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Anthropological Archaeology Labs

The Department of Anthropology offers an Anthropological Archaeology program specializing in complex societies and the environment. By taking a comparative worldwide view of the rise, maintenance, and collapse of ancient complex social organizations, and by trying to understand these processes in the various environmental contexts in which they took place, we seek to present a theoretically integrated curriculum in the fields of archaeology and prehistory. Archaeology is transdisciplinary at its core, and the combined faculty research interests and approaches emphasize this.

Geographical interests of the current faculty include China, the Middle East (Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Cyprus), Mesoamerica (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Hionduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, Andean South America (Peru and Chile), Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, Greece, and Southern California. Our theoretical interests include but are not limited to the origins of the state and cities; hunter-gatherers and subsistence resource exploitation; the organization of exchange; the impacts of long-distance, cross-cultural interaction; diasporas and colonization; social vulnerability and resilience; human ecology; climate and culture change; and coastal and marine archaeology; and Biblical archaeology. We also have a strong methodological focus on environmental archaeology and paleoclimatic and isotopic studies through our deep connections with Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  There are five major archaeological laboratories linked to the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego.

South American Archaeology Laboratory

The UCSD South American Archaeology Laboratory is dedicated to multidisciplinary archaeological field and laboratory research on Native American cultures and societies.  Research and publications of the lab and collaborators include systematic archaeological survey, settlement pattern analysis, household and mortuary archaeology, architectural analysis and reconstruction, paleoclimatology and agrarian archaeology and ethnoarchaeology, ceramic, textile, and lithic analysis and sourcing, paleoethnobotany and faunal analysis, and paleodemographic, paleodiet, aDNA, and life history approaches in bioarchaeology.

Graduate students in the lab supervise our two archaeological field schools and apprentice in ongoing  research, while developing independent research projects on topics in North and South American archaeology. Undergraduates may volunteer in the lab through the field school programs, the Faculty Mentor, McNair Fellows or Anthropology Honors thesis programs, and the Archaeology Workshop (ANAR 180) or other courses.

The lab has collaborative relationships with the Ministerio Nacional de Cultura (MNC), the Museo Contisuyo, Moquegua, and the Municipalidad Provincial Jorge Basadre, Tacna, Peru, the San Diego Museum of Man, the San Diego Archaeological Center, the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (SCMA), the Archaeological Chemistry Laboratory at ASU,  the Keck Carbon Cycle AMS Facility at UCI, the UC President’s Research Catalyst Award (PRCA) on Genomic Pre‐/Historic Human Population History and Health at UCSC, and the La Posta Tribe of Mission Indians (Kumeyaay).

Facilities in the San Diego lab include computer facilities for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Structure from Motion (SFM) and other analyses, videoconferencing facilities, seminar and research space, and a wet lab for artifact analysis and sample preparation.

Facilities and equipment in Peru include excavation and laboratory equipment, UAV (drones), GPS/GNSS, total station, tablets, data collectors, and analog surveying equipment. Significant archaeological collections from UCSD projects are curated at the Museo Contisuyo Moquegua, the Municipalidad Provincial Jorge Basadre, and the MNC Tacna.

UCSD Field School Programs offered through the lab

Under UCSD Anthropology, the lab offers two archaeological field school programs that focus on international training in Americanist archaeology. Both are 8-credit upper division Anthropology field and lab methods courses, with distinct regional and methodological emphases.

The UCSD La Posta Archaeological Field School (ANAR 117s)

The UCSD La Posta Archaeological Field School, offered in summer 2019, is held on the La Posta Reservation in eastern San Diego County, in conjunction with the Tribal Council and Tribal Archaeologist of the La Posta Band of Mission Indians (Kumeyaay). This program is the first field school in San Diego County held on a sovereign Native American reservation under supervision of the tribal council. Emphasis is on a collaborative and culturally-sensitive approach to traditional training in field archaeological methods, Cultural Resource Management protocols, and regional culture history in Southern California. The UCSD / La Posta program focuses on archaeological survey and site documentation of tribal cultural resources using non-intrusive digital recording techniques. Registered undergraduate students participate in hands-on archaeological field survey research and in seminars with Kumeyaay about tribal history, prehistory, traditions, politics and beliefs.   Starting in the summer of 2019, the field school will include a week of marine archaeology methods training using non-invasive technologies off the coast of southern California in conjunction with the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (see below).

