ANTHROPOLOGY AND ARCHAEOLOGY
BACHELOR OF ARTS
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.
- “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.
All Anthropology/Archaeology students complete 9 required Anthropology Core courses (29 credits); a set of Experiential Learning courses, including an internship or independent research experience (7-8 credits); a selection of Anthropology Electives, numbered 200 or above (12 credits); and a set of Cognate Electives completed in other academic units on campus (9 credits).
ANTH 107: Language and Culture
This course is designed to introduce students to the complex study of language and its role in culture and society. We will begin by examining what constitutes language. Although not a major portion of the class, language structure, including morphology and syntax will be covered. We will examine how language is used by different peoples to construct and maintain social values and relationships, worldviews, and personal identities. Some questions addressed throughout the semester include: How do children acquire linguistic competence in their language? How is language used by people of different genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic classes, and geographical placement? This course is primarily lecture-based format, but students will have an opportunity to engage in their own anthropological linguistic fieldwork.
ANTH 216: Plants and People
People depend on plants for food, clothing, shelter, medicines, and a host of other daily needs. This course examines the varied and complex interrelationships between plants and people. Major topics include domestication processes, the Green Revolution, intentional and unintentional modification of plant communities, and an examination of those plants that provide drugs, food, beverages, and fibers necessary to daily life.
ANTH 347: Anthropological Ethics
This course explores the ethical, legal and practical dimensions of contemporary anthropology and its sub-disciplines through a consideration of topics such as anthropology as a profession, ethics and codes of conduct, national and international approaches to cultural/heritage management, the relationship between anthropology and diverse publics, and anthropological education. It exposes students to the many issues that may arise during a career in anthropology (or in the social science) and prepares them to engage them productively. Emphasis is placed on helping students develop the skills necessary to formulate, discuss and defend their own set of anthropological values through critical analysis and study of case studies, ethical principles, and codes of conduct.
All Anthropology/Archaeology students complete 9 required Anthropology Core courses (29 credits); a set of Experiential Learning courses, including an internship or independent research experience (7-8 credits); a selection of Anthropology Electives, numbered 200 or above (12 credits); and a set of Cognate Electives completed in other academic units on campus (9 credits). Students who pursue the Archaeology Concentration are a bit more limited in their choices of Anthropology and Cognate Electives. They complete a slightly higher number of credit hours than those on the general B.A. track (63-64 credits in the major vs. 57-58 credits). This difference reflects a greater emphasis on archaeological laboratory skills and the requirement of specific cognate courses in statistics and geology.
ANTH 130/131: Archaeology and Lab
This course examines the methods, goals, and substantive results of contemporary anthropological archaeology. An emphasis on the archaeological techniques and concepts archaeologists use for making sense of the past are stressed, and numerous case studies are presented which explore past human practice from the development of human culture through to contemporary society, with a particular focus on humanity's unique relationship with material culture and the environment. The laboratory course provides the student basic exposure to contemporary archaeological field methods from both a theoretical and hands-on perspective. Topics include: archaeological survey techniques; mapping; excavation procedures; screening and data retrieval; field and lab processing; and documentation.
ANTH 224: Archaeological Field Methods
This course is designed to expose students to the full spectrum of field methods now in use in contemporary anthropological archaeology. Students learn the rationale, technical details, and results of a wide array of field methods in the context of site location, site characterization, and full scale data recovery of prehistoric and historic archaeological sites. Classroom studies are complemented by hands on training and critical exercises.
ANTH 229: Lithic Studies
As a significant component of most archaeological assemblages, lithic artifacts are a primary source of data informing explanations and inferences of human behavior and practice. Following a review of the history of stone tool technology and the mechanics of its production, students learn to conduct several analytical methods and interpret their results. The course explores the practical, logistical, social, and environmental factors involved in technological decision-making, while considering the theoretical lenses through which archaeologists examine this data in pursuit of cultural information.
ANTH 342: Funerary Archaeology
Students are introduced to the diversity of funerary practices in the past and the present, and explore the role of funerary rituals within communities. They examine the consequences of how archaeologists and anthropologists have approached death in their work. Students also address how death has become politicized in the ongoing conflict between indigenous or descendent communities and scientists over the ownership and control of human remains and the past.
