Archaeological Lab Methods

This seminar will introduce students to the methods that historical archaeologists use to analyze, catalogue, document, and store archaeological artifacts. We will work with a real collection previously excavated from an archaeological site in New York City (loaned from the New York City Archaeological Repository) to address the needs of the collection for more analysis and/or rehousing in proper archival-grade storage. The course will begin with an introduction to archaeological field methods and site reports, which are critical for interpreting the collection. Students will then begin working with the collection itself and will learn how to identify different types of artifacts (including ceramic dishes, glass bottles, architectural materials like nails and bricks, and “small finds,” like buttons and pipes) as well as methods to determine their materials, evidence of use-wear, and date, place, and methods of manufacture. We will also cover some methods of analysis of animal bones and botanical remains, what archaeologists call “ecofacts.” Cataloging instruction will familiarize students with new databases that aim to make collections more comparable and accessible, so researchers can utilize data from multiple sites to answer larger questions. Documenting activities will include photography and drawing, in addition to catalogue entry. Each class meeting will consist of hands-on instruction and lab work, along with discussion of readings. Assignments will include a research paper related to a portion of the collection and completion of a facet of lab work. 3 credits.