Table of contents
Unit 1

Archaeological Methods

A person wearing a gray long-sleeved shirt, dark jeans, and orange gloves uses a brush to clean debris off a rock in front of them.

Archaeologists make use of a wide array of methods and methodologies in order to conduct accurate research that yields credible results. In this unit, students will learn about some of the different methods that archaeologists are incorporating into their work and innovative techniques that are helpful for exploring the past in new ways.

Professor Talking Points
  • Provide an overview of different research methods, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of each.
  • Discuss how methods have changed over time, often dependent on technological advances.
  • Explore how different methods allow for different kinds of questions to be asked and answered.
  • Discuss the relationship between generating data through specific methods and interpreting those data.
Academic Articles
  1. Kassabaum, Megan. 2019. “A Method for Conceptualizing and Classifying Feasting: Interpreting Communal Consumption in the Archaeological Record.” American Antiquity 84 (4): 610–631.

  2. Mitchell, Peter. 2018. “Introduction to Archaeological Methods and Sources.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedias.

Student Discussion Questions
  1. In what ways do archaeological methods allow us to see into the past?
  2. In what ways do current methods limit what we can know about the past?
  3. Why do you think archaeological methods are so dependent on technological advances?
  4. What questions do you have about history? What tools would you use to explore those questions?
  • Have the students write a paper that (a) imagines a question about the ancient past and then (b) uses the Society for American Archaeology’s web article What Do Archaeologists Do to explain what methods they would use to answer their question.
Additional Resources
  1. Article: Nature Education Knowledge’s “Dating Rocks and Fossils Using Geologic Methods

  2. Article: National Geographic’s “How Underwater Archaeology Reveals Hidden Wonders

  3. Article: The Conversation’s “Six Tools That Are Revolutionizing Archaeology By Helping Us Find Sites Without Digging

  4. Article: SAPIENS’ “Spy Plane Photos Open Windows Into Ancient Worlds

  5. TED Talk: Robin Nagle’s “What I Discovered in New York City Trash

  6. TED Talk: Ben Kacyra’s “Ancient Wonders Captured in 3D

  7. TED Talk: Sarah Parcak’s “Archaeology From Space” and “Hunting for Peru’s Lost Civilizations—With Satellites

  8. Video: Archaeology Southwest’s “Hopi Migration Traditions and Archaeology

  9. Video: Dig It With Raven’s “Dendrochronology

  10. Video: Brain Stuff’s “How Carbon Dating Works

  11. Video: Dig It With Raven’s “Seriation

Unit By

Eshe Lewis (2020)

Unit 2

Ethics in Archaeology

In a cave, three people sit around a large square dirt pit with clear string oriented above it in parallel lines. Various tools including a hammer, metal bucket, and small plastic bags are scattered around them.