Program Description      

The archaeology program at the University of Illinois provides students with opportunities to specialize in historical archaeology, historical perspectives in archaeology and anthropology, and heritage studies. Founded by Julian H. Steward, Donald Lathrap, John C. McGregor, and Charles Bareis, our archaeology program has traditionally emphasized strong graduate training in archaeological methodologies, comparative approaches, theory and fieldwork. Our program offers Ph.D. and M.A. degrees, including an M.A. tracks concentrating on Cultural Heritage and Landscape and Museum Studies, offered in conjunction with the Department of Landscape Architecture. (We do not offer a terminal M.A. track; students earn M.A. degrees as part of the Ph.D. program.) The Departments of Anthropology and Landscape Architecture also host the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (CHAMP) program, an interdisciplinary collaborative for the critical study of cultural heritage and museums in a global context.

Historical archaeology projects utilize artifactual, documentary, and oral history evidence in interpreting the past, and contribute to our understanding of the ways by which material culture can be used to study race, class, gender, and ethnic identities. Our research projects address questions such as: How can we analyze the material remains of past culture groups to account for the varied ways in which human societies organized themselves? What cultural, social, political, and ecological processes contributed to continuity or change in past social forms and material culture? How do we recognize and study the past dynamics of ethnicity, class, gender, and racialization in archaeological remains?

Archaeology faculty regularly offer an array of methods courses (archaeometry, lithic analysis, ceramic analysis, surveying techniques, GIS, quantitative analysis), regional survey courses (Africa, Central Andes, Europe, prehistoric and historic period North America), topical courses (cultural heritage management, museum studies, historic archaeology, landscape archaeology) and theory courses (history of archaeology, archaeological theory, chiefdoms, social construction of space, archaeology and racialization).

Image Courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.
Image Courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.

Historical archaeology also contributes to efforts of making visible those people poorly represented in the documentary record of the past, such as enslaved African Americans and Native Americans, and it helps us to appreciate their significant roles in shaping the history of the Americas. For example, the role of African Americans in building our nation's history is a central part of historical archaeology studies in North America. Such projects engage graduate and undergraduate students in examining the ways in which African Americans dealt with and persevered against past racializing ideologies, and the lessons to be learned from such studies of past racism, including possible ways of combating racialization in the present and future.

Our Department also engages in public outreach efforts, participates in the annual Illinois Archaeology Awareness program, and hosts a number of internet resources concerning public history and civic engagement in archaeology. In collaboration with the Department of African American Studies, we also host the peer reviewed Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage (Taylor & Francis), and the African Diaspora Archaeology Network and Newsletter.

We invite you to contact the Anthropology office or any of our faculty for more information on historical archaeology, cultural heritage, landscape, and museum studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Students interested in applying for admission to our graduate program can also consult our online graduate admissions information.

Program Faculty in Historical Archaeology

Christopher Fennell. Ph.D., University of Virginia, 2003; J.D. Georgetown University, 1989; Professor of Anthropology and Law. University Scholar. Member, Board of Directors, Society for Historical Archaeology (2012-15). Historical, prehistoric and contact periods in North America, African diaspora archaeology, cultural heritage management, regional systems analysis, stylistic and symbolic analysis of material culture, race and ethnicity theories, and consumption and production patterns; projects in historical archaeology and civic engagement.

Erin Riggs. PhD Binghamton University, 2019. Assistant Professor. Contemporary and historical archaeology; material culture studies, architectural studies, symbolic analysis; India, Pakistan, and the United States

Helaine Silverman. Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, 1986; Professor and Director of the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices. Historical, prehistoric and contact periods in the Central Andes, social construction of space and landscape archaeology, complex societies, urbanism, death studies, ethnoarchaeology, museums and representations, cultural heritage management, public archaeology, and the politics of the past.

Lisa Lucero. Ph.D., U.C.L.A., 1994; Professor. Historical, prehistoric and contact periods, complex societies, political systems, ritual and politics, water management, climate change, sustainability, Maya and Mesoamerican cultures.

Rebecca Ginsburg. Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2001; J.D. University of Michigan, 1987; Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture. African archaeology, plantation archaeology, architectural history, material culture, cultural landscape studies.

Susan Frankenberg. Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1990; Graduate Faculty and Program Coordinator for Museum Studies. Cultural heritage and museums studies. Teaching courses in museum theory and practice, history and development of museums in light of world events and intellectual trends, issues of inclusion and exclusion in museums, museums as memory.

Katelyn J. Bishop. Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 2019. Assistant Professor. Zooarchaeology, diet, social zooarchaeology, collections-based research, legacy collections and data, archival research, United States Southwest, Mesoamerican archaeology, human-animal relationships, ritual, iconography, and symbolism, social and ceremonial organization.

Brandon T. Ritchison. Ph.D., University of Georgia, 2019. Assistant Professor. Climate change, historical ecology, community organization, heritage management, colonial interactions, political economy, archaeological geophysics, migration, spatial analysis and GIS applications.

Program Contact Information

We invite you to contact the Historical Archaeology Program Director or Graduate Program Coordinator for more information on the Historical Archaeology Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Dr. Chris Fennell, Historical Archaeology Program Director
Department of Anthropology
University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign
109 Davenport Hall (MC‐148)
607 Mathews Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217) 333-3616

Ms. Joyce Dowell, Graduate Program Coordinator
Department of Anthropology
University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign
109F Davenport Hall (MC‐148)
607 Mathews Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217)-300-9167