About the Major

Geoarchaeology is the study of techniques and methods used to understand geological processes applied to the archaeological record and how humans engage, utilize, and move through landscapes during the past. Students combine a sequence of courses in archaeology and geosciences for broad study of theory, method, and analysis in both disciplines. Topics of focus include geochemistry, stratigraphic succession, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and landscape evolution. Opportunities for research include fieldwork in eastern Africa, Romania, the Pacific Northwest, eastern North America, and Central New York.

Students Will Learn To:

  • Engage with disciplinary fundamentals from anthropological archaeology
  • Engage with disciplinary fundamentals from geosciences
  • Combine practice and methodology through research design
  • Apply disciplinary perspective(s) in an original research project

A Sampling of Courses


Analytic Methods in Archaeology

A survey of analytic techniques central to archaeological and paleoecological interpretation. Laboratory performance of artifact analysis and classification, computer-aided data management and statistical analysis. Three hours of class and three hours of laboratory.

Explore these select courses:

A study of Earth’s mineral deposits and energy resources, their distribution, origin, economic significance, and the environmental impact of their extraction and consumption. Not open to students who have taken any other course in Principles of Geology. Maximum enrollment 24. Bailey

This course focused on how the fundamentals of sedimentology and stratigraphy can be used to reconstruct past environments and study how they change through time. This will include a study of the classification of siliciclastic and carbonate rocks, how the energy of systems controls the type of rocks deposited, and the paleoclimatic/tectonic significance of depositional sequences. Three hours of class and three hours of laboratory with field trips.

This course examines the evolution of humans from a biocultural perspective. We will investigate the evidence of human evolution, learn how inferences about biomechanics and behavior are drawn from skeletal material, critically examine the challenges of an incomplete material record, and explore issues such as the nature of biological species, human uniqueness, race and biological diversity, migration, and the relationship between humans and our environment.

A field study of the geology of southern and central Arizona. Emphasis will be placed on examining evidence of large-scale geologic processes and how humans interact with, are influenced by, and modify the natural environment. A 10-day, intensive field course emphasizing experiential learning. Course will involve moderate hiking in remote areas. January 2020; extra cost; one-half credit. Prerequisite; any 100-level Geoscience course and permission of instructors.

A consideration of major paradigms in anthropology from the 19th century to the present. The influence of various theoretical perspectives on ethnographic and archaeological description and analysis.

Meet Our Faculty

Catherine Beck

Chair and Associate Professor of Geosciences, Director of Geoarchaeology


sedimentology, stratigraphy, paleolimnology, paleoenvironmental reconstruction

Nathan Goodale

Professor of Anthropology, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs


complex hunter-gatherers in the interior Pacific Northwest; the forager/farmer transition in Southwest Asia; rural coastal adaptations in western Ireland

David Bailey

Winslow Chair of Modern Science and Professor of Geosciences


geochemistry and petrogenesis of Miocene volcanic rocks in the Powder River Volcanic Field; history of igneous and tectonic activity in the northeastern United States; the mineralogy of New York State

Explore Hamilton Stories

Robert Welch ’20

XRF Lab Puts Hamilton on the Map

Over the past seven years, the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) lab has put Hamilton on the map in the world of geochemical analysis. The lab uses x-rays, a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, to determine the chemical composition of rocks, minerals, and soils.

 Nathan Goodale

Nathan Goodale Promoted to Professor

An interdisciplinary practitioner of scientific anthropological archaeology, Goodale also teaches within the Geoarchaeology Program and currently directs the Digital Arts Program.

Catherine Beck in Kenya

Beck Awarded NSF Grant: How Extreme Weather Affected Early Humans

Using fossil evidence and modern water isotope measurements, the researchers’ goal is to understand the impact of extreme weather on early humans and the ecosystems on which they depended.

Careers After Hamilton

Hamilton graduates who concentrated in geoarchaeology are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:

  • Senior Principal Scientist, Hazen and Sawyer, P.C.
  • Ph.D. Student, University of Cambridge
  • Acting Executive Director, The Quivira Coalition


Department Name

Geoarchaeology Program

Contact Name

Cat Beck, Program Co-Director

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

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