Archaeology: a multidisciplinary field

If you're interested in archaeology, you can develop an individualized major in archaeology by following the guidelines for planning a major.

The archaeology program at Cornell is highly flexible and intentionally multi-disciplinary. You'll learn how to interpret material remains in order to understand a culture's history, demographics, religions, economic exchange, political systems, and social values.

As an archaeologist, you might specialize in floral and faunal remains and forensic archaeology (biology), the chemical composition of ceramics or preservation of delicate paintings (chemistry), or the petrology and geomorphology of lithics and the ability to survey and map sites (geology).

Or as an archaeologist, you might use computer software to record and catalog data and to map, and sometimes reconstruct, ancient sites. Historical archaeologists must be able to read coins, inscriptions, and the preserved writings of a culture (languages).

Finally, archaeologists need to be able to understand human interaction (anthropology) suggested by the art and artifacts of a culture (art history). In short, to be a good archaeologist, you need a broad liberal arts education with emphases in one or more specific areas. 

Broad liberal arts education

Archaeology includes a set of core courses in anthropology, the sciences, and language study. It also includes several options for investigating themes of time and place, along with a choice of electives and a senior thesis project.

If you have an interest in graduate school in archaeology, consider completing an additional major or minor in a related discipline, such as anthropology, art history, classical studies, geology, history, religion, or Spanish.

Courses & degree requirements

Off-campus study & research

Cornell's One Course At A Time curriculum affords many immersion experiences that allow students to delve deeply into the subject matter. One way we do this is through block-long, off-campus courses to places like Greece and Rome.

We also maintain a strong relationship with Iowa State Archaeologist John Doershuk, who teaches Intro to Archaeological Field Methods and other courses at Cornell, and who frequently extends research opportunities to our students through his lab at the University of Iowa.

As an archaeology student at Cornell, you'll have the opportunity to participate in summer research domestically or abroad and you will complete a capstone course at the end of your major. 

Internships

One Course At A Time and the flexibility of the block schedule also allow you to undertake internships and other experiences during the academic year for a single term. You also might participate in a summer dig or other summer internship. 

Some recent internships and fellowships conducted by Cornell archaeology students include:

  • Office of the State Archaeologist.
  • University of Iowa, in Israel with an excavation.
  • Kenchreai Archaeological Field School in Greece under the auspices of the Center for Hellenic Studies.
  • Cornell Fellowship at The Mexican Museum in San Francisco.