Field School in North American Archaeology
Anthropology 451
Summer 2018

Professor Vin Steponaitis []
Teaching Assistants:
      Ashley Peles []
      Gracie Riehm []
Research Assistants:
      Madelaine Azar []
      Lillian Ondus []

Course Description:  In this course you will learn basic archaeological field procedures in a “hands-on” fashion, by actually excavating an ancient site.

Course Structure:  We will generally work in the field five days each week, Monday through Friday, although the schedule may vary depending on weather and other circumstances. We will do additional lab work two nights a week. On a typical day we will leave for the site at 7:45 am sharp, and we will return to our quarters about 4:15 pm. On rainy days we will work in the lab or take field trips to nearby sites. Weekend field trips may be scheduled, but these are optional.

Course Requirements:  Grading is based on participation, performance, and a journal.

  • Participation (30%) involves being at the site each day (unless there is an acceptable excuse) and being mentally engaged in the various day-to-day activities at the site.
  • Performance (30%) involves how well a student progresses in mastering the various archaeological tasks, including (but not limited to) digging levels with a shovel, screening, troweling, excavating features, drawing plans and profiles, and taking field notes. Performance also involves how well a student is able to excavate and record data independently (once those skills have been mastered) and how the student contributes generally to the overall success of the excavation (that is, helping out wherever needed).
  • The journal (30%) comprises the written component of the course and is designed both as an exercise in descriptive observation and documentation, and as a means for staff to gauge how well a student understands the process of data recovery.
  • A final exam (10%) will focus on the readings and general concepts.

Honor Code:  Students are expected to adhere to UNC's Honor Code .

Course Syllabus:  Click here for a PDF version of the course outline and syllabus, which may be updated as the semester progresses.

Mon 5/15   Students arrive in Natchez.
Tue 5/16   Course begins; orientation day.
Wed 5/17   Begin work at the site.
Mon 5/28   Holiday (Memorial Day).
Tue 6/19   Finish work at site.
Wed 6/20   Final exam; clean-up day.
Thu 6/21   Students depart for home.



  • Steponaitis (1998). "Native American Cultures of the Precolonial South." In The Natchez District in the Old, Old South, edited by Vincas P. Steponaitis, pp. 1-22.
  • Steponaitis, Kassabaum, and O'Hear (2015). "Coles Creek Antecedents." In Medieval Mississippians: The Cahokian World, edited by Susan M. Alt and Timothy R. Pauketat, pp. 12-19. SAR Press, Santa Fe.
  • Kassabaum and Nelson (2016). "Standing Posts and Special Substances: Gathering and Ritual Deposition at Feltus (22JE500), Jefferson County, Mississippi." Southeastern Archaeology 35(2): 134-154.
  • Kassabaum, Henry, Steponaitis, and O'Hear (2014). "Between Surface and Summit: the Process of Mound Construction at Feltus." Archaeological Prospection 21: 27–37.
  • Kidder (2004). "Prehistory of the Lower Mississippi Valley after 800 B.C." In Handbook of North American Indians, Southeast, vol. 14, edited by William C. Sturtevant.
  • Roe and Schilling (2010). "Coles Creek." In Archaeology of Louisiana, edited by Mark A. Rees, pp. 157-171.
  • Brown (1998). "The Eighteenth-Century Natchez Chiefdom." In The Natchez District in the Old, Old South, edited by Vincas P. Steponaitis, pp. 49-65.


  • Brain (1971). "The Lower Mississippi Valley in North American Prehistory." Manuscript.
  • Fritz (1998). "The Development of Native Agricultural Economies in the Lower Mississippi Valley." In The Natchez District in the Old, Old South, edited by Vincas P. Steponaitis, pp. 23-47.
  • Fritz & Kidder (1993). "Recent Investigations into Prehistoric Agriculture in the Lower Mississippi Valley." Southeastern Archaeology 12(1).
  • Kidder (1992). "Coles Creek Period Social Organization and Evolution in Northeast Louisiana." In Lords of the Southeast: Social Inequality and the Native Elites of Southeastern North America, edited by Alex W. Barker and Timothy R. Pauketat.
  • Kidder (1998). "Mississippi Period Mound Groups and Communities in the Lower Mississippi Valley." In Mississippian Towns and Sacred Spaces, edited by R. Barry Lewis and Charles Stout.
  • Kidder (2002b). "Woodland Period Archaeology of the Lower Mississippi Valley." In The Woodland Southeast, edited by David G. Anderson and Robert C. Mainfort, Jr.
  • Miller (1999). "General Overview of Natchez History," pp. 11-55. Manuscript.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department of Anthropology, UNC-CH
Archaeology Program,UNC-CH
Curriculum in Archaeology, UNC-CH
Research Laboratories of Archaeology, UNC-CH

Last modified 5/11/18.