The Archaeology program emphasizes comparative study of the emergence and development of complex societies, from their initial foundations in hunter-gatherer behavior to their manifestation as states and empires. This theoretical approach is firmly grounded in the use of empirical archaeological data from around the world to evaluate models that offer understanding of the dynamics of change in human societies.   Faculty and graduate student research most strongly emphasizes Latin America, Eurasia, and North America.  Research is internationally collaborative, and an especially high priority is placed on sound relations with colleagues in regions outside the U.S. where research is carried out. 


View a detailed program overview.

Early Complex Societies

Exciting new faculty research in China, Russia, and North America, together with our longstanding commitment to Latin American archaeology, is the foundation for a graduate program that emphasizes a comparative perspective on complex societies. Central to our graduate program are methods and theory important to understanding complex societies generally - - from early chiefdoms to prehistory's largest empires. Our comparative orientation features approaches ranging from regional analysis to materials analysis, and issues such as the development of social complexity, sources of political power and legitimization, domestic and political economy, state formation, gender, culture contact, and imperial frontier processes, all viewed from a variety of theoretical perspectives.

Latin American Archaeology

Latin American archaeology at Pitt focuses most heavily on precolombian complex societies, including their full range from the very beginnings of social hierarchy and regional integration to the extensive Aztec and Inka empires. Research includes the establishment, in mobile and early sedentary societies, of the kinds of social relationships upon which such developments were built. The emphasis is on a broad comparative vision encompassing not only Latin America but the rest of the world as well, solidly grounded in the intensive regional specializations that make primary archaeological research possible. Providing opportunities for graduate study to students from Latin America is a high priority.

Northern Eurasian Archaeology

Ongoing faculty research projects in China, Mongolia and Siberia are adding an exciting Old World comparative perspective to study of early complex societies at the University of Pittsburgh. Through this project, Pitt students are exploring such issues as the origins of social complexity, long-term societal evolution, craft specialization and political power in nomadic societies, hunter-gatherer landuse, and the transition to farming and herding.