The archaeology course at UM-Dearborn began last fall. (Photo courtesy of John Chenoweth)


Hands covered in dirt, picturesque autumn foliage and a cemetery in the background.

This is the backdrop of the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s archaeology course.

The course, run by John Chenoweth, an assistant professor of anthropology, started last fall.

In its first run, the class had nine students with three spots left over.

“Overall, I think the class was a success. Students seemed to enjoy it and they became a team over the course of the semester,” Chenoweth said.

Students of all different academic backgrounds were allowed to participate in the class and were eager to share their experiences with others.

“My favorite part of class was just being able to be outside and gaining valuable experience hands-on,” Laura Bossio said.

Chenoweth picked Lake Superior Township as the site of the class after connecting with some local historians.

“The site was a mid-19th century non-denominational church ruin in the middle of the forest, as well as a cemetery next to it,” Chenoweth said.

Faculty and students from Central Michigan University visited the ruins and brought Ground Penetrating Radar with them to use on the cemetery.

“That technology was very cool and I loved being able to learn about a different procedure that can assist in archaeology,” said Bossio, who said the GPR was a favorite part of the class for her.

The class will continue to run, but the site may change from time to time.

“I could stay at a site for three to four years and still not be finished. Some sites are still being dug up 20 years later but we’ll change in a year or two,” Chenoweth said.

Being an anthropology major is not required for the class, but having some prior knowledge of what anthropology is may be beneficial.

“If you are interested in archaeology but are not sure that you want to pursue it, I think you should definitely try it out,” Bossio said. “It really is such a fun class and nothing can beat hands-on experience. Do expect to get dirty and work hard, but also know that you will be learning about people in a way that no one else has. The things you uncover in the ground have never been seen since they have been buried. This course is exciting, enlightening and a fit for anyone who isn’t afraid of dirt.”

Chenoweth recommends the class for all majors.

“I think everyone can benefit from knowing about anthropology in general,” he said. “People can really benefit from weird opportunities like this one within their careers.”