2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


SMITH, Jennifer R., Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington Univ in St Louis, Campus Box 1169, One Brookings Drive, St Louis, MO 63130, jensmith@levee.wustl.edu

Designing an interdisciplinary undergraduate major presents a series of challenges, foremost among them that of achieving the necessary balance of breadth and depth within the relevant subject areas, while keeping the overall number of required courses low enough to make the course of study reasonable within the usual constraints of the student’s degree program. At many universities, establishing a geoarchaeology major would also require overcoming additional logistical hurdles resulting from earth science and anthropology/archaeology departments being housed under different administrative units (e.g., College of Science vs. College of Social Sciences and Humanities). Finally, despite the breadth of subjects and concepts covered under the umbrella of “geoarchaeology”, an undergraduate major in geoarchaeology may strike some administrators or faculty members as overly specialized, and unlikely to attract interest from the undergraduate population. Much of this difficulty can be resolved by allying a fledgling geoarchaeology program with an existing program in environmental studies, as a track within that major or as a “special program” in environmental studies. Doing so removes the administrative burden from the geoarchaeology program itself, while the popularity of the environmental studies major provides a steady stream of potential geoarchaeologists. Due to the nature of environmental studies, most environmental programs represent possible (and administration-approved) solutions to the issues of breadth vs. depth, overall number of required courses, and the logistical and philosophical interweaving of the natural and social sciences. As geoarchaeology is in part concerned with the reconstruction of human-environment interaction from the geological and archaeological record, including such topics as subsistence economies, raw material acquisition and use, and the response of human societies to climate change, environmental studies can be a logical home for geoarchaeology. Indeed, including geoarchaeology within environmental studies provides the environmental studies community with a deep time perspective on many environmental issues that would otherwise be missing.