Anthropology 550
Spring 2024

Last modified 2/29/24. Refresh browser to see the latest changes below.

Professor Vin Steponaitis

  • Office: Alumni Building, Room 108
  • Hours: Tuesdays 3:30-4:30, and by appointment
  • 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 the late Pleistocene to the beginnings of European colonization. The lines of evidence considered will include settlement patterns, architecture, food remains, funerary objects, and everyday tools. This is a challenging course, and students are expected to come to class prepared.

Course Structure:  The seminar meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:00 to 3:15 pm. 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 12th. 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.

Course Requirements:  In addition to the assigned readings, requirements include class participation (30%, including the class discussions and written exercises), an end-of-semester oral report (10%), a term paper (30%, due 5/2 @ 5 pm), and a final exam (30%, 5/3 @ 12 pm). Note that regular class attendance is essential. It will be taken into account by reducing your class participation grade by 5% 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.

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
  • Week 10 Readings: Mississippian Origins and Cahokia
  • Week 11 Readings: Moundville
  • Week 12 Readings: Mississippian Iconography

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

  • Google Earth overlay: Physiographic Regions [KMZ]
  • Exercise: Rivers and Physiographic Regions [PDF]


1/11     Background and overview
1/16-1/18     Paleoindian arrival
1/23-1/25S     Paleoindian chronology and settlement
1/30-2/1     Early Archaic
2/6-2/8     Middle Archaic
2/15     [open]
2/20-2/22     Poverty Point
2/27-2/29     Eastern Agricultural Complex
3/5-3/7     Middle Woodland
      [spring break]
3/19-3/21     Late Woodland
3/26     [open]
4/2-4/4     Mississippian Origins and Cahokia
4/9-4/11     Moundville
4/16-4/18     Mississippian iconography
4/23-4/30     Student presentations
5/3     Final exam (12 pm)
5/3     Term paper due

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 (

Generative AI Usage Guidance:  Use of generative AI in your coursework is based on the following principles: (1) AI should help you think, not think for you. Use these tools to give you ideas, perform research (in compliance with point 2 below), and analyze problems. Do not use them to do your work for you, e.g., do not enter an assignment question into ChatGPT and copy the response as your answer. (2) Engage with AI technologies responsibly, critically evaluating AI-generated outputs and considering potential biases, limitations, and ethical implications in your analysis and discussions. (3) You are 100% responsible for your final product. (4) You are the user; if AI makes a mistake and you use it, then it’s your mistake. (5) The use of AI must be open and documented. (6) The use of any AI in the creation of your work must be declared in your submission and explained. Details on how to source your AI usage are explained below. For more information go here.

UNC Class 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 UNC Class Attendance Policy for details ( Also see the "Course Requirements" above.

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 (

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