Center for Archaeology and Society


The Center for Archaeology and Society exploits archaeology’s unique ability to acquire knowledge of ancient cultures to inform the present. The center is concerned with artifacts, archaeological sites and ancient landscapes – the objects, buildings and places of the past – both in their own right and for what they tell us about the societies that made and used them.

About Us

The Center for Archaeology and Society investigates the organizational strategies, management of resources and technological developments of ancient societies in order to understand the ways in which they adapted to their environments. Through these efforts the center addresses contemporary concerns with sustainability, the implications of technology and the resilience of different forms of social and economic organization, particularly in arid regions such as the U.S. Southwest. The center pursues this mission with innovative efforts in academic research; physical and digital object curation; formal and informal education; and community engagement.


The Center for Archaeology and Society continues the present integration of museum studies learning with scholarship and programming in School of Human Evolution and Social Change exhibition facilities. Center collections, exhibition facilities and research initiatives serve as “laboratories” for ASU students. Students get hands-on experience in exhibition development, collections management, museum administration and other practices within the museum studies curriculum.

The center develops the museum studies teaching agenda, training students to produce and interpret collections, exhibits, and museum programs and communications, taking advantage – when appropriate – of the center’s extensive collections and focusing on center themes. The center provides the context for theoretical research in museum studies and the production of theoretically informed readings of School of Human Evolution and Social Change’s and other interpreted spaces. In addition, the school's undergraduate and graduate students engaged in Southwestern research participate in center research and in outreach supported by the center.


Each year, center initiatives focus on a suite of themes within the broader scope of the center’s concerns. These themes provide a focus for many of the center’s research initiatives and exhibits. The themes link past and present through engagement with contemporary issues like cultural identity, indigenous peoples, immigration, border crossings, challenges of life in arid climates, large- and small-scale social organization and social and economic change. The initial theme guiding the center’s activities is the relationship between complexity and vulnerability for societies living in desert environments. The center advances its themes, in part, through comparisons of diverse archaeological cases in which the School of Human Evolution and Social Change has research expertise and collections. Initially, these cases include the Tonto Basin Salado and Phoenix Basin Hohokam, the Pueblo Southwest and Teotihuacan in central Mexico.


The Center for Archaeology and Society funds thematic research, education, and public interpretation initiatives. Investments include thematically focused field, laboratory, collections and archival research in the Southwest. Annually, a portion of this investment is directed to the Center for Digital Antiquity to expand and improve digital access to information resources relevant to the research themes and to School of Human Evolution and Social Change collections and research. These thematic initiatives provide a productive platform to seed additional, externally funded activities. The broad scope of the center initiative enables faculty to integrate their research findings into the school's curriculum, to involve undergraduate and graduate students in all phases of research, and to reach the wider, non-academic public through presentations of research results.


The Center for Archaeology and Society is revitalizing the research potential of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change’s extensive collections, employing newly developed techniques while making these findings relevant to contemporary research. The center themes influence the priorities assigned to the curation activities. The center supports curation of and research access to archaeological, ethnographic and physical anthropological collections in the several different physical locations in which they are presently housed.


Research Affiliates