Students pursuing a Minor in Anthropology/Archaeology must complete the following requirements.
Two of the following courses:
- ANTH 107: Language and Culture (3 credits)
- ANTH 112: World Cultures (3 credits)
- ANTH 120/121: Physical Anthropology and Lab (4 credits)
- ANTH 130/131: Archaeology and Lab (4 credits)
Two of the following courses:
- ANTH-designated courses at any level (variable credits)
Two of the following courses:
- ANTH-designated courses numbered 200 or above (variable credits)
- 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.
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.
HISTORICAL ARTIFACT AND GRAVESTONE LABORATORY
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.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROCESSING LABORATORY
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.
LITHIC ARTIFACT ANALYSIS LABORATORY
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.
All Anthropology/Archaeology majors must maintain an overall 2.5 GPA and a 2.75 GPA in Anthropology/Archaeology major courses. The faculty recommend that students repeat courses with grades of D, especially if the class is required for the major. Required courses receiving an F course grade will have to be repeated.
Students’ academic progress, as well as the degree to which they demonstrate development of the Program Student Learning Outcomes, is evaluated in the spring semester of the sophomore year. This Sophomore/Academic Review is a gateway to starting the final portfolio project that completes a student’s time at Mercyhurst. Students and members of the faculty and staff in Anthropology/Archaeology work together to complete this evaluation. Those identified as “at risk” are helped to design an Academic Success Plan for future semesters. Progress on this success plan is reevaluated in the spring semester of the student’s junior year. Students failing to achieve the minimum GPA or otherwise complete the Anthropology/Archaeology B.A. may receive a B.A. degree in General Anthropology Studies.
In the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy, our Anthropology/Archaeology program fosters a vision of the discipline that is socially merciful, globally responsible, compassionately hospitable, intellectually creative, and reflectively aware. We seek to train anthropologists who are “ambassadors of service.” Consequently, much of our coursework and mentorship focuses on public engagement, ethical practice, and the development of a reflexive professional identity for each student.
Our students learn methods of archaeological research design, geophysical survey, excavation, and artifact mapping and recovery on a 6-week field course. Field school locations may vary from year to year along the Great Lakes. Mercyhurst is among a handful of university anthropology programs that offers its students the opportunity to complete an ethnographic field school. The locations of this field school may also vary from year to year in Erie or the surrounding communities. View more photos here.
Our commitment to research and individualized mentoring enables students to develop research projects and pursue internships that prepare them for their desired post-graduate path. Throughout these experiences, students will:
- learn research methods and process.
- gain expertise in data analysis.
- develop critical thinking and intellectual maturity.
- acquire disciplinary writing skills.
- excel in a collaborative work environment.
- conduct their own research and author conference presentations and publications.
- contribute to the profession as students.
Past Student Research Includes:
Katarina Fitzpatrick ’15 Plasmar en Oleo: An Ethnographic Study of the Painters of San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala
Elizabeth Goldberg ’17: An Analysis of Cordage from Promontory Caves, UT
Lisa Iadanza ’16: Queering the Heteronormal: Memorial Practices in the Historic Cemeteries of Erie County
Lauren Osmialowsky ’16: Climate, Tree Rings, and Pinus Ponderosa: Implications for Dendroclimatology at Fort Burgwin, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
Pochereth Payne ‘15: Distinguishing Between Darts and Arrows among Prehistoric Eastern Pennsylvania Diagnostic Projectile Points: A Typical and Chronological Analysis of Projectile Points Using the Dart-Arrow Index
Vianna Quach ’17: A Resettlement Agency’s Responses to Resettling Syrian Refugees
Clara Summa ’16: An Archaeological and Documentary Search for the Conneaut Division of the Erie Extension Canal
Erica Weiss ’17: Representation of Native Americans in Museums via the Diorama Exhibit: A Critical Perspective
Anthropology students are employable directly after graduation, and some complete an additional degree for certain career paths. Our graduates are field archaeologists, cultural resource managers, material culture analysists, historic preservation officers, public history interpreters, military advisers, museum educators and specialists, teachers and professors, auction house specialists, as well as policy makers, advisers, or facilitators in many non-profit organizations.
Many other fields like medicine, education, the legal profession, international relations, geography and geosystems, and the civil service favor applicants with degrees in Anthropology. We have graduates there too!
