Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century:

Thoughts on Graduate Education

Mark J. Lynott, David G. Anderson, Glen H. Doran, Ricardo J. Elia, Maria Franklin, K. Anne Pyburn, Joseph Schuldenrein, and Dean R. Snow


Editor's Note: Paper prepared by the Graduate Education Work Group (Mark J. Lynott, chair) at the SAA workshop on "Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century, held at Wakulla Springs, Florida, February 5-8, 1998, George S. Smith and Susan J. Bender, workshop cochairs.


Workshop participants agreed that as a discipline, we must instill more rigorous requirements at the graduate level, since many practicing archaeologists limit their degree work at the Master's level. At present, archaeologists with the terminal degree of an M.A. have an enormous impact on the management of cultural resources and the perception of archaeology by people outside the profession. The following recommendations represent the essential standards in knowledge, skills, and abilities for the graduate studies in historical and prehistoric archaeology for both M.A. and Ph.D. programs.

In the case of some doctoral programs which do not build upon M.A. degree programs and may not grant an M.A. degree in the course of doctoral study, the early portion of the doctoral program should be enhanced along the lines recommended here for stand-alone M.A. programs. Those seeking doctoral training and careers as professors at research universities will inevitably be called upon to instruct students whose own careers will require the elements we regard as essential in a graduate program.

There is strong sentiment that an individual should demonstrate competency in research and writing by completing an M.A. thesis, Ph.D. dissertation, or qualification equivalent. The successful completion of an original research project demonstrates that a student can conduct independent research, participate in the management of important archaeological resources, and evaluate the research and contributions of colleagues and peers.

It is imperative that students receive instruction and training on ethics and professionalism in archaeology throughout the graduate program. Discussion of ethical principles, codes, and policies developed by SAA, the Society of Professional Archaeologists/Register of Professional Archaeologists (SOPA/ROPA), the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), and the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) should be incorporated into course work wherever possible. This training should emphasize the finite and nonrenewable nature of archaeological resources and the threat to archaeological resources from development and the illegal antiquities trade. The stewardship responsibility of professional archaeologists as identified in SAA's Principles of Archaeological Ethics also should be emphasized.

Undergraduate Prerequisites

A Background in Three Subfields at a Minimum. Before enrolling in a graduate program, students must develop a strong, well-rounded background in anthropology including courses in archaeology, cultural anthropology, and physical anthropology. Training in these subfields of anthropology is needed to prepare students to specialize in archaeology at the graduate level.

Area Specialization in Archaeology. At least one course that specializes in the archaeology of a particular area or region is required. It is highly recommended that students complete a course in North American archaeology, which is required in many hiring programs for federal employment, and will prove useful to those pursuing a career in cultural resource management or in teaching students about cultural resource management.

Field Experience. Prior to entering a graduate program in archaeology, students should participate in field research. Traditionally, undergraduate students were offered field schools in archaeological methods. More recently, students have been able to gain field experience through paid positions on cultural resource management projects. Either alternative is acceptable as long as students develop an understanding of field methods.

Method and Theory. Students should take courses that expose them to the relationship between research methods and archaeological theory. This can include courses in the history of anthropology/archaeology, quantitative or qualitative analysis, or lithic and ceramic analysis.

Foreign-Language Competency. Undergraduate students should develop competency in at least one foreign language useful in graduate research. Competency in a second language also is useful in developing an appreciation for cultural diversity.

Archaeology as a Profession. Public knowledge about archaeology often is obtained from major media stories, movies, and books that portray archaeologists as adventurers and treasure hunters. It is recommended that undergraduate students be offered formal instruction to help them understand professional and employment opportunities in archaeology.

Graduate Core Competencies

Anthropology. Graduate students should take at least one course in a subfield of anthropology other than archaeology to help them understand the intellectual relationship of archaeology to the rest of the discipline.

Ethics, Law, and Professionalism. Formal training in laws and government regulations that pertain to archaeology is essential and should be taught in association with archaeological ethics. Courses should provide students with an introduction to the ethical issues that face the archaeological profession, and an understanding between ethical and legal conduct. The course should be general towards developing an understanding of professionalism in archaeology students.

Method and Theory. Graduate students should complete advanced coursework in archaeological method and theory. Students should receive formal training in development of research designs, hypothesis testing, data collection, and so on. This training is intended to provide students with a basis for designing their own research and evaluating the research of colleagues.

Statistics. All graduate students in archaeology must develop an understanding of quantitative methods and the use of statistics in archaeological research--basic skills for archaeological research.

Supervised, Broad-based Field Experience. It is essential that all graduate students participate in formally supervised field research that teaches the basic skills of mapping, photography, survey, sampling, data recording, and record keeping. Students should be taught the nonrenewable nature of archaeological resources and the destructive nature of archaeological research. Especially important is training in problem-oriented research that selects only those field methods and portions of the archaeological record necessary to solve the problem. It is also encouraged that students be exposed to non-destructive research techniques such as geophysical surveys (e.g. magnetometer, soil resistance meter, soil conductivity meter, ground-penetrating radar).

Survey Course of Archaeological Sciences. Students should receive formal instruction in application of non-archaeological sciences to the study of archaeological resources and research problems. Students should receive basic training in a wide range of possible research areas, including but not limited to faunal and floral analysis, soil and stratigraphic analysis, geophysical survey methods, archaeological dating techniques, isotope analysis of human bones, and ceramic compositional analysis.

Cultural Resource Management and Preservation. The management and study of archaeological resources as mandated by law and regulations has become a major part of archaeology. Students should be exposed to the contemporary practice of cultural resource management through case studies or internship experience associated with "real-world problem solving."

Statement Regarding the Ph.D. Degree

The Ph.D. degree is an advanced graduate degree that recognizes specialized research achievement. We anticipate that doctoral programs will continue to expect additional courses in subjects such as statistics, specialized seminars, and an additional language or research skills. Doctoral programs should be structured to recognize the special expertise in oral and written communication skills required of educators and the directors of research projects. Thus, we envision that the Ph.D. provides for the enhanced training in the aforementioned areas as well as a specific research focus. The Ph.D. must continue to involve production of a doctoral dissertation, which might in some circumstances obviate the need for a master's thesis at an earlier stage of graduate study.

Mark J. Lynott is manager of the Midwest Archeological Center, National Park Service; David G. Anderson is an archaeologist with the Southeast Archeological Center, National Park Service; Glen H. Doran is with the Department of Anthropology at Florida State University; Ricardo J. Elia is with the Archaeology Department at Boston University; Maria Franklin is with the Anthropology Department at the University of Texas at Austin; K. Anne Pyburn is with the Anthropology Department at Indiana University; Joseph Schuldenrein is with Geoarchaeology Research Association; and Dean R. Snow is the chair of the Anthropology Department at Pennsylvania State University.


Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page