Archy 304, Fall 2002
New World Prehistory

Poster Assignments


The purpose of this assignment is to give you the opportunity to research, synthesize and report on an archaeological subject in a collaborative manner. After a week of coordinated library research and synthesis of information about a subject, students groups will prepare a “poster presentation” of that subject for the class. The posters will be displayed for the remainder of the quarter in the hall outside of the archaeology labs (Denny hall basement).


The poster topics will all focus on an important aspect of the “Archaic” period. The Archaic is a term used broadly to cover the diverse hunting and gathering cultures of North, Central, and South America following the end of the last glaciation up to the advent of agriculture or European contact which ever came first. Project subjects are selected to cover the greatest diversity of Archaic cultures.  Student groups, with assistance from the instructor, will select particular archaeological sites, or sets of sites represented in the archaeological literature on which to base their research and presentation.

Nitty Gritty:

Seven or eight groups will be formed by the end of the first week of class. 

See POSTER GROUPS link for your group assignment.

Each group of between 4 and 5 students will be assigned an archaeological complex from the list below. Each member of the group will then take on the responsibility of researching a particular set of questions about the archaeological complex (see list of research questions below).

During and after research, your group will assemble pictures, drawings, and text onto posterboard, in essence, fashioning an exhibit about your subject. Illustrations can be copied out of books and magazine articles, they may be computer generated or hand drawn, but they should be neat and presentable. Color is particularly appealing in Poster Presentations. Subjects should be well organized on the poster in sections with clear headings. Include a complete bibliography of literature used. [For poster examples, see the bulletin boards in the halls around the 4th floor of Denny].

Research can start anytime after group assignments are made; however, the majority of work on this project is expected to take place between October 16 and 22. There will be no formal class during this week and you are expected to spend this time working on your posters.

The instructor will meet with each group on the 22 of October to review group progress and discuss formatting and presentation. Posters will be presented in 5-10 minute presentations by the full groups on October 27. In this way, you will share in the presentation of the Archaic to class.  Posters will then be mounted on the walls around Denny Hall, where students will be required to evaluate them.  Peer evaluations are to be submitted using the Poster Evaluation section of this web site.

Research Questions:

Each Team member should choose a different one of these questions to research. The poster should be organized into these sections with the name of the responsible student listed under the section heading on the poster. In addition, a co-authored introduction and conclusion paragraph should be included and all bibliographic references combined into a single bibliography page attached at the end.

a) CHRONOLOGY. When did the Archaic in this region begin and end (based on what information)? What came before and after the Archaic (why do we recognize a change at these times)? What major cultures, periods, phases, or traditions are recognized within the Archaic for this region, and how are they recognized? (A chronology chart is the most effective way to present this information [see for example Fidel pp. xvi-xix]). A couple of paragraphs of text should accompany diagrams, answering the above questions, explaining the significances of the different periods, highlighting any unknowns in the chronology (are there gaps?), and describing the diagnostic artifacts and other characteristics that relate to specific phases etc. of the chronology.

b) SETTLEMENT PATTERNS: What is known about how people organized themselves over space during this time? What different kind of sites are known? How do researchers think they were used? What do settlements look like? Are they villages, or camps, seasonal or year round occupations (and how do we know)? You might have to make educated guesses based on the information available- e.g., were people living in tents and leaving thin layers of refuse, or in substantial houses with large volumes of refuse, artifacts and storage features? Illustrate reconstructed seasonal migration routes or land use if possible- showing habitation sites, hunting camps, butchery sites, raw material extraction locations and any other information that is available. Also illustrate one or more site plans, showing the organization of a houses and other features across a site.

c) ECONOMY. What is known about the subsistence economy of the people living in your target period? What foods were eaten at what times of year? How do we know? Are there any significant changes in the diet over the course of the Archaic? What might explain these changes (changing climate, population growth, new inventions, etc.)? Discuss an example of faunal analysis conducted on the site or sites archaeofauna and if available, an example of a study of paleoethnobotanical research. What were the research questions driving the analyses? What future research is desireable and to what end?

d) TECHNOLOGY. Describe and illustrate the range of common tools found in the archaeology of your period. What do researchers think these were used for and why do they give them these functions? Are there any significant changes in technology through the period you are dealing with? How much energy appears to go into making things that have little or no direct function (or how much decorative elaboration is made on functional artifacts)? What might the embellishment or lack of embellishment of preserved implements tell us about social organization, economy, or religion (speculate)?

e) POLITICAL ORGANIZATION AND IDEOLOGY. What can be said about the social organization of the people during your period? Do there appear to be significant differences in dwelling size, the richness of household or burial goods that might indicate differences in power or wealth? Do available studies of skeletons indicate significant differences in the nutritional health of different individuals (old vs. young, men vs. women, cross-cutting age and gender). Are there major monuments or other earth, wood, or stone constructions that would have required mobilization of large numbers of people? Did people live in small or large houses, camps or large villages... and what are the implications of these observations with regard to the presence or leaders, of social inequality, etc.

NOTE: Please be sensitive to cultural beliefs.  Do not illustrate human remains or objects that to your knowledge are held sacred by the Native Americans currently living in the area which you are researching. 

Working Bibliographies:

The link here will take you to lists of readings that are suggestions for STARTING your research. You are expected to go beyond this list using the resources of the UW libraries. You are also NOT expected to read ALL of these. Only what you find that is useful for the assignment

Possible Sources

Guidelines on Poster Presentations

Posters are like exhibits. They should be visually appealing, easy to read from a distance, colorful, and informative.

Use large fonts and present information in visuals and captions as much as possible.

You will want to include a couple of paragraphs summarizing your research on any particular question (eg., technologies) but do not expect to have room to put in pages of text.


Plan on using two or three images (Photos, line drawings, charts, etc.) per theme. These should help to illustrate the important points you have outlined in your text section.

Include captions that describe what is pictured and include reference to the source of the image (book, article, web address, etc.). Feel free to design your own graphics if that will improve the presentation of information.

Coordinate your work together so that the poster follows an overall logic of presentation. The end result should flow from one topic to another. The Introduction and Conclusion (1 paragraph each) should integrate the results.


Individual (80%):
- comprehensive coverage of topic (content)
- organized and informative presentation (on poster and in class)
- effectiveness in conveying information (style)

Group (20%):
- introduction/conclusion and or synthesis of information
- poster organization/design (does it facilitate learning?)

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Last modified: 10/04/2004 1:08 AM