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


Our Interconnected Earth

How are earthquakes, volcanoes, river systems, oceans, the atmosphere and the biosphere in which we live interconnected? This course introduces fundamental concepts in geoscience through an exploration of how the human experience is shaped by our planet’s many processes—and our drive to fit them to our purpose.

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 focuses on the important role volcanoes have played, and continue to play, in shaping the global environment. Students will explore issues related to the impact of volcanism on the atmosphere and climate and the role of volcanism in forming many of our critical economic resources. Other topics that may be explored depending upon student interest include: the role of volcanism in the origin and evolution of life, the impact of volcanic disasters on the global economy, the geothermal energy potential of volcanic systems, the impact of volcanism on human health, and the use of volcanic materials for long-term carbon sequestration. 

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.

Advanced study of coastal marine processes with an emphasis on environmental issues and case studies.

Meet Our Faculty

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

Catherine Beck

Chair and Associate Professor of Geosciences


sedimentology, stratigraphy, paleolimnology, paleoenvironmental reconstruction

Nathan Goodale

Professor of Anthropology, Associate Dean of Faculty


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

Colin Quinn

Assistant Professor of Anthropology


origins of inequality; increasing social complexity; mortuary archaeology; landscape archaeology; material culture signaling; public archaeology; mining communities; Europe, Near East, North America

George T. Jones

Professor of Anthropology Emeritus (retired)


North American prehistory, especially the Desert West; Paleo-Indian archaeology; ecological and evolutionary theory

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

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

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