Current Courses

Students performing a lab in CAAM.

Fall 2022

ANTH 1480, CLST 1302, NELC 0910
Food & Fire: Archaeology in the Laboratory

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. [Fulfills Humanities and Social Science Sector]

ANTH 2221/5221, CLST 3302, ARTH 0221, NELC 2960/6920
Material World in Archaeological Science

By focusing on the scientific analysis of inorganic archaeological materials, this course explores processes of creation in the past. This course is team-taught and organized into three integrated modules: analysis of metals, analysis of ceramics and analysis of stone. Each module combines lectures and assignments, giving students applied experience with archaeological materials. The course covers quantitative and qualitative research methods and introduces students to several analytical techniques such as thin-section petrography, metallography, x-radiography, elemental composition, and experimental tests. Ultimately, the course examines 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 include the invention and adoption of new technologies, change and innovation, use of fire, and craft specialization.

ANTH 3240/5240, CLST 3316/5316
Plants and Society

Interactions between humans and the living landscape around us have played – and continue to play – a fundamental role in shaping our worldview. This course is designed to introduce students to the diverse ways in which humans interact with plants. We will focus on the integration of ethnographic information and archaeological case studies in order to understand the range of interactions between humans and plants, as well as how plants and people have profoundly changed one another. Topics will include the origins of agriculture; cooking and plant processing; human health and the world of ethnomedicine; and poisonous and psychoactive plants. We will examine ancient plant material firsthand at the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) and will handle botanical ecofacts from the Penn Museum’s collections. Students will also carry out a substantial research project focused on an archaeological culture and plant species of their own interest

CLST 3307/5620, ANTH 3307/5220, NELC 3950, AAMW 5620
Introduction to Digital Archaeology

Digital methods allow archaeologists to approach research questions about the human past with increasing accuracies on larger datasets and at multiple scales. This class introduces students to the three main steps of digital archaeology: data management, analysis, and sharing. Data management involves the design, creation, and curation of digital objects that capture the archaeological process and evidence. Students will gain deep familiarity in working with the main types of digital archaeological data: structured data (relational databases), 3d models/spatial data, and raster images. The class will provide abundant hands-on experience with the latest equipment and software for working with many different kinds of data. We will learn about data analysis techniques through a close examination of a variety of case studies in the literature that demonstrate how other archaeologists have applied digital methods to their archaeological questions. Finally, we will discuss the importance of sharing data through open access data publication and we will apply our skills with structured data to existing online archaeological datasets. The goal of this class is to prepare students to make methodological decisions during future research endeavors, both in the field and in the archaeological lab. Prior archaeological classwork and/or experience preferred.


Center for Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM)