ANTH 283-01:  Research Methods in Archaeology

Department of Anthropology, SUNY Geneseo

Spring 2013

Class Meetings:  Wednesday 4-6:30 pm. Sturges 14

Instructor:  Dr. James Aimers

Office:  Sturges Hall 13H

Office Hours:

Please visit me if you have any questions regarding the content or organization of the course, or for reasons related to your academic progress.  My office hours are:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 12:45- 1:45

You can also meet with me by e-mailing for an appointment 2-3 days in advance.

E-mail:  Questions I can answer in three sentences or so can be e-

mailed, but please speak to me for more complex questions and problems.  As a slow typist, I prefer long discussions to long e-mails.  I read e-mail during regular hours on regular work days.  Allow 1-2 days for a response, not including weekends and holidays.  Please include ANTH 283 in the subject line and sign your message.

Office Phone: 245-5276 (I can usually be reached faster via email)


Course Overview

An introduction to research methods in archaeology. The course emphasizes research design, measurement of archaeological variables, analytical approaches to archaeological problems, methods of artifact classification and analysis, and statistical methods important to archaeology.  These topics and methods are approached through a combination of readings/lectures, written assignments on archaeological problems, demonstrations, and some laboratory work with archaeological ceramics.  Prerequisites: ANTH 100 or ANTH 101 and ANTH 110. Credits: 3(3-0)


Learning Outcomes

In this course students will demonstrate

·       Familiarity with the overall process of doing archaeology, from setting research goals through sampling, excavation, recording, data processing, analysis, and interpretation.

·       The ability to apply some of the statistical methods used by archaeologists.

·       The ability to apply the above knowledge and skills through in-class written lab assignments and a final project using archeological pottery.



SUNY Geneseo will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented physical, emotional or learning disabilities. Students should consult with the Director in the Office of Disability Services (Tabitha Buggie-Hunt, 105D Erwin, and their individual faculty regarding any needed accommodations as early as possible in the semester.



Readings  will be available as Adobe Acrobat .pdf files in my Outbox. Access the outboxes through this link:

My Outbox is in the Anthropology folder.  If you have trouble with the Outbox, self-help can be found here: or contact CIT.


Facebook-Free Zone

You may use your laptop to take notes using word processing software.  You are not permitted to access Facebook, other social networking sites, play games, etc. in my class.  I have adopted this rule because photos and moving images distract other students.




Value of Course Components

Participation                                                         10%

Statistics homework                                             20%           

Pottery laboratory assignment                             20%

Written labs                                                          20%

Midterm (all material to end of Week 6)               10%           

In class quiz on dating methods (Week 8)             5%

Final Exam (all course material)                           15%                                   


Grading Scheme

A   =  94% +

A - =  90 -  93.99 %

B+ =  87 - 89.99 %

B   =  83 - 86.99 %

B - =  80 - 82.99 %

C+ =  77 - 79.99 %

C   =  73 - 76.99 %

C - =  68 - 72.99 %

D   =  58 - 67.99 %

E  =     0 - 57.99 %


Geneseo Undergraduate Bulletin :   Final grades are recorded as A, A- (excellent); B+, B, B- (very good); C+, C (satisfactory); C- (minimal competence); D (marginal); E (failure); F (failure in courses elected under the pass-fail option which are not completed successfully); P (pass in courses elected under the pass-fail option which are completed successfully; P is equivalent to a grade of C- or higher); S (satisfactory is equivalent to a grade of C- or higher); U (unsatisfactory); and W (withdrawn).


Attendance and Lateness

Regular attendance is the easiest way to ensure success on this course.  Please arrive on time.

Late assignments will be penalized 5% per day, including weekends.


Academic Honesty

Students are urged to read the policies on Academic Honesty at:

As the policy notes, “Any one of the following constitutes evidence of plagiarism:

·       direct quotation without identifying punctuation and citation of source;

·       paraphrase of expression or thought without proper attribution;

·       unacknowledged dependence upon a source in plan, organization, or argument.”

I also consider reusing your own work from another class to be plagiarism.  I take academic honesty very seriously and I follow up on instances of cheating and plagiarism to the fullest extent that the university allows.


Topics and Readings

You are responsible for each week’s readings and you should be prepared to discuss them. __________________________________________________________________________________________

Week 1:  January 23

Introduction to the archaeological process.

