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The new Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) is a joint endeavor between the Penn Museum and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences (SAS).

Teaching and Research Laboratories

CAAM offers the facilities, materials, equipment, and expert personnel to teach and mentor Penn students in a range of scientific techniques crucial to archaeologists and other scholars as they seek to interpret the past in an interdisciplinary context which links the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities.

Its mission is to:

  • introduce and train undergraduate and graduate students in the analysis of archaeological materials;
  • foster and mentor undergraduate and graduate student research;
  • support Penn research, particularly archaeological fieldwork, by training students in the collection and analysis of specimens and data.

The Center is staffed by Teaching Specialists who are domain experts in one or more of the following eight areas of specialization: ceramics, digital archaeology, archaeobotany, archaeozoology, human skeletal analysis, lithics, archaeometallurgy, and conservation.

CAAM courses are divided into three tiers:

  • An introductory course covering all fields, CAAM I: 100-level
    • Food & Fire: Archaeology in the Laboratory
  • Intermediate courses at 200/500 level:
    • CAAM IIa: archaeobotany, archaeozoology, human skeletal
      • Living World in Archaeological Sciences
    • CAAM IIb: ceramics, archaeometallurgy, lithics
      • Material World in Archaeological Sciences
    • CAAM IIc: conservation
    • CAAM IId: digital archaeology
  • Advanced courses in any of the fields at 300 to 700 level
    • Archaeology of Animals: Faunal Analysis
    • Petrography of Cultural Materials
    • Death: Anthropological Perspectives

In addition to regular courses, CAAM provides a mentoring environment in which students are able to carry out research-oriented independent studies, honors theses, and graduate work.

CAAM’s main teaching and research laboratories are located in the newly renovated West Wing of the Museum. The laboratories offer facilities for sample preparation, examination, and analysis of samples, and include a Human Skeletal Laboratory, a Ceramics Laboratory dedicated to thin-section petrography, a Multi-purpose Laboratory equipped with fume hood and chemical storage, a general purpose Wet Laboratory, and a Classroom with digital capabilities for lab-based teaching to classes with up to 25 students. Along with specialized instruments and tools, these laboratories also house extensive teaching and reference collections of a range of materials in hand specimens and thin-sections.

CAAM Courses

Fall 2015

Food & Fire: Archaeology in the Laboratory
ANTH 148, CLST 148, NELC 189

This introductory course will let students explore the essential heritage of human technology through archaeology. People have been transforming their environment from the first use of fire for cooking. Since then, humans have adapted to the world they created using the resources around them. We use artifacts to understand how the archaeological record can be used to trace breakthroughs such as breaking stone and bone, baking bread, weaving cloth and firing pottery and metals. The seminar will meet in the Penn Museum’s new Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials. Students will become familiar with the Museum’s collections and the scientific methods used to study different materials. Class sessions will include lectures, demonstrations, discussions, and guest presentations. Recitation/lab sections will include practical experience with laboratory procedures and equipment, examination and analysis of archaeological materials, and tours of key Museum departments.

Material World in Archaeological Sciences
ANTH 221/521, CLST 244, ARTH 230, NELC 284/584

By focusing on the scientific analysis of inorganic archaeological materials, this course will explore processes of creation in the past. ANTH 221 will take place in the new Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) and will be team taught in three modules: analysis of lithics, analysis of ceramics and analysis of metals. Each module will combine laboratory and classroom exercises to give students hands-on experience with archaeological materials. We will examine how the transformation of materials into objects provides key information about past human behaviors and the socio-economic contexts of production, distribution, exchange and use. Discussion topics will include invention and adoption of new technologies, change and innovation, use of fire, and craft specialization.

Death: Anthropological Perspectives
ANTH 210

This course will cover the topic of DEATH from a bio/cultural perspective including the evolution of life history (aging and demography -mortality) as well as from an archaeological perspective (prehistory) and early history of mortuary practices. Nothing in the lifespan of humans is so revealing on the interface of culture and biology as is death and the experience of death. This course is not concerned specifically with how an individual experiences death, but in the ways that culture and biology have come to define and deal with physical death and the death experience.

Spring 2015

Living World in Archaeological Sciences
ANTH 267/567, CLST 268/568, NELC 286/586

By focusing on the scientific analysis of archaeological remains, this course will explore life and death in the past. ANTH 267 will take place in the new Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) and will be team taught in three modules: human skeletal analysis, analysis of animal remains, and analysis of plant remains. Each module will combine laboratory and classroom exercises to give students hands-on experience with archaeological materials. We will examine how organic materials provide key information about past environments, human behavior, and cultural change through discussions of topics such as health and disease, inequality, and food.

Archaeology of Animals: Faunal Analysis
ANTH 415

Anthropology 415 integrates archaeology, biology, and paleontology. Bones, shells, and other remains yield evidence for the use of animals by humans and evidence for past environments. We focus on these important transitions in human-animal relationships: the development of human hunting and fishing; animal domestication; early pastoralism; and the emergence of market economies in animal products. Practical experience will include using comparative skeletal material, experimental work with field and laboratory equipment, and supervised work identifying and describing archaeological materials from Museum collections.

Petrography of Cultural Materials
CLST 512, AAMW 512, ANTH 514

Introduction to thin-section petrography of stone and ceramic archaeological materials. Using polarized light microscopy, the first half of this course will cover the basics of mineralogy and the petrography of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. The second half will focus on the petrographic description of ceramic materials, mainly pottery, with emphasis on the interpretation of provenance and technology. As part of this course, students will characterize and analyze archaeological samples from various collections. Prior knowledge of geology is not required.

To learn more about CAAM and its teaching and research facilities, please contact Marie-Claude Boileau at 215.746.5876 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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