Anthropology 250
Fall 2023

Last modified 11/16/23. Refresh browser to see the latest changes below. Click here for a PDF version.

Professor: Vincas Steponaitis

  • Office: Alumni Building, Room 109
  • Hours: Mon 1:00-2:00 pm, and by appointment (arrange by email)
  • Email:

Teaching Assistant: Emily Scolaro

  • Office: Alumni 303C
  • Hours: By appointment (arrange by email)
  • Email:

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. The lines of evidence to be illustrated and discussed in the lectures and readings will include settlement patterns, architecture, food remains, funerary objects, and everyday tools.

Curricular Requirements:  This course fulfills major and/or minor requirements for Anthropology, Archaeology, and American Indian Studies. It also satisfies the Engagement with the Human Past focus capacity (FC-PAST) in the Ideas in Action curriculum, as well as the Historical Analysis (HS) and World Before 1750 (WB) requirements in the Making Connections curriculum. 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 three lectures per week (MWF 11:15-12:05). Videos and guest lectures may be scheduled at various times during the semester. Note that I reserve the right to make adjustments to the readings and course schedule (including due dates) over the course of the semester, as opportunities arise and circumstances warrant, but the basic structure of the course will remain the same. Any changes will be announced as early as possible.

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 Texts:
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: three take-home essays (25% each) and a final exam (25%). 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:  For links to slide presentations, click here.

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

  • 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
8/21-8/23    Introduction to the Course; Basics of Archaeology

Part 1. First Peopling
8/25-8/28    Early Sites
8/30-9/1    Paleoindian Cultures, West
9/6-9/8    Paleoindian Cultures, East; Megafaunal Extinctions

Part 2. Foraging to Farming in the East
9/11-9/13    Eastern Archaic Cultures; Early Archaic Lifeways
9/15-9/18    Later Archaic Lifeways; Early Farming in the East
9/20-9/27    Long-Distance Exchange; Early Mounds

Part 3. Rise of Complexity in the East
9/29-10/9    Early and Middle Woodland cultures
10/11-11/6    Late Woodland and Mississippian cultures

Part 4. Rise of Complexity in the Southwest
11/8-11/13    Southwest Overview; Archaic and Basketmaker Cultures, 200-700 CE.
11/15-11/27    Ancestral Pueblo cultures, 700-1500 CE.
11/29-12/1    Mogollon and Hohokam cultures.

12/4    Norse settlements.
12/15    Final examination (12 pm)

Due Dates for Assignments
9/18    Take-home essay 1 due (5 pages)
10/16    Take-home essay 2 due (5 pages)
11/13    Take-home essay 3 due (5 pages)

Honor Code:  Students are expected to adhere to UNC's Honor Code. In particular, you must refrain from “lying, cheating, or stealing” in the academic context. If you are unsure about which actions violate that honor code, please see me or consult the web (

Attendance Policy:  As stated in the University’s Class Attendance Policy, no right or privilege exists that permits a student to be absent from any class meetings, except for these university approved absences: (1) authorized university activities; (2) disability, religious observance, or pregnancy; and (3) significant health condition and/or personal/family emergency. See the Class Attendance Policy for details ( I am willing to work with students to accommodate absences that do not fall within these categories (e.g., a job interview or a family wedding). To make such arrangements, please contact me as early as possible in advance.

Accessibility Resources:  Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS) receives requests for accommodations, and through the Student and Applicant Accommodations Policy determines eligibility and identifies reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or chronic medical conditions to mitigate or remove the barriers experienced in accessing University courses, programs and activities. ARS also offers its Testing Center resources to students and instructors to facilitate the implementation of testing accommodations. See the ARS website ( for contact information or connect by email (

Counseling and Psychological Services:  UNC-Chapel Hill is strongly committed to addressing the mental health needs of a diverse student body. The Heels Care Network website is a place to access the many mental health resources at Carolina. CAPS is the primary mental health provider for students, offering timely access to consultation and connection to clinically appropriate services. Go to their website ( or visit their facilities on the third floor of the Campus Health building for an initial evaluation to learn more. Students can also call CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658 for immediate assistance.

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. Reports can be made to the Office of Equal Opportunity & Compliance online ( or by contacting the University’s Title IX Coordinator (Elizabeth Hall, or the Report and Response Coordinators in the EOC Office ( Confidential resources include Counseling and Psychological Services and the Gender Violence Services Coordinators ( Additional resources are available online (