The UCSD Peru Archaeological Field School (ANAR 119s)

The UCSD Peru Archaeological Field School has introduced over 100 undergraduates to an international archaeology research experience in southern Peru. Students join binational field research projects of the UCSD South American lab and participate in excavations, archaeological and geomorphological survey, and museum research in southern Peru.  The course is recommended for both archaeology majors and non-majors, and over 30 alumni have gone on to graduate school in archaeology or related fields. ANAR 119s will be offered in 2020.

For more information please contact Lab Director, Dr. Paul Goldstein.

Location: Social Sciences Research Building (SSRB) Room 343

Mesoamerica Archaeology Laboratory


The Mesoamerican Archaeology Laboratory (MAL) at UCSD is an archaeological laboratory geared to the study of artifacts, especially the ancient stone tools of the Maya and other peoples of ancient Mexico and Central America.  Graduate students working in the MAL conduct research projects on ancient trade (using X-ray fluorescence and other methods) and technology. The MAL comprises a computer lab, seminar space, and wet lab for artifactual analysis.  Recent projects conducted by graduate students and Prof. Braswell include the technological analysis of stone tools from Belize and Honduras, and sourcing studies of artifacts from Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico.

A second field lab is located in Belize. Ceramic analysis and conservation, and the study of faunal and human remains are the principal activities conducted at this second facility.

Study Abroad Programs Offered by the Mesoamerican Archaeology Laboratory

Each year, Prof. Braswell offers two study abroad programs for undergraduate students that focus on the cities, architecture, art, and history of ancient civilizations.  For information about recent and upcoming programs, see:


One nine-day “embedded” program is held during Spring Break and is paired with a Winter Term on-campus course.  The concept is to enrich a standard classroom experience with immersive and experiential learning.  The Spring Break courses alternate between the Maya of Central America and Mexico, and civilizations of central Mexico including the Aztecs, Olmecs, and Zapotecs.

In Summer Session, longer two-week programs are offered that study other civilizations of the world.  These include ancient Egypt and the western Mediterranean (Neolithic Malta, Iron Age Sardinia, Greek and Phoenician Sicily, and Roman Italy). 

For more information please contact Dr. Geoffrey E. Braswell.

Location: Social Sciences Research Building (SSRB) Rooms 315B and 348

Levantine and Cyber-Archaeology Laboratory


The Levantine and Cyber-Archaeology Laboratory lab focuses on archaeological investigations concerning the evolution of societies in the southern Levant from the Neolithic to Islamic periods taking a social and environmental archaeology approach to the region. Most of the data we analyze comes from our own excavations in Jordan and Israel. The director of the Lev Lab, holds the Norma Kershaw Chair in Archaeology of Ancient Israel and Neigboring Lands.  However, some exciting contemporary ethnoarchaeology is being done in India to help build models for the past.  The lab has over 35 tons of artifacts related to fieldwork in Jordan and the neighboring lands providing original data for PhD studies.  Currently, the Lab's main field activities centers on the role of ancient mining and metallurgy on social change in southern Jordan's Faynan district during the Iron Age (c. 1200 - 500 BCE).  New research is focused on climate, environmental and cultural change during the Holocene along Israel’s Carmel coast in collaboration with the University of Haifa’s Department of Maritime Civilizations.  Other project focus on land and sea explorations concerning the Late Bronze Age collapse of civilization in Greece with the University of Patras and University of the Aegean.

Through our partnership with the Qualcomm Institute (QI) and the Center for Cyber-Archaeology and Sustainability (CCAS) we are able to employ some of the most cutting edge information technology and computer-based visualization tools to our laboratory research. This includes three dimensional artifact scanning, immersive virtualization of excavations using the QI’s SunCAVE for multi-person Virtual Reality (VR) scientific visualization, and ultra-high resolution imaging in order to facilitate our research aims.

New graduate students joining the Levantine Archaeology Lab (Lev Lab) are focusing on research topics that involve marine archaeology along Israel’s carmel coast and other regions in the eastern Mediterranean.  During the summer of 2018, the Lev Lab carried out UC San Diego’s first marine archaeology field school as part of the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology collaboration with the University of Haifa (see ).  Accordingly, new Lev Lab graduate students are expected to be qualified divers and pass the Scripps Scientific Diving Program ( ) so that they can participate in UC San Diego fieldwork that requires scuba diving.

