PhD in Anthropology: Archaeology

For prospective applicants interested in the MA in Archaeological Heritage, you will find the program outlined here.

Program Overview

Admission | Advising | Program Structure | Events

The Archaeology graduate program is designed to train students in archaeological method, theory and practice, critical thinking, the scientific analysis of the physical content of archaeological sites, and ethical engagement at the doctoral level. The program is also designed to train professional archaeologists capable of working in a wide variety of contexts.

Each student is required to:

  1. Develop expertise in data collection at a professional level through coursework and practical experience;
  2. Acquire thorough control of archaeological method and theory;
  3. Acquire substantial competence in at least one technical and one major geographic area;
  4. Demonstrate an ability to conceive, design, and execute significant research within archaeology; Develop skills in classroom instruction to a level deemed adequate for university-level teaching; and
  5. Become conversant in ethical issues in current archaeological practices.

Since there are considerable differences among individuals in learning styles, there is a great deal of flexibility in how these goals may be achieved within the program. As a consequence, emphasis is placed upon both course work and upon independent demonstration that these goals have been mastered.

The first goal is normally realized by acquiring field or laboratory experience in the context of ongoing professional archaeological research. Field or laboratory experience is required of all students, although the dissertation need not be based on this work. The second goal, competence in archaeological method and theory, is met through required course work, including courses that focus upon these subjects (see the Curriculum section in this document) and courses that cover areas and topical concerns in which this knowledge can be put to practical use. A major segment of the comprehensive examination is designed to test this competence. The area-competence goal is partially met by course work at the 400 and 500 levels but must include substantial independent reading by each student. This competence is also tested in the comprehensive examination. The fourth goal is largely met by the dissertation and the research that precedes it. Finally, although every effort is made to provide qualified students with teaching opportunities (e.g., Teaching Assistantships, Pre-doctoral Teaching Associates) in the department, evaluated teaching experience outside the university may also satisfy the teaching competency requirement. Ethical competence is accomplished through coursework, participation in seminars/colloquia, directed reading, and completion of targeted comprehensive exam essays. All students are expected to conduct their research with a high standard of ethical practice with regard to local and/or descent communities and archaeological documentation, preservation and choice of methods.

The program can be divided into two parts. The first six quarters are spent in course work with the archaeology faculty. This part of the program ends with the comprehensive examination. The second part of each student's course of study is more closely supervised by the student's committee and is directed toward the dissertation project and the special skills and interests that the student wishes to develop beyond the general competence gained in the first six quarters. During their graduate career, all students are expected to attend all archaeological guest lectures, seminars, and student colloquia. Lack of attendance at such affairs may be taken into account in assessing general performance in the program. 


The UW Archaeology Program welcomes applicants interested in pursuing graduate study with us. We are looking for graduate students whose research interests can be supported by our faculty expertise, and who show promise for success. We desire to build a more diverse field of archaeology and are committed to recruiting students who could contribute to these efforts. We strongly suggest that prospective students review the profiles of current faculty for areas of common interest, and email prospective faculty mentors to discuss plans. Prospective graduate students must have completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degree before enrollment, but this degree does not have to be in anthropology or archaeology.

During the process of earning the Archaeology PhD, students will also earn a Master of Arts (MA) in Anthropology: Archaeology. The Anthropology Department also offers a separate Master of Arts (MA) in Archaeological Heritage program. While some of the course work is identical, the Archaeological Heritage and PhD in Anthropology: Archaeology tracks are independent programs. Students admitted into the Archaeological Heritage program would need to apply to the PhD program to switch tracks and vice versa.

The application deadline for enrollment beginning in Autumn 2025 is December 15, 2024. Applications open on September 1st, 2024. Applicants may apply for and be admitted for autumn quarter only. Offers of admission are usually mailed prior to the first of March. Those receiving offers of admission must respond by April 15. Please visit the Graduate School's Admission Requirements page for a complete list of requirements. Visit Anthropology's Graduate Admissions page for admission information specific to our department. Visit Apply Now to submit your application. 


