The Department of Anthropology/Archaeology has a firm commitment to equity, social justice, and human rights for the world’s peoples. We believe that human diversity is both historically and culturally integral to the fabric of our society, and we explore systems of global economics, policies, and unique histories that shape the lived experiences of people in our communities and around the world (in the past, and at present). We support institutions and initiatives that recognize and uphold the full humanity of all individuals, and actively promote social changes that make the world safer and more just for all. 

Anthropologists (including specialists in archaeology) are scientists who investigate human diversity in the past and present.  Today’s anthropologists are interested in applying insights from the study of human cultural, biological, and linguistic diversity and change to contribute to contemporary local to global issues.  Anthropology is a broad field that integrates with other disciplines.  Mercyhurst University’s program in Anthropology/Archaeology is characterized by hands-on training in current methods and theory with highly individualized mentoring.  We prepare students to design and execute original research studies and become leaders in their field.  Job opportunity and diversity are hallmarks of careers in anthropology.  Anthropologists work in corporate firms, local, state and national government agencies, law- enforcement, museums, non-profits, universities, urban settings, and in a wide range of social- and community-focused positions.  Our graduates are sought-after because they have been trained in critical thinking, pattern recognition, problem solving, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and intercultural skills.  

Anthropology/Archaeology students at Mercyhurst University are provided with basic training in the broad field of anthropology as well as specialized training in Archaeology, Bioarchaeology, Physical Anthropology, and Sociocultural Anthropology. Students can take a hands-on approach to a wide variety of research opportunities in diverse topical, chronological, and environmental settings. Students attain a solid foundation within the field and further their education when choosing one of three concentrations: Archaeology, Bioarchaeology, or Sociocultural Archaeology.

Fast Facts

  • The Bureau of Labor statistics reports that employment of anthropologists and archaeologists is expected to grow over the next seven years
  • At Mercyhurst you’ll gain valuable hands-on expertise in archaeological fieldwork, ethnographic research methods, and skeletal and artifact analyses

  • Our individualized mentoring in current research methods, data analysis, and writing skills will enable you to contribute to our profession as an undergraduate and gain valuable job skills!  Our students engage in collaborative research projects, author publications, and present their research at conferences and to the public

  • Mercyhurst is ranked as a "Top-20 Value" program for a degree in Archaeology by College Values Online

Learning Outcomes

Goal (1) Understand the concepts and methods of anthropology as a four-field discipline. 
Outcome: Demonstrate knowledge of the fundamental concepts and field/laboratory methods in Anthropology/Archaeology.

Goal (2) Have effective communication skills, including oral and written examples. 
Outcome: Demonstrate effective communication skills, including oral and written presentations of synthesized/analyzed Anthropological/Archaeological materials and literature.

Goal (3) Demonstrate critical engagement with the discipline’s theoretical and ethical concerns. 
Outcome: Distinguish, synthesize, and evaluate the theoretical and ethical underpinnings of Anthropology or Archaeology.

Goal (4) Apply foundational concepts and methods in an analysis of diverse problems and contexts. 
Outcome: Critically apply Anthropological/Archaeological concepts and data to new contexts.

Goal (5) Conduct independent Anthropological research under faculty supervision.
Outcome: Design and Conduct Anthropological Research using appropriate techniques and procedures.

B.A. in Anthropology and Archaeology

All Anthropology/Archaeology students complete 9 required departmental core courses (28 credits), Statistics (3 credits), and successfully complete the intermediate level of a foreign language (3-9 credits). Students seeking a general B.A. in Anthropology/ Archaeology must complete an additional 3 required departmental methods and materials courses (9-13 credits), Physical Geology and Lab (4 credits), and 5 additional Anthropology/Archaeology courses numbered above 200.

Sample Coursework:

People depend on plants for food, clothing, shelter, medicines, and a host of other daily needs. This course examines the varied and complex interrelationships between plants and people. Major topics include domestication processes, the Green Revolution, intentional and unintentional modification of plant communities, and an examination of those plants that provide drugs, food, beverages, and fibers necessary to daily life.