Lev Lab Spaces: The Lev Lab has a number of laboratory spaces on campus.  The main lab where digital data processing takes place and graduate students have office space in the Social Science Research Building  Room 130 Levantine Archaeology Laboratory.  This space is also used for seminars and artifact processing.  In the Social Science Research Building (3rd Floor), the Lev Lab has a ceramics and archaeometallurgy lab fitted with a petrographic microscope, ceramic restoration lab, and Levantine Osteology Laboratory.  The Applied Math and Physics Building houses ca. 4,000 square feet of artifacts on permanent loan from the Department of Antiquities of Jordan that have been the subject of 10 PhD dissertations and numerous publications.  Other collections include sediment cores from Lev Lab – SCMA projects in Israel and Greece that are housed in the Geological Collections of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the Deep Sea Drilling Building East, 2310 Downwind Way, La Jolla, CA 92037.  Graduate students work with faculty and staff scientists using a wide variety of methods to subsample and analyze working core halves (i.e. smear slides, grain size, x-ray analysis, isotope analysis, carbon dating, XRF [X-ray fluorescence] and more). 

For more information, contact the Lab Director, Dr. Thomas E. Levy.

Graduate Students and Data Processing: Social Sciences Building (SSB) Room 130
Pottery Lab: Social Sciences Research Building (SSRB) Room 314
Osteology Lab: Social Sciences Research Building (SSRB) Room 315

Center for Cyber-Archaeology and Sustainability (CCAS)

Cyber-archaeology is the marriage of archaeology, computer science, engineering, and the natural sciences, and it offers 21st century solutions to safeguard the past for future generations. The Center for Cyber-Archaeology and Sustainability (CCAS) was established in 2016 with the implementation of the ‘At-Risk World Heritage and the Digital Humanities’ project; a cyber-archaeology project that was awarded $1.06 million, for two-years by a Catalyst Award from the University of California (UC) Office of the President to a consortium of archaeologists and information technologists on four UC campuses: UC San Diego, UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Merced, with UC San Diego in the leadership role.

Faculty members involved in the Catalyst project have active research sites in a number of eastern Mediterranean countries, many of them threatened by political conflicts and environmental degradation. These include Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Turkey. This multi-campus digital heritage project will make the UC system a model for world cultural heritage conservation by doing what other research institutions around the world cannot do. CCAS activities include:

  • Take advantage of the Pacific Research Platform (PRP), one of the highest-speed fiber optic networks in the world;
  • Melding state-of-the-art 3D scientific visualization with top-end immersive platforms for museums and public places in addition to serving inexpensive personal virtual-reality devices;
  • Confront the problem of ‘Big Cultural Heritage Data’ (BCHD), its movement and curation;
  • Developing citizen-science crowdsourcing programs using a unique opportunity to access high-resolution satellite imagery from Digital Globe to monitor and model endangered archaeological sites and their environments;
  • Provide unique learning opportunities to prepare UC students to use new information-technology tools to enhance their career paths; and

Demonstrate how this network-based integrated digital cultural heritage system is applicable to underfunded California, national and international universities and research institutions.

For more information, contact the Center Director, Dr. Thomas E. Levy.

Location: 2nd Floor, Atkinson Hall, Qualcomm Institute

Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (SCMA)

The Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology (SCMA) conducts research to study and understand the relationship between the marine environment and human societies. The center focuses on understanding the complexity of the past to put the present into context. SCMA, a joint effort between Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Scripps) and the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego, draws on expertise in a wide range of fields including oceanography, acoustics, sedimentology, geomorphology, climate sciences, environmental sciences, anthropology and archaeology. The goal is to develop a greater understanding of maritime culture in its broadest sense.

SCMA’s mission is to investigate, understand and communicate the intersections, interactions and interconnections between people and the sea through time, seeking a holistic, interdisciplinary understanding of marine, coastal, and environmental archaeology – and thus helping to advance marine archaeology as a field.

Established in 2015, to jump-start SCMA, we have active field projects in Israel, Greece and Puerto Rico.  In 2018, our first marine archaeology field school was carried out in collaboration with the University of Haifa.  Interested students may carry out marine archaeology research as part of their doctoral  studies in the Department of Anthropology.

Through connections with the Scripps Scientific Diving Programs, SCMA also has access to the Scripps Diving Locker, support of the SIO Diving Officer, and access to the SIO Coastal Research Vessel (the Bob and Betty Beyster, that is equipped with dynamic positioning system, and high resolution underwater research tools.

Geoarchaeology and Human Ecology Laboratory

The Geoarchaeology and Human Ecology laboratory (GHE) – located on the Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus – conducts research to understand the relationship between the climate, coastal environments and human societies. The lab focuses on studying the role of sediments, soils, landscapes and coastal ecosystems in human societies. Its central goal is to understand the complexity of the past as a means to the contextualization of the present. This knowledge can be applied to the making of concrete contributions to relevant contemporaneous issues at local, regional and global scales. This research objective encompasses and expands SIO’s mission statement “to seek, teach, and communicate scientific understanding of the oceans, atmosphere, Earth, and other planets for the benefit of society and the environment” by providing the human and social perspectives. The lab supports field work collecting marine and terrestrial sediment cores, and on-site archaeological bulk and consolidated sediment samples.