Applicants are not required to submit GRE's. The full UW Archaeology faculty review all applications. We carefully review your Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, grade history, letters of recommendation, and writing samples. Below are our suggestions for writing your Statements of Purpose and Personal Statements for the UW Archaeology Program.

Statement of Purpose

The Statement of Purpose (about 1500 words) should convince us (i.e., the archaeology faculty) that you show promise for success as a graduate student. Your statement of purpose can be seen as as a persuasive essay with three different parts:

Part 1: Introduce yourself, your interests and motivations (who you are)

Tell us what you are interested in, and perhaps, what sparked your desire for graduate study in archaeology. It should be short and to the point; don’t spend a great deal of time on an autobiography.

Part 2: Summarize your undergraduate education and work experience (your past)

a) Write about classes you have taken in archaeology or related fields, especially important papers or independent research projects that you have completed, such as conference presentations, honors projects, internships, etc.

b) If you have had a job, discuss your experiences relevant to your future scholarship, especially if you had any kind of position or internship involving research in archaeology or related fields.

c) Address how these experiences have focused your goals and/or prepared you to undertake graduate studies in archaeology.

Part 3: Elaborate on your academic interests (your future) 

a) What would you like to focus on in graduate school? Indicate your areas of interest. Ideally, pose a question, define a problem, or indicate a theme that you would like to address, and questions that arise from current archaeological research. Discuss how you came to be interested in your questions, problems, or themes and how addressing it would advance, improve or change contemporary archaeology in a constructive way.

b) Why is UW the place you want to study? Look at the UW Anthropology website for information about professors, current graduate students and their research and other UW campus resources (labs, museums, research units, etc.) you might be interested in engaging with while you are here. Are there UW professors whose research interests parallel yours? If so, indicate this. How might available campus resources further support your work as a graduate student researcher? (It is a good idea to email those professors whose interests might overlap with yours to ask what their upcoming research projects are, and if they are interested in taking on new students.)

c) Discuss your long term career goals after graduate school; why do you need a graduate degree to achieve these goals?

d) Statements that convey excitement and intellectual passion for archaeological research usually read better than those that do not. Try to draft a statement that taps into and justifies your own enthusiasm for a future in archaeology. 

Personal Statement

The Personal Statement (about 1000 words) should give concrete examples of your promise as a member of the academic community, and give the committee an image of you as a person.

What kinds of content belongs here?

Anything that can give reviewers a sense of your uniqueness as an individual belongs in this statement. While you can expand on experiences noted in your research statement, here we hope to learn more about experiences that show your promise, initiative, unique accomplishments and ability to overcome obstacles. If one part of your academic record reflects challenges you faced in that particular area, this statement provides an opportunity to explain your record and  why  it is not representative of your promise for higher education... or perhaps why it is evidence of your potential.

We value diversity and inclusion within our program. This statement is a place where you might wish to discuss your potential to bring a unique or underrepresented perspective into archaeology, your understanding of the challenges facing under-represented groups in academia, and your own ethical commitments as a scholar and archaeologist in training. It is also helpful for the admissions committee when students from underrepresented backgrounds in academia tell us more about that background in this statement as it allows us to nominate you for targeted fellowships, when available. For this purpose, we encourage discussing:

Your potential to contribute to our program, the field of archaeology, and higher education based on understanding the barriers facing women, U.S. minorities, students with disabilities, or other members of groups underrepresented in higher education careers, as evidenced by life experiences and educational background. For example:

    • attendance at a minority serving institution;
    • ability to articulate the barriers facing women and minorities in academia;
    • participation in higher education pipeline programs such as McNair Scholars or SACNAS;
    • Academic service advancing equitable access to higher education for women and minorities in fields where they are underrepresented;

Leadership experience among students from groups that have been historically excluded or marginalized in higher education;

Research interests focusing on underserved populations and understanding issues of racial,  gender and other inequalities in archaeology. For example:

    • research that addresses issues such as race, gender, diversity, and inclusion;
    • research that addresses health disparities, educational access and achievement, political engagement, economic justice, social mobility, civil and human rights, and other questions of interest to historically excluded or marginalized groups;
    • artistic expression and cultural production that reflects culturally diverse communities or voices not well represented in archaeology.

