Archaeology to stay part of anthropology department

Johns Hopkins University announced last month that it will offer an archaeology major separate from its current anthropology program, according to The Johns Hopkins News-Letter. The program, which is expected to begin in the fall of 2009, is pending administrative approval.

A separate archaeology program is rare in American universities. Of the College of William and Mary, the University of Virginia, James Madison University, and Virginia Tech, only U.Va. offers an interdisciplinary major in archaeology as well as anthropology.

Other schools that are comparable in size and selectivity to the College, such as Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, also do not have a separate archaeology major.

College anthropology department chairman Brad Weiss said Johns Hopkins’ move makes sense because the university did not have a set department for archaeology classes.

“While Johns Hopkins has had a fine program in sociocultural anthropology, it has never offered courses, or had faculty, in archaeology,” Weiss said. “As a consequence, scholars with some interest in archaeology have tended to work in the Classics, using some archaeological techniques to examine antiquity.”

Don’t expect the College to join Hopkins anytime soon.

When it comes to the College’s anthropology department, the consensus of the faculty is that the anthropology program does not need to divide itself into separate studies. According to Weiss, archaeology needs to be combined with anthropology so that they may benefit each other.

“At [the College], the anthropology program has, since its inception, included archaeologists, and required that all of our students — undergraduates and graduates — be familiar with anthropological perspectives as they shape archaeological practice,” Weiss said.

Anthropology professor Barbara King agreed.

“Archaeological scholarship is absolutely critical,” King said. “I can’t imagine our department without that critical piece.”

In addition, the anthropology department is heavily involved in archaeological field studies.

“We have a thriving archaeology component to our anthropology major, one that stretches from local sites — Colonial Williamsburg, Werowocomoco — to distant ones — Barbados, Turkey,” King said.

Dean of Arts and Sciences Carl Strikwerda believes that a successful career in archaeology depends on education in all aspects of anthropology.

“Generally, degrees in anthropology where the student has taken a strong body of courses in archaeology serve people well who wish to become archaeologists,” Strikwerda said. “One could argue that archaeology within a broad anthropology major is good training for a student wishing to pursue archaeology as a career.”

Although Strikwerda and Weiss agree that a separate archaeology program is not necessary, Strikwerda specified that it is not needed “at the present time.” Weiss, however, shot down any idea of a future separate program.

“Not only do we not have plans to create a separate archaeology program, we do not conceive of archaeology as a separate discipline and would oppose any attempt to characterize it in that way at [the College],” he said.


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