Anthropology jobs exist in cultural and environmental resource firms, in museums, in state historic preservation offices, in schools and universities, in many non-profit settings, in the military, in local, state, and federal governments, in private firms and corporations, and in the communications industry.
- receive individualized guidance in career discernment and preparation.
- are sought-after in leadership positions and in field and laboratory settings in competitive job markets.
- are prepared for a diversity of employment and internship opportunities.
- have flexibility in a changing career market.
Some of the jobs currently held by our alumni:
- Principal Investigator, AllStar Ecology LLC, a Cultural Resources Firm (WV)
- Geographic Information Systems Manager & Archaeologist, Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, DE/VA
- Assistant Director, Kentucky Office of State Archaeology, University of Kentucky
- Occupational therapy aide, St. Michael’s School, Navajo Nation
- Archaeological Monitor and Curation Specialist, Ft. Benning, Georgia
- Fulbright teaching scholar, Taiwan
- English teacher, South Korea
- Coin Consignment Director, Heritage Auctions (TX)
- Manager, AM Global Consulting, Washington, DC
- Creator and host of a public radio program about archaeology and history, Bellows Falls, VT
- Archaeological technician, Lincoln National Forest, NM
- Archaeological supervisor, Markosky Engineering, PA
- Director of Client and Public Relations, Cordier Auctions & Appraisals, PA
Anthropology/Archaeology students, staff, and faculty provide hands-on archaeology- and anthropology-themed experiences to young people and adults on campus, at our field school, in elementary- and secondary-education classrooms, at community festivals, and in regional cultural and historical institutions.
At Mercyhurst, we believe in engaging the public at all levels in order to share our findings, promote the preservation of historic resources, and contribute to the dialogue concerning human issues and problems. Whether we’re making stone tools with kids at summer camps and school groups, conducting mock excavations at local history events, updating our Portal to the Past exhibit at the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum, enhancing local museum exhibits, assisting in the historic interpretations of regional sites, performing cemetery conservation projects, you won’t have to look far to find us!
The Department of Anthropology/Archaeology has established partnerships and collaborative arrangements with a number of organizations that provide opportunities for our students to expand the breadth and depth of their anthropology training and perspective. Internship opportunities are encouraged and have been pursued by our students at many institutions and organizations including Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Erie History Center, and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.
Mercyhurst University faculty and students have the ability to participate in a series of unique summer Study Abroad experiences. These trips, which are tied directly into the Mercyhurst core curriculum, provide students with numerous opportunities to enhance their classroom learning with lectures and visits to renowned cultural and historical sites.
Imagine a discussion of gender politics during an outdoor dinner in Assisi, Italy, enjoying student led presentations at some of Britain’s most famous archaeological sites, or poetry readings at Yate’s Irish tower at Thoor Baile. Students have also had opportunities to sign the peace wall during a Belfast Troubles tour, taken final exams with Oxford University College as a backdrop, and explored the treasures of the Vatican firsthand.
Formal lectures, critical discussions, and powerful experiences characterize these trips, in which students and faculty members explore course themes in a variety of powerful and beautiful settings. Student presentations, journaling, and exploration make these trips into remarkable experiences that last a lifetime. Europe, Japan, Egypt, Argentina, and the Galapagos Islands are just a sampling of our past and future destinations.
Anthropology Club is a student organization dedicated to providing extra-curricular archaeological and anthropological experiences. Club members explore traditional technologies such as stone tool and cordage manufacture, raise funds to attend museums and significant archaeological sites, host guest speakers, and travel to professional conferences nationwide.
Our department is committed to the education and training of the next generation of anthropologists and archaeologists. As a four-field discipline concerned with the cultural and biological expressions of humanity past and present, Anthropology is a diverse endeavor characterized by approaches and methodologies drawn from both the sciences and the humanities. Therefore, a wide range of core information, concepts, methodologies, as well as the ability to mobilize these resources critically and independently, form the skill set that we strive to impart to our students.
ResourcesMain Quote Resource
American Anthropological Association
American Association of Physical Anthropologists
European Association of Archaeologists
Society for American Archaeology
Society for Applied Anthropology
Society for Historical Archaeology
Mercyhurst M.S. in Secondary Education 4+1 Program