Anthropology/Archaeology students at Mercyhurst explore the four major subfields of Anthropology: Archaeology, Sociocultural Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, and Linguistic Anthropology. Our emphasis on highly individualized mentoring, hands-on instruction, intercultural research, and communication skills affords excellent career versatility and leads to work and educational opportunities in a wide variety of corporate, government, non-profit, museum, educational, and other settings. Our program's career-oriented approach and flexible curriculum offer students abundant opportunities to match their coursework and experiences to their desired post-graduate outcomes.

In The Classroom

Analysis of 70,000 year-old Neandertal meals shows ingredients that are wild ancestors of many modern plants: wheat, barley, peas, lentils, almonds, pistachios, and mustard seeds. So, our Archaeology students attempted to recreate a Middle Paleolithic meal by cooking up some cave food! After soaking the ingredients to soften them and remove tannins, they used stones to pound them. To create a torch, they collected sap from local trees, formed it into a baseball-sized wad, and wrapped cattails around it, nestling it all in the crook of a stick. After hanging a Dutch oven over the torch, it ignited gloriously, but the dripping sap on fallen leaves became a fire concern. In the end, the food mixture was transferred to an electric skillet and served up in a decidedly modern fashion. 

neandertals meal

Fast Facts

  • “Anthropologist” and “Archaeologist” both consistently rank among the top 10 Best Science Jobs by U. S. News and World Report. 
  • Mercyhurst is ranked as a "Top-20 Value" program for a degree in Archaeology by College Values Online.

  • Our program emphasizes close mentoring and hands-on training inside and outside of the classroom—students will learn excavation methods, ethnographic research, traditional skills, and gain experience in laboratory facilities dedicated to multiple types of artifact and data analysis.

In The Classroom

Make no bones about it, Dr. Mary Ann Owoc sure loves her cemeteries! Taking learning beyond the classroom, the associate professor recently brought a group of Mercyhurst Anthropology/Archaeology students to a local cemetery for an afternoon of grave marker restoration. 
Dating to the early 19th century, many of the markers in the cemetery had fallen over or become covered in moss after decades of exposure to the elements. Dr. Owoc and her students identified the highest priority markers, documented them, and developed and executed a management plan that includes cleaning and resetting the headstones that are in greatest need. Dr. Owoc and her class plan to return to the cemetery soon and continue their care of the headstones.


Learning Outcomes

  • Apply anthropological/archaeological concepts and field/lab methods to new situations.
  • Demonstrate effective oral and written communication skills using anthropological/ archaeological theory and data.
  • Evaluate the ethical underpinnings of anthropology/archaeology and articulate a set of ethics that will guide student’s own practice.
  • Assess their own skills, experience, and interests within anthropology/archaeology and formulate plans for their professional futures.

Anthropology/Archaeology and Respecting Human Rights

The Department of Anthropology/Archaeology has a firm commitment to equity, social justice, and human rights for the world’s peoples. We believe that human diversity is both historically and culturally integral to the fabric of our society, and we explore systems of global economics, policies, and unique histories that shape the lived experiences of people in our communities and around the world (in the past, and at present). We support institutions and initiatives that recognize and uphold the full humanity of all individuals, and actively promote social changes that make the world safer and more just for all.

In The Classroom

Students in the Concepts in Archaeology class tried their hands at making stone tools like those that have been produced around the world for millions of years. Many artifacts found at archaeological sites are tools and debris left behind by stone toolmakers of the past. Learning how these artifacts were made contributes valuable insights when analyzing and interpreting stone tools in archaeological collections. Students also practiced target shooting using ancient tools called atlatls and darts. Atlatls are spear-throwers used by various cultures to increase the distance and force with which a dart can be thrown. In North America, the atlatl was sometimes used for hunting prior to the adoption of the bow and arrow. Our students enjoy many hands-on activities such as this!

students and stone tools

State Authorization

This program may fulfill a portion of the requirements leading to licensure within this field. Please visit the State Authorization webpage to review the requirements for licensure by state or program.


The Conservation Laboratory is dedicated to the assessment, documentation, stabilization, and preservation of materials in archaeological field and laboratory environments. Staff and students focus on preventative conservation of durable inorganic and non-durable organic objects with the goal of providing stable environments for artifacts by regularly monitoring facility and collection conditions, and utilizing appropriate archival-quality materials for object storage. A freeze dryer, a walk-in climate controlled storage facility, and a Parylene deposition system are available for use.


Specializing in the analysis of materials and cemeteries dating to the post-European Contact period, students study and analyze materials such as ceramic wares, glass bottles, beads, and cemeteries and grave markers to learn about our more recent past. Students work with local cemeteries to develop and operationalize gravestone restoration and analysis projects. These hands-on experiences provide excellent career preparation and training as students learn how to collaborate and research in a laboratory setting.


Our Processing Lab is the first stop for artifacts recovered during our archaeological field projects. Students clean, label, and catalog archaeological specimens while learning proper artifact curation and database creation methods. Once this is accomplished, the artifacts are then sent to one of our specialty labs for analysis.


Dedicated to the analysis of chipped- and ground-stone artifacts, students collect data that informs on the manufacture and use of stone tools. Students experiment with stone tool replication and uses, and our collection of artifacts from around the world represents 300,000 of stone tool manufacture.