COVID-19

Following the campus guidelines for Coronavirus all UC Davis classes, lectures, seminars, labs and discussion sections will move to virtual instruction and remain virtual through the end of fall quarter 2020, including final exams. Given this, the department’s administrative functions have moved to remote work conditions. To contact staff members of the department via e-mail or phone, please go to our administrative staff contact page. 

Archaeology

Archaeology is the study of societies from the recent and distant past, primarily through analysis of material remains.

The great time depth of archaeological studies brings a unique perspective to our understanding of the evolution of our species — for example, providing insight into human adaptations to ice ages, the development of agricultural systems, the evolution of human health and diets, and the origins of complex civilizations. Archaeologists at UC Davis work all around the globe, and focus especially on adaptations to coastal environments, zooarchaeology (analysis of animal bones), lithic technology (analysis of stone tools), and archaeometry (application of scientific techniques to study properties of materials).

Anthropology is the holistic study of human cultures, societies, and biology. Archaeology is the sub-field of anthropology that studies past human cultures, societies, and biology by examining material culture, or artifacts. The UC Davis Department of Anthropology includes archaeology faculty and students who investigate artifacts around the world to advance our understanding of the great diversity of human experience on our planet. In studying and protecting cultural heritage, archaeologists often encounter and engage with human skeletal remains. We, the archaeology faculty of the UC Davis Department of Anthropology, acknowledge that archaeology in the past historically entailed treating human remains as research specimens with perspectives that were often at odds with those of descendant communities. For much of the history of archaeology in the Americas, for example, archaeologists applied Euro-American ideas about science, burial, life, and death to their findings because that was their cultural background. Such biased engagement with the archaeological record and human remains directly or indirectly disenfranchised and harmed under-represented groups. For California archaeology, these groups include, but are not limited to, Indigenous, Latinx, Black, Chinese, and Japanese peoples. We recognize that this problem must be corrected.

 

Statement on human remains and engagement with descendant communities
DRAFT

Anthropology is the holistic study of human cultures, societies, and biology. Archaeology is the sub-field of anthropology that studies past human cultures, societies, and biology by examining material culture, or artifacts. The UC Davis Department of Anthropology includes archaeology faculty and students who investigate artifacts around the world to advance our understanding of the great diversity of human experience on our planet. In studying and protecting cultural heritage, archaeologists often encounter and engage with human skeletal remains. We, the archaeology faculty of the UC Davis Department of Anthropology, acknowledge that archaeology in the past historically entailed treating human remains as research specimens with perspectives that were often at odds with those of descendant communities. For much of the history of archaeology in the Americas, for example, archaeologists applied Euro-American ideas about science, burial, life, and death to their findings because that was their cultural background. Such biased engagement with the archaeological record and human remains directly or indirectly disenfranchised and harmed under-represented groups. For California archaeology, these groups include, but are not limited to, Indigenous, Latinx, Black, Chinese, and Japanese peoples. We recognize that this problem must be corrected.

 

We affirm that the lives of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Chinese, Japanese and other under-represented groups matter. We affirm that accurate representation of their histories matter and that accurate representation of those histories demands integration of and respectful engagement with those communities. Further, we are committed to helping descendant communities access archaeological collections for their own research. Archaeology is just one of many ways of understanding the past alongside traditional cultural knowledge. We recognize that the human remains with which archaeologists typically engage are affiliated—whether genetically, culturally, or both—with contemporary descendant communities, often in the regions where the remains are found. Research on human remains, associated funerary objects, and other items of cultural patrimony demands consent and participation from descendant communities. We acknowledge that the Department of Anthropology is located on land that has been home to the Patwin people for millennia. The campus is Patwin land and remains an important part of Patwin heritage and identity. Today, there are three federally recognized Patwin tribes: Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community, Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation, and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. We therefore strongly support collaboration with descendant communities in the co-construction of narratives of the past.

Today, archaeologists, Indigenous communities, and legal bureaucracies operate in a complex and ever-changing sociopolitical landscape in which no single view of the materialized past prevails. UC Davis archaeology faculty strive to comply with global, federal, state, and local standards and laws that guide the ethical treatment of human remains. These include, but are not limited to, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Articles 12 and 31), the United States Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), California NAGPRA (as amended), AB 52-CEQA Tribal Consultation, and the University of California’s Native American Cultural Affiliation and Repatriation Policy. The UC Davis Anthropology Museum is in compliance with NAGPRA regulations, and since its inception in 2014, we have worked closely with UC Davis’ NAGPRA project staff (https://nagpra.ucdavis.edu) to maintain compliance and further communication with Indigenous communities. We are further committed to training our students in the ethical treatment of human remains, compliance with relevant laws, and equitable engagement with descendant communities.

In acknowledging and affirming the aforementioned to be true, the UC Davis Department of Anthropology upholds its commitment to respectful treatment of human remains and to making archaeology an equitable practice that includes the voices of descendant communities and advances our collective understanding of human diversity.

 

— Archaeology faculty, UC Davis Department of Anthropology:

Christyann Darwent, Jelmer Eerkens, Randall Haas, Teresa Steele, Nicolas Zwyns

November 2020