Anthropology 250
Fall 2021

[Updated 11/16/21]

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Professor: Vincas Steponaitis

  • Office: Alumni Building, Room 108
  • Hours: By appointment (set up by email)
  • Email:

Teaching Assistant: Colleen Betti

Course Description:  This course will survey the archaeology of North America, with an emphasis on the eastern and southwestern United States. It is intended for anyone interested in learning more about American Indian cultures, North America’s ancient past, and how archaeological evidence can be used to reconstruct this past. It fulfills major and/or minor requirements for Anthropology, Archaeology, and American Indian Studies. It also satisfies the Historical Analysis (HS) and World Before 1750 (WB) general education requirements. There are no prerequisites.

Course Objectives:  Students who take this course will learn the basic outlines of the pre-colonial history in the eastern and southwestern United States, focusing on American Indian lifeways and how they changed through time. The course is structured in four parts: (1) the first peopling of North America during the last Ice Age, (2) the transition from foraging to farming economies in the East, (3) the development of social complexity and inequality in the East, and (4) the development of sedentary communities and social complexity in the Southwest. Students will gain an understanding of the current state of knowledge in each of these domains; they will also learn the basics archaeological inference.

Course Structure:  There will be two lectures per week (Tu, Th 2:00-3:15). Videos and guest lectures may be scheduled at various times during the semester. Note that I reserve the right to make minor adjustments to the course schedule and readings over the course of the semester, as opportunities arise and circumstances warrant, but the basic structure of the course will remain the same.

Course Syllabus:  Click here for a PDF version of the latest course syllabus. Note that the paper syllabus does not contain all the information and links that appear here in the course web site.

Required Textbooks:
George Milner, The Moundbuilders: Ancient Peoples of Eastern North America (2nd edition).
Stephen Plog, Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest (2nd edition).

Other Required Readings:  Links to additional readings on the course syllabus are posted here. Note that readings marked “Optional” are not required, but are provided as supplemental resources.

Course Requirements:  In addition to the assigned readings, course requirements will include the following: four take-home essays (20% each) and a final exam (20%). Regular attendance in class is expected; persistent, unexcused absences will also affect your final grade.

Course Web Site:  This web site contains not only all the information in the course syllabus, but also web versions of slide shows pertinent to the class and links to other relevant web sites. It will be continually updated throughout the semester. Note also that all the assigned and optional articles published in Science, Scientific American, American Antiquity, and other journals are available online through the UNC Library catalog.

Slides and Lecture Videos:  For links to slide presentations, click here. For links to lecture videos, click here.

Additional Resources:  Google Earth overlays, placemarks and other resources will be posted below as they are assigned:

  • Google Earth: Physiographic Regions [KMZ]
  • Google Earth: Poverty Point sites [KMZ]
  • Google Earth: Polk Place, UNC [KMZ]
  • Google Earth: Chaco Canyon [KMZ] [XLS]

Using Google Earth: To download the Google Earth placemark files, click on one of the links above With Google Earth (a free download) installed. Then double-click on the placemark file and Google Earth will take you there. Sites will be flagged with pushpins, and you can zoom into each by clicking on the site's name in the "Places" window on the left.

Course Schedule
8/11-8/13    Introduction to the Course; Basics of Archaeology

Part 1. First Peopling
8/26-8/31    Early Sites
9/2-9/7    Paleoindian Cultures, West
9/9-9/14    Paleoindian Cultures, East; Megafaunal Extinctions

Part 2. Foraging to Farming in the East
9/16    Eastern Archaic Cultures; Early Archaic Lifeways
9/21-9/23    Later Archaic Lifeways; Early Farming in the East
9/28-9/30    Long-Distance Exchange; Early Mounds

Part 3. Rise of Complexity in the East
10/5-10/19    Early and Middle Woodland cultures
10/26-11/4    Late Woodland and Mississippian cultures

Part 4. Rise of Complexity in the Southwest
11/9    Southwest Overview; Archaic and Basketmaker Cultures, 200-700 CE.
11/11-11/18    Ancestral Pueblo cultures, 700-1500 CE.
11/23    Mogollon and Hohokam cultures.

11/30    Norse settlements.
12/7    Final examination (12 pm)

Due Dates for Assignments
9/16    Take-home essay 1 due (5 pages)
10/7    Take-home essay 2 due (5 pages)
11/4    Take-home essay 3 due (5 pages)
11/23    Take-home essay 4 due (optional)

Honor Code:  Students are expected to adhere to UNC's Honor Code. Please note that you are encouraged to work together on exercises, to ask questions, and to refer to the readings as you are doing the analysis for each exercise. You may generate graphs, tables, and other illustrations jointly and share them freely within your working groups. However, the write-up of each exercise must be your own work. If you have any questions about this policy, please feel free to ask.

Accessibility Resources:  UNC-Chapel Hill facilitates the implementation of reasonable accommodations, including resources and services, for students with disabilities, chronic medical conditions, a temporary disability or pregnancy complications resulting in barriers to fully accessing University courses, programs and activities. Accommodations are determined through the Office of Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS) for individuals with documented qualifying disabilities in accordance with applicable state and federal laws. See the ARS website ( for contact information or connect by email (

Counseling and Psychological Services:  CAPS is strongly committed to addressing the mental health needs of a diverse student body through timely access to consultation and connection to clinically appropriate services, whether for short or long-term needs. Go to their website: or visit their facilities on the third floor of the Campus Health Services building for a walk-in evaluation to learn more.

Title IX Resources:  Any student who is impacted by discrimination, harassment, interpersonal (relationship) violence, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, or stalking is encouraged to seek resources on campus or in the community. Please contact the Director of Title IX Compliance (, Report and Response Coordinators in the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (, Counseling and Psychological Services (confidential), or the Gender Violence Services Coordinators (confidential, to discuss your specific needs. Additional resources are available online (

UNC Community Standards and Guidelines:  This fall semester, while we are in the midst of a global pandemic, all enrolled students are required to wear a mask covering your mouth and nose at all times in the classroom and when meeting in person. This requirement is to protect our educational community — your classmates and me — as we learn together. If you choose not to wear a mask, or wear it improperly, I will ask you to leave immediately, and I will submit a report to the Office of Student Conduct. At that point you will be disenrolled from this course for the protection of our educational community. An exemption to the mask wearing community standard will not typically be considered to be a reasonable accommodation. Individuals with a disability or health condition that prevents them from safely wearing a face mask must seek alternative accommodations through Accessibility Resources and Services ( For additional information, see Carolina Together (