Anthropology 550
Spring 2020

Professor Vincas Steponaitis

  • Office: Alumni Building, Room 108
  • Hours: by appointment (set up by email or call 919-962-7748)
  • Email:

Course Description:  This seminar will focus on current issues and interpretations in the archaeology of the American South. It is intended for anyone with a serious interest in the ancient Indian cultures of this region, as understood through the lens of archaeological research. Through weekly readings and discussions, students will explore the lifeways and changes that characterized each major period of the South's ancient history, from 16,000 years ago to the beginnings of European colonization. This will be a challenging course, and students are expected to come to class prepared.

Course Structure:  In general, discussion topics and readings will be assigned on weekly basis, with final readings posted a full week before they’re due. Typically, the readings for each topic will include some titles that everyone reads, and others that are divided among the students in the class. Students must do the assigned readings before each class meets. In class, students will discuss the general readings, and also present brief reports and critiques on the readings specifically assigned to them. Brief written exercises may be assigned if needed. In addition, each student will be expected to write a 10-15 page term paper on a topic of their choosing; this topic must be discussed with the instructor as soon as possible, and certainly no later than February 6th. At the end of the semester, each student will briefly present the results of the term-paper project orally to the class, and will also hand in the full written version.

Meeting Times:  The seminar meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:00 to 3:15 pm in Alumni 203.

Course Requirements:  In addition to the assigned readings, requirements include class participation (30%, including the class discussions, mini-essays, and exercises), an end-of-semester oral report (10%), a term paper (30%, due 4/28), and a final exam (30%, 5/4 @ 12 pm). Note that regular class attendance is essential. It will be taken into account by reducing your grade 10% for each unexcused absence. If you must miss class, please discuss it with me in advance if possible. If this is not possible, then please contact me as soon as possible afterwards. In general, illness or unavoidable family obligations (like weddings) are the only valid reasons for an absence.

Textbook:  David G. Anderson and Kenneth E. Sassaman (2012). Recent Developments in Southeastern Archaeology: From Colonization to Complexity. SAA Press, Washington, D.C.

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

Course Syllabus:  Posted below are a PDF version of the course outline and weekly readings, which will be updated throughout the semester:

  • Course outline [PDF]
  • Week 1 Readings: Introduction and Overviews [PDF]
  • Week 2 Readings: Paleoindian Arrival [PDF]
  • Week 3 Readings: Paleoindian Chronology and Settlement [PDF]
  • Week 4 Readings: Early Archaic Period [PDF]
  • Week 5 Readings: Middle Archaic Period [PDF]
  • Week 6 Readings: Poverty Point [PDF]
  • Week 7 Readings: Eastern Agricultural Complex [PDF]
  • Week 8 Readings: Middle Woodland Period [PDF]
  • Week 9 Readings: Late Woodland Period [PDF]
  • Week 10 Readings: Mississippian Origins and Cahokia [PDF]
  • Week 11 Readings: Moundville and Mississippian Iconography [PDF]

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

  • Exercise: Rivers and Physiographic Regions [PDF]
  • Google Earth overlay: Physiographic Regions [KMZ]
  • Google Earth overlay: Paleoindian sites [KMZ]
  • Google Earth overlay: Poverty Point sites [KMZ]
  • Final Exam Study Questions [PDF]

1/9   Introduction and overview
1/14-1/23   Paleoindian period
1/28-2/6   Archaic period
2/11-2/13   Student research (no class)
2/18-2/20   Poverty Point and early mounds
3/3-3/5   Eastern Agricultural Complex
  [Extended Spring Break]
3/24-4/7   Woodland period
4/9-4/17   Mississippi period: Cahokia and Moundville
4/21   Mississippian iconography
4/23-4/24   Student presentations (in class)

Last modified 4/14/20.