This course introduces students to the diverse lives and livelihoods of Native Americans in contemporary society with an emphasis on the range of issues facing Native peoples today. The course provides an overview of the salient issues affecting contemporary Native peoples’ social, cultural, economic and political activities. Lecture topics include, but are not limited to, colonial legacies, popular culture and stereotypes, indigenous identities, tribal-federal relationships, sovereignty, cultural survival and revitalization, and ethics.

This course explores the ethical, legal and practical dimensions of contemporary anthropology and its sub-disciplines through a consideration of topics such as anthropology as a profession, ethics and codes of conduct, national and international approaches to cultural/heritage management, the relationship between anthropology and diverse publics, and anthropological education. It exposes students to the many issues that may arise during a career in anthropology (or in the social science) and prepares them to engage them productively. Emphasis is placed on helping students develop the skills necessary to formulate, discuss and defend their own set of anthropological values through critical analysis and study of case studies, ethical principles, and codes of conduct. 

Mission Statement

Our department is committed to the education and training of the next generation of Anthropologists and Archaeologists. As a four-field discipline concerned with the cultural and biological expressions of humanity past and present, Anthropology is a diverse endeavor characterized by approaches and methodologies drawn from both the sciences and the humanities. Therefore, a wide range of core information, concepts, methodologies, as well as the ability to mobilize these resources critically and independently, form the skill set that we strive to impart to our students. Development of these skills in our programs and courses is facilitated by the following tenets:

A student-centered approach to Anthropological inquiry. Immersion of students in field, laboratory, and research experiences extends to all phases of our scholarly pursuits, including research design, data collection and analysis, and communication to the disciplinary community and diverse publics.

A focus upon foundational knowledge, theories, and methodologies of our diverse discipline and, a necessary cross-disciplinary engagement with the earth and biological sciences. This focus is facilitated via classroom and practical hands-on experiences that expose students to various career paths.

A commitment to working closely with students of all experiences and backgrounds. Emphasis is placed upon mentoring through the advising process, in directed field and laboratory experiences, and through the independent research process.

Firm adherence to a clear and rigorous set of academic standards necessary for the success of our students in the current career market and in top-tier graduate programs here and abroad.


The Conservation Laboratory is dedicated to the assessment, documentation, stabilization, and preservation of materials in archaeological field and laboratory environments. Staff and students focus on preventative conservation of durable inorganic and non-durable organic objects with the goal of providing stable environments for artifacts by regularly monitoring facility and collection conditions, and utilizing appropriate archival-quality materials for object storage. A freeze dryer, a walk-in climate controlled storage facility, and a Parylene deposition system are available for use.


Specializing in the analysis of materials and cemeteries dating to the post-European Contact period, students study and analyze materials such as ceramic wares, glass bottles, beads, and cemeteries and grave markers to learn about our more recent past. Students work with local cemeteries to develop and operationalize gravestone restoration and analysis projects. These hands-on experiences provide excellent career preparation and training as students learn how to collaborate and research in a laboratory setting.


Our nationally unique Perishable Artifact Laboratory is dedicated to the analysis, documentation, and conservation of perishable material culture. We study and archive a wide range of interrelated craft products including cloth, basketry, string, netting, footwear and matting, as well as perishable artifact impressions and various objects made from wood, animal hide, and feathers. The lab also holds an extensive library of digital and print materials related to perishable material culture globally.


With our extensive comparative collections of human and faunal skeletal elements, students learn the most up-to-date analytical techniques to determine species, age, sex, health, and manner of death from archaeological and forensic human and animal remains. A comprehensive in-house library complements the collections.


Dedicated to the analysis of chipped- and ground-stone artifacts, students collect data that informs on the manufacture and use of stone tools. Students experiment with stone tool replication and uses, and our collection of artifacts from around the world represents 300,000 of stone tool manufacture.


Our Processing Lab is the first stop for artifacts recovered during our archaeological field projects. Students clean, label, and catalog archaeological specimens while learning proper artifact curation and database creation methods. Once this is accomplished, the artifacts are then sent to one of our specialty labs for analysis.