Sunday, August 1, 2010

Historical Archaeology of the Americas

This course explores recent theoretical, methodological, and thematic developments in historical archaeology in North America and the Caribbean. The course subjects concern the time period of 1400 AD through 1900 AD. We will examine how historical archaeologists use artifactual, documentary, and oral history evidence in interpreting the past, and how historical archaeology can contribute to our understanding of the ways by which material culture can be used to study race, class, gender, and ethnic identities.

We consider questions such as: How can we analyze the material remains of past culture groups to account for the varied ways in which human societies organized themselves? What cultural, social, political, and ecological processes contributed to continuity or change in past social forms and material culture? How do we recognize and study the past dynamics of ethnicity, class, gender, and racialization in archaeological remains? This course will similarly explore the role that historical archaeology can play in making visible those people poorly represented in the documentary record of the past, such as enslaved African Americans and Native Americans, and it will help us to appreciate their significant roles in shaping the history of the New World.

For example, the role of African Americans in building our nation's history is a central part of historical archaeology studies of this time period and region. This course will engage students in examining the ways in which African Americans dealt with and persevered against past racializing ideologies, and the lessons to be learned from such studies of past racism, including possible ways of combating racism in the present and future.

Locations and Instructor Background

Class will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 11am to 12:20pm, in Room 180 of Bevier Hall. Instructor: Chris Fennell, office in 296 Davenport Hall, phone 244-7309, email; office hours, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30am to 10:30am.

I am an anthropologist and lawyer (MA, U. Pennsylvania, 1986; JD, Georgetown U., 1989; Ph.D., U. Virginia, 2003), specializing in historical archaeology as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology. My research projects address aspects of African-American cultural heritage and the dynamics of social group affiliations among African Americans and European Americans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These research efforts include the development of interpretative frameworks focusing on regional systems theories, diaspora studies, theories concerning social group identities, ethnic group dynamics and racialization, stylistic and symbolic analysis of material culture, and the significance of consumption patterns. I am an affiliate faculty member of the Department of Landscape Architecture, the Center for African Studies, and the Department of African American Studies, and a faculty member of the College of Law.

Resources :

I have created a course web page using the University's Compass program. Enrolled students can access the course web page by logging onto the Compass system, which will display all existing web pages for your courses. Choose "Historical Archaeology" from the display list and you can access the course syllabus, assignments, lecture notes and illustrations, and other online class resources. The logon page for Compass is available at:

Internet resources on historical archaeology, which are suggested only and not required reading for this course, are available at:

Internet resources on African and African-American archaeology, cultures, and history, which are suggested only and not required reading for this course, are available at:

A non-exhaustive bibliography of other studies in historical archaeology is provided below, following the course schedule, as suggested readings only.

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