Dr. Wurst working on Apple Island.The philosophy of research and pedagogy of the archaeology component through the Department of Anthropology at Western Michigan University links the concerns and interests of the archaeology faculty and students directly to broader anthropological concerns. We believe that archaeology can best contribute to the anthropological enterprise by building on its strengths as a long-term history that has both material and symbolic dimensions.

Our strengths lie in the areas of:

  • Ethnohistory
  • Historical archaeology
  • Political economy
  • Public archaeology
  • Social archaeology

The investigation of archaeological sites dating to the recent past is a burgeoning field. Much of historical archaeology is synonymous with the study of the modern world, including colonialism, capitalism, enslavement and industrialization.

Why archaeology?

Increasingly central to archaeology today is a concern for the communities in which it is practiced. From uncovering the untold histories of marginalized groups to providing economic development opportunities through heritage tourism, the significance of archaeology extends beyond academia with the practice of public archaeology. Engaging the public through education and outreach initiatives is an important component of the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project and other initiatives. This often takes the form of community service learning in which students learn archaeology while providing a service to many diverse publics.

Social archaeology focuses on the dynamics of social relationships in the past, and their role in archaeological interpretation in the present. This perspective hinges on the ways in which power relations and social identities are created and reproduced through the material world, and how these relations are expressed archaeologically along the lines of class, gender and ethnicity.

Our study of political economy examines the ways in which surplus is produced and mobilized in human societies worldwide. We aim to explore how wealth is created and accumulated through material and symbolic capital, as well as the global efforts to resist this process.

The history of culture requires more than an examination of material remains in various archaeological settings. In ethnohistory, we advocate that material analyses be combined whenever possible with observations drawn from ethnographies, oral accounts and historical documents. The integration of multiple lines of evidence often provides a more coherent account of the histories and cultures we wish to explore. 

Specialized equipment and training

Our goal is to acquaint you with the newest relevant technologies and teach the application of these techniques to archaeological problems. The techniques include, but are not limited to, geophysics, geographical information systems analysis, digital imagery analysis, computer applications in archaeology and characterization studies.