anthropology recover material culture—the buildings, tools, and other artifacts that are the residue of former societies—through site excavation (a site is a locus of past human activity). Archaeologists are interested in the organization of past societies (social archaeology), the manner in which peoples once made and used tools (technology), how people thought about the world and each other (cognitive archaeology), the nature of pre-modern environments (environmental archaeology), and the processes that effect the formation of sites (taphonomy)—among many other interests.
In recent years, archaeologists—with the aid of state and federal legislation and monies—have become increasingly involved in the preservation of the archaeological record (cultural resource management and heritage studies in general). As a consequence, today more archaeologists work for the government or private companies than for universities and museums.
Besides courses on specific areas of the world and specific time periods, the department offers a range of basic method and theory courses in archaeology, including:
Many of these courses have graduate level equivalents. There are also opportunities for independent study (Anth 4991/4992/4993/4994) and senior research projects (Anth 4013).
Archaeologists on the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota work primarily in Europe (Monnier, Tappen, Soderberg, Tostevin, Wells), Africa (Tappen), and North America (Anfinson, Gibbon, Hayes, Mulholland).
Archaeologists in the department with a geographical focus on Europe conduct research on sites dating from the earliest appearance of human beings in Europe (the Lower Paleolithic) through the historic medieval period. Those archaeologists with a research interest in the early movement of human beings of various kinds into Europe from Africa, also have research interests and experience in working in Africa.
Gilliane Monnier's primary research interest is using stone tools to reconstruct human behavior and culture change throughout the Lower and Middle Paleolithic in western Europe. She is interested in the chronological distribution of stone tools as an indicator of culture change and in the relationship between stone tool shapes (including symmetry and standardization) and human cognitive abilities. Her current research focus is lithic residue analysis using experimentation and multiple analytical techniques including light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and energy dispersive spectrum analysis. Among the courses she teaches regularly are Human Evolution (Anth 1001), Neanderthals (Anth 4077), and Introduction to Archaeology (Anth 3001).
Martha Tappen is a paleoanthropologist with research interests in the evolution of human behavior (especially human-animal interactions), archaeological site formation processes, the adoption of meat-eating, and the spread of humans out of Africa. She is currently involved in the excavation and analysis of the Dmanisi Homo erectus site in the Republic of Georgia. Her specialties are human evolution and adaptations, out of Africa I, zooarchaeology and taphonomy, Stone Age archaeology, and paleoenvironments. Professor Tappen teaches Human Evolution (Anth 1001), Changing Human Adaptations (Anth 1906, Freshman seminar), Human Fossil Record (Anth 3401), Zooarchaeology Laboratory (Anth 3402/5402), and Interpreting Ancient Bone (Anth 5244/8244).
John Soderberg, an affiliate member of the Graduate faculty, has a background in Irish studies, medieval archaeology, and animal bone analysis (zooarchaeology). He regularly teaches a summer field school in Ireland, oversees the department's Laboratory Methods in Archaeology internship program (Anth 3007), and teaches an archaeology of religion course.
Gilbert Tostevin has research specialties in lithic technology, Old World archaeology, and Paleolithic archaeology and human evolution in general. He was a principal investigator of the Early Upper Paleolithic site of Brno-Bohunice in the Czech Republic (2002-2008) and is currently a principal investigator in the excavation of the Early Upper Paleolithic site of Tvarožna X in the same country. Professor Tostevin is also developing a new analytical technique for understanding stone tool variability through the analysis of 3D models of experimental stone flakes. He teaches courses in Human Evolution (Anth 1001), the Analysis of Stone Tool Technology (Anth 5269), Introductory and Advanced Flintknapping (Anth 3008 and 5008), the Anthropology of Material Culture (Anth 5221), and Environmental Archaeology (Anth 4069).
Peter Wells specializes in the European Bronze and Iron Ages, the Roman Period, and the early medieval period. His topical interests include culture contact and frontiers, visual representation, and the ancient peoples known as Celts and Germans. Recent books include The Barbarians Speak: How the Conquered Peoples Shaped Roman Europe; Beyond Celts, Germans, and Scythians: Archaeology and Identity in Iron Age Europe; and Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered. Among the courses he teaches regularly are The Rise of Civilization (Anth 3009), The Archaeology of Prehistoric Europe (Anth 3027W), and The Archaeology of the British Isles (Anth 5442).
Archaeologists on the faculty of the Department of Anthropology with a North American focus work primarily in the Upper Mississippi River region (Anfinson, Gibbon, hayes, Mulholland) and northeastern North America (Hayes), in both academic and cultural resource management (CRM), and precontact and historical, situations.
Scott Anfinson is an instructor in the department, an affiliate member of the Graduate faculty, and Minnesota State Archaeologist. He has written and edited a number of archaeological publications, including Southwestern Minnesota Archaeology, published by the Minnesota Historical Society, and A Handbook of Minnesota Prehistoric Ceramics, published by the Minnesota Archaeological Society. His areas of expertise include the prehistoric archaeology of the Midwest, the historical archaeology of the Minneapolis riverfront, and Lake Superior shipwreck archaeology. He has served as president of the Council for Minnesota Archaeology and as program chair for the Plains Anthropological Conference. He is an editorial adviser to American Archaeology and the Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology. Professor Anfinson teaches courses in Midwestern archaeology and cultural resource management in the department.
Guy Gibbon's research and writing has concentrated on the archaeology and historical ethnography of the Upper Mississippi River region, and on the underlying principles of archaeological practice. He has written and edited articles, monographs, and bookson the precontact and historical archaeology of Minnesota, as well as books on the historical ethnography of the Dakota and Lakota peoples, archaeological theory, and precontact North American archaeology. He currently teaches Archaeology of Minnesota (Anth 3026) and Archaeology of Native America (Anth 3029).
Katherine Hayes has research interests in historical archaeology, the Colonial period in the United States, material culture studies, postcolonial and practice theories, and social identify as manifest in the archaeological record. Her present research focus is the historic Little Round Hill site in Wadena County, Minnesota. Among the courses she teaches regularly are Introduction to Historical Archaeology (Anth 3028), Foundations of Anthropological Archaeology (Anth 8004), Archival Analysis for Archaeologists (Anth 4101), Archaeologies of Colonialism (Anth 4103), Ceramic Analysis (Anth 5990), and Archaeology Field School (Anth 3221/8220).
Susan Mulholland, an affiliate member of the Graduate faculty, has worked extensively in both academic and cultural resource management situations. She has expertise in phytolith analysis, cultural resource management, and Minnesota archaeology.