Archaeology Teaching Laboratory

The Archaeology Teaching Laboratory provides student training in archaeological methods and artifact analysis. It houses archaeological teaching collections as well as historic, prehistoric, zooarchaeological collections from Northwestern’s many field archaeology projects in the US and abroad. The laboratories facilities and collections are also available to graduate and advanced undergraduate students to pursue original research projects involving archaeological data. It has two core facilities, a large archaeological research lab and a microscopy wing. 


The Archaeology Lab is located in room 126 of 555 Clark Street.  It is a USDA approved soil lab.  The main archaeological research lab provides analytical facilities for general material analyses as well as specialized facilities for:

  • Soil geochemistry
  • Microartifact analysis
  • Paleoethnobotany

A National Endowment for the Humanities Grant funded the lab’s microanalytical capabilities.  The facilities provide cost-effective, minimal-instrumentation archaeological analyses of the microarchaeological materials that archaeologists are able to export to their home Universities.

The microscopy wing houses a polarizing light microscope and stereo microscope to facilitate:

  • Ceramic petrography
  • Archaeometallurgy
  • Paleothnobotany
  • Usewear analysis
  • Microartifact identification

In adjoining facilities, the archaeology graduate students have funded and developed a computing facility including a scanner, digitizer, printer, and computer equipped to analyze large archaeological data sets that may be difficult to analyze on home computers.

Teaching collections

The Lab houses archaeological teaching collections for use in classroom teaching.  These collections allow students to directly engage with objects from the past and develop first hand experience in artifact analysis.  Teaching collections include:

  • Prehistoric ceramic collections
  • Historic artifact collections
  • Paleolithic and prehistoric lithic casts
  • Lithic raw materials for flint knapping demonstrations
  • Zooarchaeological collections

Classes taught in the Archaeology Lab

A series of specialized hands-on archaeological methods courses are taught in the lab using these collections.

  • 214  Archaeology: Unearthing History
  • 325  Laboratory Analysis in Archaeology

Research projects conducted in the Archaeology Lab

Faculty projects

Graduate student projects

  • Towards Households and Community Organization within the Pre-Classic Maya Site of Noh K’uh (Santiago Juarez, ongoing)
  • Empires and Everyday Practices: A Household Archaeology of Aztec and Spanish Imperialism at Xaltocan, Mexico (Lisa Overholtzer, PhD 2012)
  • Domestic Economies and Regional Transition: Household Production and Consumption in Early Postclassic Xaltocan, Mexico (Kristin de Lucia, PhD 2011)
  • The archaeology of farmscapes: Production, place, and the materiality of landscape at Xaltocan, Mexico (Christopher Morehart, PhD 2010)