Archaeology is the scientific study of the material cultural record of human evolution and history over the past 3 million years. We think this is best accomplished using materialist, evolutionary approaches both in research and teaching. Our research draws upon evolutionary culture theory, including Human Behavioral Ecology, to explore a range of issues while focusing on hunter-gatherer diversity, technology, complexity (Shelby Anderson) and related research interests in the North Pacific fur-trade (Doug Wilson), site formation processes (Wilson) and Historical Archaeology (Wilson). Our regional focus is western North America, including the Northwest Coast, Plateau and Great Basin, the north Pacific Rim and the Sub-Arctic/Arctic.
As part of Anthropology's free-standing MA program, we offer graduate training leading to careers in academic and applied (CRM) archaeology. Our teaching and research stresses theoretical and methodological rigor. We have graduate coursework in archaeological field methods, laboratory methods, zooarchaeology, cultural resource management, hunter-gatherers, and archaeological theory. The program has an annual archaeological field school at the Vancouver National Historic Reserve in cooperation with the National Park Service and Washington State University Vancouver.
Graduate students and faculty are involved in the Environmental Anthropology Program within anthropology as well as take advantage of resources in chemistry, geology, geography, biology and history, including the Center for Columbia River History. Archaeology faculty also participate in PSU’s Indigenous Nations Studies Program and the Environmental Science and Management. Beyond PSU, the program has close ties with the National Park Service, US Forest Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, ties that generate internships, research and other valuable opportunities. We also work closely with local and regional contracting firms, which provide employment and internships to many of our students before and after they receive their degrees.
Archaeology Track Guidelines for PSU Anthropology Students
Archaeology investigates the human past using the material remains of human behavior. This definition encompasses the incredible diversity of human history, and includes many specialties within archaeology. As romanticized in many pop culture representations of archaeology, it can be an exciting, adventurous field that allows one to travel, work with different kinds of people and be outside. At the same time, for every hour in the field, archaeologists spend many more alone or as part of research teams in the lab and library.
Professional archaeologists work in an array of contexts including academia, local, state, tribal, and federal government organizations, and private consulting companies. Eighty percent of positions in archaeology are in applied rather than academia/research contexts. Getting a job in any of these places requires diverse archaeological skill sets that include problem-solving, critical thinking and writing abilities, as well as field, laboratory, and area studies knowledge. Beyond these, our program emphasizes environmental archaeology, historical archaeology, Cultural Resources Management (CRM), and public/community archaeology. We also stress geology, geography, and statistics skills. However, at base our program emphasizes thinking which is both critical and flexible.
Meeting the requirements for the general anthropology degree at PSU is not enough to prepare you for a career in archaeology after graduation. This is particularly true in the current economic climate, when competition for post-baccalaureate positions is tough. As such, students interested in a career in archaeology will need to work even harder to gain the necessary skills and distinguish themselves. Below are the recommended courses for students who want to become professional archaeologists after graduating with their B.A. or B.S. in anthropology at PSU. Field school is a special consideration for students of archaeology. Think carefully, and consult a faculty adviser, about when and where to attend field school. Be aware that the sooner you take field school in your academic career, the sooner you can compete for other opportunities, including paid internships or field positions. Also field school will help you to assess whether field work, an essential part of archaeology, is right for you. More advice on field schools can be found below.
Anthropology majors (including those wanting to be archaeologists) are required to take six anthropology electives, up to five of which can be in archaeology. You can take additional courses. Archaeology courses should spread across several types of courses offerings (e.g. area studies, method and theory, lab courses, etc.) so that you graduate with a robust knowledge and skill set within archaeology. This guide is designed to help you select courses wisely. You should use this document for planning purposes in consultation with a faculty adviser (Anderson, Wilson).
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) versus Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Anthropology
There are two courses of study available to you within the Anthropology major, the B.A. and the B.S. General requirements for the different degrees can be found here. The primary difference is in the language requirements for the B.A., and the statistics and additional skill requirements of the B.S. The B.S. does not have less course work than the B.A. Rather, students pursuing a B.S. take statistics and other science courses (biology, geology, GIS) in lieu of language courses. The B.S. degree was added to the curriculum to give students interested in archaeological science, and/or in the application of GIS in archaeology, the time and structure needed to gain expertise in these areas. Courses within the sciences and social sciences (geography, geology, chemistry, biology, etc.) often require considerable prerequisites and laboratory work; the B.S. degree path allows students to focus on this coursework in lieu of language classes.
Things you should think about when deciding which degree path you pursue at PSU include: What are your interests within archaeology? What is your current background in a foreign language, or in math, chemistry, biology, or other science? Are you interested in working in another country or in a setting where language skills are essential? Are you passionate about applications of chemistry and geochemistry in archaeology? Do you love geology and want to apply that skill set within archaeology? Consider the reality that gaining language competency can take many years of study, perhaps longer than you have within a four year (or two year for transfers) program of study. Talk with a faculty adviser as early as possible in your anthropology coursework in order to decide what degree path is right for you.
Archaeological Field School
A hands-on field course in archaeological field methods, usually called a field school, is an essential experience for students interested in archaeology. This is true both from a career perspective, as field school is a requirement for almost all entry-level archaeological positions, and from a broader learning and experiential perspective. For many of us, field school was a defining moment where we realized that archaeology was the career path we wanted to pursue. For all of these reasons, selecting and attending a field school as early in your academic career as possible is critical. Waiting until your last year at PSU to take field school severely limits the unique internship and employment opportunities available to you when you're a student; many of these opportunities are unavailable once you graduate. Attending field school early on helps you refine your interests and gain additional experience within archaeology while you are still a student, making you much more competitive post-graduation on the job market and for graduate school.
PSU offers an annual field school at Fort Vancouver that is run by Doug Wilson in collaboration with the National Park Service. If you are interested in taking an outside field school, consult with a faculty adviser in selecting a program. If you take another college or university's field school, you will need to register at that institution and, once the field school is finished, have the credits transferred to PSU. As long as the catalog name or description is clear that it is a field school, transferring credit should be straightforward and will follow normal procedures. If you have PSU financial aid and need it for the summer, you will need to check with Financial Aid.
Be aware that your credits may change when the course is transferred. The length and scope of the non-PSU field school are factors in the number credits that you will receive at PSU. Complexities arise if the field school is offered by an entity other than an accredited university or college or a non-academic program, especially if it's foreign. Do not expect credits earned through such programs to necessarily transfer at all or transfer easily. For example transcripts have to be in English for credits to be honored. Once you complete your program, your credits will be transferred to PSU and often are brought in as upper division electives. If you want them to be counted as Anth 454 Archaeology Field School, you will need to have Charles Klein, department chair, make the adjustment in DARS.
Always talk with your adviser prior to taking a non-PSU field school to make sure everything is in order. We encourage you to go out and have good field experiences where you want to; we don't want your experience marred by red tape when you get home.