archaeological fieldwork

Graduate Program in Archaeology

Why archaeology?

Archaeology faculty and graduate students at Washington University in St. Louis are engaged in active field research across North and South America; East, Southeast, and Central Asia; and Africa. Although our research intersects with many diverse themes and debates within the field of Anthropology, we have notable strengths in the archaeological study of emergent social complexity in small-scale societies; social, political, economic, and ritual variability among hunter-gatherers and pastoralists; development of food production; environmental archaeology; and landscape archaeology.

Archaeology doctoral students at Washington University receive generous funding. Weekly meetings of the archaeological community at the Friday Archaeology Speakers Series and interactions among faculty and students promote scholarly collaboration and a collegial atmosphere. Archaeology doctoral students enjoy diverse courses, interdisciplinary lectures, dynamic laboratory research settings and access to departmental office space.

Our Research

Our research utilizes a varied array of methods, but we have particular specialization in paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, isotopic analysis, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), geoarchaeology, and ceramic analysis. Faculty members maintain active research projects and graduate students both participate with faculty in research and also undertake their own projects.


Your Path to a PhD

Year 1

First semester: 4 courses, covering broad areas of biological anthropology and related topics, plus courses in the other subfields of Anthropology.

Second semester: 4 courses, covering broad areas of biological anthropology and related topics, plus courses in the other subfields of Anthropology. The student should be doing background research towards formulating a doctoral dissertation research project. Summer: Refine proposed dissertation ideas with preliminary field/lab work

Year 2

First semester: Coursework, establish three-person doctoral committee, fulfill language requirement, and continue background research for second year paper and doctoral dissertation. The student will take an independent reading course (Anthropology 525) with her/his major advisor.

Second semester: Coursework, including the completion of the second-year review paper, and work with the doctoral committee to assemble the theoretical and methodological background for the doctoral dissertation, through a continuation of the independent reading course (Anthropology 525).

Summer: Fieldwork to establish a field site or lab work to do a pilot study, both as background to the doctoral dissertation proposal.

Year 3

First semester: Write doctoral dissertation proposal and defend the proposal before the doctoral committee by the end of the fall semester.

Second semester: Submit finished proposals to granting agencies, advance to candidacy. Prepare for thesis work. Begin fieldwork and/or laboratory data collection as appropriate.

Year 4

Collect data for dissertation.

Years 5 and 6

Write dissertation and defend before full doctoral dissertation committee -- we expect final defense of the thesis to be done between the 5th and 6th year.

Consult the program requirements for more specific information. For questions about transfer credits for coursework completed at another institution, see the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Transfer of Credit Policy. Students considering applying for admission are encouraged to contact faculty with whom they share interests.


Groundbreaking Archaeological Research 

Michael Frachetti is associate professor of anthropology at Washington University, and Farhod Maksudov is senior researcher at the Institute of Archaeology, Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan. As project co-principal investigators, Frachetti and Maksudov lead a multidisciplinary team excavating Tashbulak, a city lost and abandoned for a thousand years high in the mountains of Uzbekistan. Researchers there are trying to understand who the inhabitants were, how they lived year-round at such elevation, why they chose the high-elevation plateau to settle and for what reason.

Led by Edward Henry, a WashU anthropology graduate student specializing in geophysical analysis, the team conducted a detailed magnetometer survey of the area, pinpointing small underground variations in the natural magnetic field. The sensitive instrument detects disturbed soils and decayed organic material and reacts strongly to burned soil, stones, iron, steel, brick and other buried materials. As Frachetti would later report to NatGeo, the preliminary survey had revealed the outlines of a settlement well beyond their expectations.

Read more about the Lost City research
fieldwork in Uzbekistan

The Lost City

Using modern, high-tech analysis tools, anthropology Professor Michael Frachetti is leading groundbreaking research on an ancient city high in the Uzbekistan mountains. Pivotal members of the research team are WashU doctoral student Edward Henry, MA ’14; Taylor Hermes, AB ’07, a doctoral candidate at Kiel University in Germany; and Farhod Maksudov, who is Michael Frachetti’s Uzbekistani co-principal investigator.