We require three letters of recommendation. The letters can come from anyone who is familiar with your interests and goals and should emphasize your promise for success in graduate study. Most applicants share their statements of purpose and personal statements with potential letter writers, who are typically past professors or work supervisors. Letters from family members or close personal friends are discouraged. Please visit The Graduate School’s guide on Letters of Recommendation.

We require transcripts from academic institutions you have attended. English Language Learners may have to submit test scores. Applications are submitted online through the UW Graduate School.


Before arriving at the university, incoming graduate students will be assigned two faculty advisors. The advising team will stay in regular contact with their student, and encourage the student to raise questions, discuss options for dissertation research, keep their advisors apprised of their progress, let them know of challenges they are facing and consult each quarter concerning study plans and course registration. A student may change their advisors at any time at the discretion of the student and willingness of the new advisors—however students must always have two advisors prior to the formation of their PhD Supervisory Committee.

Statistics Concentration

Graduate student pursuing a PhD in anthropology may also consider completing a Statistics Concentration in Anthropology.


Please visit the Department of Anthropology's main calendar and the Friday Afternoon Archaeology Lecture Series (FAALS) calendar for a list of upcoming events.

Program Structure

Program Years One & Two | Curriculum | Annual Reviews | Comprehensive Examination | Master of Arts | Advancement to Post-MA Studies | PhD Supervisory Committee | Dissertation Research Proposal | General Examination | Colloquium | Language Competency | Grant Funding & Publishing | Teaching | Dissertation | Final Examination

Program Years One & Two

First-year and second-year course work will include the courses in the curriculum described below. Since no course is offered more than once each year, and some only every two years, or even less often, it is important that the student consult regularly with their faculty advisors before enrolling for a new academic quarter.

In addition to the above, second-year course work may include advanced work in the area chosen by the student for concentration, and may include course work outside the department in areas related to the student's research interest. It is recommended for students to enroll in QSCI 381, 482, and 483.

Students and Advisors are expected to start planning their dissertation research and working on the dissertation research proposal in the first two years (see below).


Several core and option courses must be completed prior to receipt of the PhD. Please see the course catalog for more details about specific courses. 

All students must take the following core courses:

  • ARCHY 510: Introduction to Archaeological Theory (5 cr)
  • ARCHY 599: Teaching in Archaeology (3 cr) OR an equivalent course in instructional methods relevant to large, entry level archaeology classes
  • ARCHY 576: Designing Grant Proposals (5 cr)
  • ARCHY 600b: Proposal Development (5 cr), OR an  equivalent grant proposal course in Anthropology or a related department. 

Students are required to complete the minimum required credits from three categories of courses:

  • A minimum of 15 credits from the Method and Theory courses.
  • A minimum of 5 credits from the Area courses or equivalent.
  • A minimum of 5 credits from the Social Impacts of Archaeology courses or equivalent.

A current list of the courses in each category can be obtained from the Graduate Program Advisor. Students who have taken graduate courses at other institutions may petition for one or more of those courses to count towards their PhD requirements. Students may choose to take additional courses relevant to their particular research interests; these should be chosen in consultation with the student’s primary advisors and committee members. 

Students must register for a minimum of 27 credits of Dissertation Writing (ANTH 800) over a period of at least three quarters.

While in residence, PhD students are expected to attend the Friday Afternoon Archaeology Lecture Series (FAALS). If there are extenuating circumstances which make this difficult, the student should discuss these with their advisor. FAALS is designed to be a forum for professional development and features a combination of research seminars from students and faculty at the UW and beyond as well as occasional sessions on topics such as career development. Students should reserve the FAALS time slots on their calendars.

