The philosophy of research and pedagogy of the archaeology component through the Institute of Intercultural and Anthropological Studies 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.

Strengths of archaeology

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 archeology?

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that material analyses be combined whenever possible with observations drawn from ethnographies, oral accounts and historical documents.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.


The Institute offers the following archaeology courses.


  • ANTH 1100: Lost Worlds and Archaeology
  • ANTH 2100: Introduction to Archaeology
  • ANTH 3030: Historical Archaeology
  • ANTH 3060: Archaeology of Civilization
  • ANTH 3090: Archaeology of Inequality and Resistance
  • ANTH 3440: The First Americans
  • ANTH 4040: Early Technologies
  • ANTH 4900: Archaeological Field School

Course descriptions

Course schedules

Thesis topics

The Institute offers a sampling of past archaeology thesis topics.

Undergraduate Honors Theses

  • "Getting to the Point: The Dart-Arrow Transition in Plum Bayou Culture"
  • "Where the Past Meets the Present: A Comparative Analysis of the Process of Archaeological Site Registration in the United States of America and the United States of Mexico"

Graduate theses

  • "An Intensive Surface collection and Intrasite Spartial analysis of the Archaeological Materials from the Coy Mound Site (3LN20), Central Arkansas"
  • "Class and Gender in Southwestern Michigan: Interpreting Historical Landscapes"
  • "Crafting Culture at Fort St. Joseph: An Archaeological Investigation of Labor Organization on the Colonial Frontier"
  • "Eating Ethnicity: Examining 18th Century French Colonial Identity Through Selective Consumption of Animal Resources in the North American Interior"
  • "Exploring the Social Dimensions of Grog-Temper Use at the Ink Bayou Site (3PU252): A Plum Bayou Culture Site in Central Arkansas"
  • "Of Agrarian Landscapes and Capitalist Transitions: Historical Archaeology and the Political Economy of a Nineteenth-Century Farmstead"
  • "The Urban Landscape of Health, Hygiene, and Social control: The Development of Urban Services in Battle Creek, Michigan"