Anthropological Archaeology at UCLA-Anthropology

Archaeology is an important contributor to the core mission of the social and historical sciences. Changes in human societies are subtle, complex and involve the interaction of social and environmental factors that require sustained, multidisciplinary inquiry to fully comprehend. Archaeology is well suited not only to document how people have responded to these challenges over deep time, but also to explain the effects of those responses.

Archaeology’s great strength is its ability to disentangle these long-term cultural and historical processes using a comparative approach spanning space and time. Current research by UCLA archaeologists examines economic networks and production, urbanism, human-environment interactions, and the origins of social inequality and complex polities. We work on different regions of the world, including Mesoamerica, the American Southwest, South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. Our research is distinguished by its multiscalar approach, and analyzes how human and environmental systems operate at scales ranging from individual actions to global networks. Our methods are equally diverse, spanning techniques drawn from the geological, biological and physical sciences to frameworks for interpreting material and visual culture deriving from a range of disciplines. What unites our subfield is a relentless focus on creating knowledge about humanity’s efforts to deal with cultural and environmental change, social and political tension, economic challenges, population growth, conflict and ultimately the strategies that permit peaceful human cooperation.

The anthropological archaeology graduate and undergraduate programs at UCLA focus on methods of discovery (field and laboratory courses), strategies of analysis, and the hows and whys of long-term cultural evolution (theory, analytic, and topical courses). The program looks at the unfolding of history in many regions of the world, including North America, Mesoamerica, the Caribbean, South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.