Annual Reviews

All students must meet with their advisors early in the Spring Quarter to complete the Department's required Annual Review. At this meeting the advisors and the student will review the student's progress and performance in the graduate program and discuss the student's educational and research plans for the upcoming year. The student’s co-advisors must submit the completed Annual Review form to the Anthropology Department Graduate Student Administrator. 

The Annual Review should include:

  • a brief self-assessment of the year, and forward-looking plan of study for the coming year
  • evidence of coursework completed (if any)
  • evidence of teaching (if any)
  • evidence of conference participation or similar professional activities (if any)
  • evidence of applications submitted for fellowships, grants or other opportunities (if any)
  • evidence of publications or similar public and professional writing (if any)
  • brief summary of the student’s interactions with their mentor network, including names of mentors
  • discussion of any challenges faced in the past year and efforts/plans/opportunities to overcome them

Students who are judged not to be performing at a level expected and/or who are not making satisfactory progress will receive written notification of this assessment and will be advised on what steps they should take to correct any problems or concerns expressed by the Committee or faculty. Failure to comply with these instructions may lead to a recommendation to the Dean of the Graduate School for alteration of a student's standing, i.e. warning, probation or final probation. 

In addition to the annual review, after completion of the comes, you should expect to meet with the Comps committee to identify strengths and weaknesses identified in your examination and for suggestions on future directions.

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination (or “Comps”) is a written examination evaluated by members of the archaeology faculty. Students must complete the Comps before the second week of the Autumn Quarter of their third year (or seventh quarter) of full-time study in the department. 

Students must submit a Master's Degree request (non-thesis) in MyGrad prior to the exam. Please refer to the Procedural Steps to Degree page for details about how to submit requests in MyGrad. A copy of the current document "The Comprehensive Examination in Archaeology" will be given to each student upon entry into the program. This document outlines the structure of the Comps. Refer to this document for all related procedures.

The evaluation of the written examinations by the archaeology faculty will have one of three outcomes:

  1. Pass, with recommendation to proceed in the PhD program. Individuals who perform at this level receive the MA degree as soon as they have completed the other requirements (see below);
  2. Retake the exam. Students with this outcome may receive the award of an MA after completion of other MA requirements (see below). After completing the MA, students who fall within this category may retake the Comprehensive Examination once; the exam must be retaken within the next academic year; 
  3. Fail. Students who fail this examination may not proceed toward the PhD.

Master of Arts

In the process of pursuing a PhD, a Master of Arts (MA) in Anthropology: Archaeology is normally conferred once the student receives a Pass on the Comprehensive Examination, and all department and UW Graduate School requirements are met. Once the Graduate Program Assistant is informed that the student has completed their Comprehensive Examination and fulfilled all related degree requirements, the degree request will be approved.

Advancement to Post-MA Studies

Students admitted to the PhD program at the start of their UW graduate studies proceed automatically to the PhD portion of the program when they have completed the MA degree.

After successfully completing the comprehensive exam, the student's course of study is specifically tailored to meet their own research interest and requires close consultation with the chair/s of the supervisory committee and its other members. Course work is normally limited to those graduate courses that may have been missed due to alternate year offerings, courses outside the department essential to pursuing the student's research goals, ARCHY 600 (independent study) and completion of 27 ANTH 800 dissertation credits (over a minimum of 3 quarters) prior to graduation.

PhD Supervisory Committee

The student must constitute their PhD Supervisory Committee (Policy 4.2)  by the end of the seventh quarter of residence and no later than 4 months before submitting the request to schedule the general examination. A member of the Archaeology faculty must chair or be one of co-chairs of the committee. Students may select any of the archaeology faculty as their Chair or co-chair and are not limited to keeping their Years 1 & 2 co-advisors. The student should meet at least once a year with their Supervisory Committee members to keep them apprised of their progress, inform them of their research plans, get feedback and ask questions.  

