M.A. - Archaeology

Professor digging for artifacts

The Field of Archaeology

Archaeology is the investigation of human culture via the study of material remains. Archaeology offers a unique perspective on human history and culture that contributes to our understanding of where people lived and how they lived, by examining everything from subsistence practices to structures of power and social inequality. The field of archaeology is also political, situated at the intersection of knowledge production and power. We encourage our students to think critically about the role of archaeological practice and interpretation in re-affirming contemporary structures of inequality, as well as how archaeology can be used as a means for advocacy and activism.

Research Directions in Archaeology

At the M.A. level, our goal is to provide students with a strong foundation in the discipline by giving them the skills to succeed in both private and public sectors of archaeology. Graduate students receive rigorous methodological and theoretical training while fostering open-minded enquiry into the most demanding challenges facing the field today. We support students through politically engaged and ethically oriented research, whether in the classroom, the laboratory, or in the field. Our aim is to promote diverse perspectives amongst our students, whether through material culture studies or art and archaeology. Dr Meredith Reifschneider is an historical archaeologist, whose research interrogates the impacts of colonialism and enslavement in the recent past and their continuing legacies in the present. Her research spans a range of topics to include African Diaspora studies, histories of medicine and healthcare, and the archaeology of military institutions in the Bay Area. Her students similarly engage in a range of topics and theoretical perspectives including European colonialism and gender studies, archaeological collections management, zooarchaeology, and transnational studies.  Professor Doug Bailey has extensive experience in the archaeology of art and visual representation, as well as the prehistoric archaeology of Europe. Current research ranges from the uses of imagery in the presentation of the past, to the active roles that archaeological archives play in modern community debate over identities and political history, and on to the generation the new subdiscipline of art/archaeology. Bailey’s students work across a wide range of periods, regions and periods paying particular attention to material and visual cultures.

Current Projects

Professor Reifschneider currently trains undergraduate and graduate students in zooarchaeology and faunal analysis, artifact analysis, and collections management. Dr Reifschneider is currently researching a collection of artifacts recovered from the Presidio of San Francisco, a project made possible by a collaborative partnership between SFSU Anthropology and the Presidio Trust. This collections-based research project involves cataloging and analysis of over 3,500 artifacts recovered from the US Army men’s quarters. Dr Reifschneider actively engages students in the project through independent studies courses (699/899), culminating experience projects, and volunteer opportunities. She also encourages current graduate students to engage in Museum Studies programs at SFSU and to reach out to other Bay Area agencies and organizations, to include Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) and local Cultural Resource Management (CRM) firms. Professor Bailey works most closely with students seeking to understand the roles that visual culture and art play in prehistoric, ancient, history, and modern societies, as well as with those who want to exploit the connections between archaeology and modern political and social challenges, including the archaeology of the contemporary past.

In addition, the department is at the center for the development of a new sub-discipline: art/archaeology. Professor Bailey and his students lead this initiative as it emerges as new and provocative research field. Applications are particularly encouraged from prospective students who wish to work on the following topics: visual representation in archaeology; the agency of the archive; art practice as archaeology / archaeology as art practice; radical re-interpretations of ancient and prehistoric art; archaeology as montage/collage; and the application of DADA and Surrealism to archaeological production. Potential applicants interested in this area of work are encouraged to contact Professor Bailey at dwbailey@sfsu.edu.

Successful applicants to the program will have interests that intersect with the work of Professors Bailey and Reifschneider. Prospective students are advised to review these faculty member's websites for further details and then to contact them by email to discuss possible areas of mutual interest.

Recent Theses

  • Analyzing Style in Classic Mimbres Pottery
  • Archaeology of Dress and Gender at the Presidio of San Francisco
  • Archaeology and Nationalism in History and Modern Iran
  • Archaeology of Gardens in Japanese-American Internment Camps
  • Archaeology of Textiles, Discard and Material Culture
  • The Archaeology of Zoroastrianism
  • The Figurines of the Harappan Civilization

Recent Independent Studies

  • Zooarchaeological Collections Management and Faunal Analysis
  • Archaeology of Discard
  • Archaeology of Material Culture and Textiles
  • Archaeology of Obesity
  • Archaeology of Symbols and Religion
  • Garden Archaeology
  • Interpretation of Pottery Decoration
  • Origins of Farming in Croatia
  • Prehistoric Figurines and their Interpretation