Ashmore and Sharer (2006) Chapter 1:  Introduction


Week 2:  January 30

Research Design and sampling

Ashmore and Sharer (2006) Chapter 4:  How Archaeology works

VanPool and Leonard (2010:1-4) Chapter 1:  Quantifying Archaeology

VanPool and Leonard (2010: 5-17) Chapter 2:  Data


·       Lab Exercise 1:  Sampling Strategies

·       Exploration of SPSS if time allows.




Week 3:  February 6

Fieldwork and Field Strategies

Ashmore and Sharer (2006) Chapter 5:  Fieldwork

VanPool and Leonard (2010:18-42) Chapter 3:  Characterizing Data Visually

VanPool and Leonard (2010: 43-65) Chapter 4:  Characterizing Data Numerically:  Descriptive Statistics


·       Lab Exercise 2:  Designing a Field Strategy


Week 4:  February 13

Flaked Stone Artifacts

Sutton and Arkush (1998: 39-70) Flaked Stone Artifacts

VanPool and Leonard (2010: 66-85) Chapter 5:  An Introduction to Probability


·       Lab Exercise 3 (Price 2007: 293) on lithic analysis.


Week 5:  February 20

Shell and Bone

Sutton and Arkush (1998: 141-150) Analysis of Shell and Bone Artifacts

VanPool and Leonard (2010: 86-96) Chapter 6:  Putting Statistics to Work:  the Normal Distribution

VanPool and Leonard (2010: 97-108) Chapter 7: Hypothesis Testing:  an Introduction


Week 6:  February 27

Faunal Remains

Sutton and Arkush (1998: 233-274) Analysis of Animal Remains

VanPool and Leonard (2010: 109-130) Chapter 8:  Hypothesis testing II:  Confidence Limits, the t-distribution


·       Lab Exercise 4 (Price 2007: 343) on seasonality through animal remains


Week 7:  March 6



Week 8:  March 13

Stratigraphy, Dating, Harris Matrices

VanPool and Leonard (2010: 131-152) Chapter 9: Hypothesis Testing III:  Power

Pdf on Harris Matrices from: Burke, H., C. Smith and L. J. Zimmerman

            2009            The archaeologist's field handbook. AltaMira Press, Lanham, MD.


Ashmore and Sharer Chapter 7: Dating the Past In class multiple-choice quiz on this chapter


·       Lab Exercise 5 Price (2007:267) on Roman stratigraphy and Harris matrices




Week 9:  March 27


VanPool and Leonard (2010: 153-177) Chapter 10:  Analysis of Variance and the F-Distribution

VanPool and Leonard (2010:178-214) Chapter 11:  Linear Regression and Multivariate Analysis


·       Lab Exercise 6:  Seriation (gravestones)




Week 10:  April 3

Pottery Classification, Analysis, and Interpretation

Introduction to the Tipu pottery sample and student project

Sutton and Arkush (1998: 109-139) Analysis of Aboriginal Ceramics


Forsyth, D. W.

            1983            Pp. 5-10 and 229-241 In Investigations at Edzna, Campeche, Mexico, Volume 2:  Ceramics. Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation No. 46., Provo, Utah.


Rice, P. M.

            2012            Type-Variety:  What Works and What Doesn't. In Ancient Maya Pottery: Classification, Analysis, and Interpretation, edited by J. J. Aimers, pp.     11-28. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.


Week 11 April 10

Student Project on Tipu Sample

VanPool and Leonard (2010:221-237) Chapter 12: Correlation


Week 12: April 17:

Student Project on Tipu Sample

VanPool and Leonard (2010: 238-261) Chapter 13:  Analysis of Frequencies


Week 13:   April 24:

Student Project on Tipu Sample

VanPool and Leonard (2010:2 62-284) Chapter 14:  Nonparametric and Multivariate Analysis.


Week 14:  May 1:  Pottery project due.  Final Comments and Review

X-Ray Florescence

Liritzis, I. and N. Zacharias

            2011            Portable XRF of Archaeological Artifacts:  Current Research, Potentials and Limitations. In X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF) in Geoarchaeology, edited by M. S. Shackley, pp. 109-142. Springer, New York.


Shackley, M. Steven

            2011            X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry in Twenty-First Century Archaeology. In X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF) in Geoarchaeology, edited by M. Steven Shackley, pp. 1-6. Springer, New York.


Final Exam:  Wednesday May 15, 2013 6:45 – 9:45 pm in regular room