Geoarchaeological research methods are introduced in the undergraduate (upper division) lab course “Geoarchaeology in Theory and Practice” (ANAR/SIO 167, 6 units), a laboratory course that includes methods training and field observations. Marine and underwater research methods are introduced in the undergraduate course "Underwater Archaeology: from Atlantis to Science" (ANAR/SIO 164) taught yearly. High quality scientific diving methods (AAUS standards) are taught in the Scientific Diving Course (SIO130). 

The GHE lab space contains state of the art facilities to conduct geoarchaeological analyses including granulometry (laser particle analysis, hydrometer, dry and wet sieving), organic content, sediment chemistry, magnetic susceptibility, microartifact analysis, and soil micromorphology. We also share a microscopy laboratory that houses new Leica microscopes, Olympus petrographic microscopes and imaging systems, a Phenom tabletop Scan Electron Microscope with EDS, and have access to diverse shared facilities through SIO. Through links with the SIO Geological Collections, we have access to an XRF core scanner, and refrigerated core storage facilities.

The Geoarchaeology and Human Ecology lab hosts a Puerto Rico sediment and rock collection in the SIO Teaching Collection. Through the SIO Vertebrate and Invertebrate collections we also have access to an ample set of taxonomically identified mollusks and microfossils (with ID Vouchers) to support the research on coastal archaeomalacology in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Current research themes at the GHE lab include archaeological taphonomy, stratigraphy and chronology; the vulnerability of archaeological sites to climate change; human response to climate and environmental change; livelihood security in the context of climate change at multiple scales (slow-onset change and rapid change); social sustainability, vulnerability and disasters; landscape change in response to sea level rise; underwater site formation processes and remote sensing for the identification of buried archaeological contexts; the relationship between culture and subsistence systems in changing environments; and the interconnectivity of knowledge systems intertwining intangible and tangible heritages. Our work focuses on supporting indigenous and native re-discovery of their own roots in Puerto Rico and Southern California, in coastal and island contexts.

Paleoethnobotany Laboratory

Located on the shores of the Pacific ocean, the Paleoethnobotany Laboratory at UCSD contains state of the art facilities for the extraction, identification and interpretation of archaeobotanical remains. The Paleoethnobotany Laboratory features new Olympus microscopes and imaging systems for the analysis and documentation of a variety of archaeological and comparative materials. In addition to our microscopy laboratory, we share a separate, code-compliant wet lab with a fume hood for chemical preparation of botanical microremains (pollen, phytoliths, starch grains) from archaeological materials and sediments with the Geoarchaeology laboratory.

In the lab, we host botanical comparative collections of seeds, wood, phytoliths, starch, and pollen, as well as herbarium voucher specimens. Our collection has strengths in East Asia, South East Asia, the Near East and the American Southwest. We are in the process of imaging these collections. Once imaged these will be uploaded to We also host a library of wood and seed atlases. Research conducted in the paleoethnobotany laboratory includes the analysis of macrobotanical remains, paleoenvironmental cores, dental calculus, prehistoric ceramic residues (starch and phytoliths). The lab is currently in the process of also setting up experimental trials on different cultivars.

Archaeobotanical research methods covering macrobotanical remains, starch, phytoliths and pollen are taught in SIO275/ANTH275 “Introduction to Paleoethnobotany”, a graduate level laboratory course designed to introduce students to the study of the relationship between people and plants in the past.

Current research themes focused on by the lab are the study of agricultural sustainability in the past, the origins and spread of agricultural systems in South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Africa, identifying human impact on the environment, ancient foodways in the Northwest coast and Plains of the Americas and the relationship between changing climate and changes in subsistence systems.

Undergraduate volunteer opportunities
We welcome students from a range of backgrounds and with varying interests into the Paleoethnobotany Laboratory. We are currently looking for volunteers to help us organize and digitize our reference collections and to help sorting and identifying archaeological samples. We accept new volunteers on an ongoing basis. Please email Prof. D’Alpoim Guedes to get started.

Undergraduate research internships
Students with at least one semester of experience volunteering in the laboratory may work with Prof. D’Alpoim Guedes to develop a directed research project in the laboratory. Such projects may be completn of plant remains from archaeological sites for course credit or in select circumstances for funding. Please contact Prof. d’Alpoim Guedes directly to discuss possible projects.