Historical Archaeology

Anthropology 332                                                                                                                          Washington and LeeUniversity

Dr. Alison Bell                                                                                                                                                                  Fall 2005


Instructor Contact Information:


Course Description:

This course introduces students to theoretical approaches, substantive findings, and disciplinary controversies salient in historical archaeology, both as it developed during the twentieth century and as it exists in practice today. The discipline’s many relationships to other fields – including history, anthropology, and architectural history – are explored to understand the diversity of orientations within historical archaeology. 

Over the course of the term, this class asks students to “try on” a variety of interpretive lenses through which the archaeological record can be viewed. In order to make assigned readings about different approaches as immediate and meaningful as possible, the course begins by acquainting students with artifact assemblages from three sites which Washington and Lee archaeologists and field school students have excavated: the Greens site (c. 1770s – 1820s), the Academy building at Liberty Hall (“The Ruins,” c. 1790s), and laborers’ dwelling houses at Longdale, an iron mining community (c. 1860s – 1910s). As they encounter each theoretical orientation in readings and class discussions, students are asked to interpret one or more of these sites using that approach.

The goals of this course include acquainting students with issues central to historical archaeology; fostering critical, creative thinking; helping students cultivate their abilities to communicate in written and verbal formats; and finally but not least encouraging students’ inclinations to explore first-hand the diverse experiences of individuals who occupied the same geographical spaces we do, but who lived generations ago in cultural, material and social worlds that differ fundamentally from ours. Because the immediacy of material culture is especially useful for the last goal, this course includes fieldtrips to locations of sites that W&L has excavated (Liberty Hall and Longdale), as well as to Monticello.

Course Texts:

Available in the bookstore:

·         Ivor Noël Hume (1991). Martin’s Hundred. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.

·         James Deetz (1996). In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life. Anchor, New York.

Available from Karen Lyle in Newcomb 6:

·         Course Pack

Other sources:

·         Websites as noted in the syllabus and handouts distributed in class.


Course Expectations:

Reviews and Critiques of Assigned Readings

These three papers, recommended length 8-10 pages double-spaced, are due throughout the course of the term. Each contains three components:

1) a review or summary of the assigned material

2) a critique of the material (components 1 and 2 of the papers can be modeled on book reviews from professional journals, of which the instructor will supply several examples)

3) interpretations of one or more archaeological sites using the theoretical perspectives evident in the assigned readings.

        Paper One covers material September 13 – October 6; due October 11.

        Paper Two covers material October 11 – November 3; due November 8.

        Paper Three covers material November 8 – December 8; due December 16.

Fieldtrips and Commentaries

This course includes several field trips:

·         Liberty Hall campus (“The Ruins” at W&L) during class on Thursday, Sept. 15.

·         Longdale Mining Community (about 20 minutes west of Lexington). Time to be arranged.

·         Monticello (about 75 minutes east of Lexington). Archaeologists are holding an open house and walking tours October 21-22. Time of field trip to be arranged.

After each fieldtrip, students will participate in a discussion about the site on the course web page.

* Each student is required to attend/comment on at least two (any two) field trips. Everyone is welcome to attend all three. 

Contributions to Class Discussion

Students should be prepared and willing to participate in class discussions. On several class days, particular students will be responsible for summarizing, critiquing and participating in discussions about various assigned readings.

Final Grades

The breakdown of final grades for the course is as follows:

Paper One  ……………….     25%    

Paper Two ……………….     25%

Paper Three ……………..      25%

Fieldtrips/Commentaries …      15%    

Class Discussion ………..        10%


            Deadlines: As a measure of fairness to students who submit papers on time, late papers will be penalized. This policy does not apply to students whose medical, family, or other unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances prevent their timely submission of papers. Students in such situations should contact the instructor as early as feasible.

            Drafts: I encourage students to submit rough drafts of papers up to 72 hours before the project is due.

            Revisions: Students may revise graded papers within one week of receiving them from me. The grade on a revised papers will be averaged with the original paper grade.


Course Outline

Sept. 8             Introduction to the Course

Sept. 13-15      Washington and Lee Archaeology: The Greens, Liberty Hall, Longdale

                                    Read    http://archaeology.wlu.edu/libhall.html



                                    Reminder: meet at the Liberty Hall Ruins for class on Thurs. Sept. 15

Sept. 20-22      Historical Archaeology and History, Part One

                                               Read    Noël Hume pp. 3-166

Sept. 27-29      Historical Archaeology and History, Part Two

                                    Read    Noël Hume pp. 167-215


                                                ►Scott et al.

Oct. 4-6                       Historical Archaeology and Anthropology: Processual Archaeology

                                    Read    Binford

                                                 Can choose to read/write about Otto OR South

Oct. 11                        Structuralism and Humanism: Introduction

                                    Read    Mouer

                                    Reminder: Paper One due Tuesday, October 11

Oct. 13                        Reading Day

Oct. 18-20       Structuralism and Humanism: Small Things Forgotten

                                    Read    Deetz pp. 1-186

                                                            (can read pp. 68-164 for main ideas, not details)

                                    Reminder: Open house/walking tours of Monticello Oct. 21-22

Oct. 25-27       Darwinian Approaches in Historical Archaeology

                                    Read    Shennan

                                                Bliege Bird and Smith:                                 


Nov. 1-3                      Consumption and “The Social”

                                    Read    Burley

                                                Bell 2002

Nov. 8-10        Feminist Studies and the Construction of Gender

                                    Read    Franklin


                                    Reminder: Paper Two due Tuesday, November 8

Nov. 15-17      Ethnicity in Historical Archaeology

                                    Read    Samford



Nov. 22-24      Thanksgiving Break

Nov. 29 –

Dec. 1              Archaeologies of Capitalism

                                    Read    Bell 2005


Dec. 6-8                      Power: Culture Contact and Colonialism

                                    Read    DeCorse


                                    Reminder: Paper Three due by Friday, December 16th at 5:00 p.m.

                                                            (early submissions are very welcome)