Archaeology is concerned with the study of the human past through the physical evidence that human actions create. This includes artifacts, architecture, and works of art, but also human remains, animal bones, the remains of plants, and even modifications to the landscape—anything that has been made or affected or deposited by human beings. Perhaps most importantly, archaeologists also study and interpret the spatial relationships between archaeological remains to find patterns that suggest reconstructions of human activities in the past. Not surprisingly, excavations and their interpretation involve specialists in many subjects and methods. Archaeologists vary in their approaches and often disagree about what archaeology is or should be.
Archaeologists study not only ancient civilizations like Egypt, Greece, and Rome, but also remains from the time of the earliest hunter gatherers and other prehistoric peoples in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. In addition, archaeologists study remains from all historical periods, including those of the present day. The archaeological evidence can serve as a useful check on the textual evidence offered by historians, which is often written by the elite and the victors. Archaeology, which can reveal the activities of the poor and disenfranchised as well as the rich and powerful, can give us a much fuller picture of past worlds.
Archaeology in the United States is often studied in Anthropology departments. The archaeology of some regions, however, tends to be taught in departments and programs that study those regions; the archaeology of Greece and Rome, for example, is taught in Classics departments, and the archaeology of Egypt, the Levant, and the ancient Near East is often taught in departments dealing with those areas. This is because archaeologists working with remains of those cultures benefit from a familiarity with their languages and texts, as well as their particular artifactual traditions, and such programs can give students the background they need to qualify for more advanced study or academic positions.
At NYU, students are offered a rich array of courses in these collaborative and competing views, methods, and cultures—as follows:
Undergraduates can focus their studies on archaeology through any of the following programs:
Ancient Studies (minor)
where students can do structured interdisciplinary work in ancient studies, which can include coursework in archaeology offered by various departments.
Anthropology (major and minor)
where one of the fields of inquiry is anthropological archaeology, which focuses on the earliest art, urbanism and development of states; the Anthropology department is also the place to study scientific specialties often called upon by archaeologists;
Classical Civilization and Anthropology (major)
where students explore the social orders and institutions of ancient Greece and ancient Rome; and
Classics and Art History (major)
which emphasizes archaeological approaches to studying the Greek and Roman worlds.
Graduate students interested in archaeology can pursue the subject in five different academic units, depending on their interests:
Department of Anthropology (PhD),
in the track for Archaeology;
Department of Classics (PhD, MA),
in the context of a program in Greek and Roman studies;
Institute of Fine Arts (PhD, MA),
in the context of a program in art history and archaeology;
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (PhD),
where archaeology is part of an interdisciplinary program focusing on interconnections in the ancient world, from the Mediterranean region and the Near East to Central Asia and East Asia; and
Program in Ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian Studies (PhD [not currently accepting students], MA),
in the context of interdisciplinary programs that study the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia, as well as surrounding cultures.