Please refer Policy 4.2: Supervisory Committee for Graduate Students for a complete list of Supervisory Committee composition requirements. The PhD Supervisory Committee must include at least three members of the Anthropology faculty, and a graduate school representative (GSR) selected by the student from among the University of Washington’s eligible graduate faculty members. The Supervisory Committee must contain a total of at least three voting members plus the GSR. The student should discuss committee member choices with their chair/s and their developing projects with prospective committee members. It is strongly recommended that the committee contain one or more members from outside the department.  The advisor will assist the student in forming the committee, but it is the student's responsibility to contact potential committee members and submit appropriate paperwork to the Graduate Program Assistant.

Faculty become official members of the committee when (1) the student submits a completed form for establishing a PhD Supervisory Committee to the Graduate Program Assistant, and (2) the Graduate School responds by officially inviting all proposed committee members to serve as members of the supervisory committee. At least three members of the Supervisory Committee will also serve on the PhD dissertation Reading Committee. Students should contact the Graduate Program Assistant if they would like to change the composition of their committee after it is officially established.

Dissertation Research Proposal

After completing the master’s degree, the student subsequently presents a formal written proposal to conduct original research to the Supervisory Committee. This Dissertation Research Proposal is a plan (maximum ten single-spaced pages) for the dissertation research. It must lay out the problem that is to be addressed by the research and establish the archaeological significance of that problem.  It must also present the overall research design, briefly describe the data requirements and how those requirements will be met, and provide a discussion of the analytic methods to be used. In no case will a purely descriptive dissertation be accepted. Close cooperation between the student and Supervisory Committee is required, and the entire PhD Supervisory Committee must approve the proposal. Where appropriate, the proposal should be prepared in a form suitable for submission to a funding agency (e.g. NSF DDIG).

General Examination

The general examination is administered by the Supervisory Committee on behalf of the dean of the Graduate School. The examination is a two-hour oral examination administered by the student's Supervisory Committee, and may be attended by any member of the graduate faculty. The general examination should be taken within five enrolled quarters after taking the comprehensive examination. In order to schedule the general examination, the dissertation research proposal must be formally approved by the student’s committee. Students must submit a Doctoral (General Exam) request in MyGrad prior to the exam. Please refer to the Procedural Steps to Degree page for details about how to submit requests in MyGrad. In rare cases, a student may petition the Supervisory Committee to allow the generals to precede approval of the final draft of the dissertation research proposal. 

The examination will normally cover the area within archaeology that the student is pursuing in detail as well as any other material considered relevant by the Supervisory CommitteeThe committee may recommend admission to candidacy to the PhD (PhC), re-examination in selected areas, or failure. 

The PhC is normally conferred once the student receives a Pass on their General Examination, and all department and UW Graduate School requirements are met. Once the Graduate Program Assistant is informed that the student has completed their General Examination and fulfilled all related degree requirements, the exam request will be approved.


By the end of the quarter following the completion of the General Examination, the student must give an oral presentation that sets forth: 

  • the problem being addressed by the dissertation, 
  • the area and data to be investigated, 
  • the significance of the problem for the discipline, 
  • the questions or hypotheses being addressed, and 
  • the analytical methods to be used

The formal presentation that forms the heart of the colloquium is to last for no more than 40 minutes. The colloquium is open to Anthropology faculty and graduate students as well as to other interested individuals, and is meant to give such individuals an opportunity to comment on the proposed research. The colloquium is normally presented in the fourth year.

Language Competency

Language skills facilitate access to international scholarship and opportunities for international partnership and fieldwork. Whether or not a student’s dissertation research requires the use of a foreign language, students are all encouraged to demonstrate competence in a major scientific or field language (other than English) in order to complete the PhD. Ideally, the language selected will be one of direct relevance to the dissertation work or related scholarship. Language competency is not formally required by the Archaeology Faculty, but could be an expectation of a student’s primary advisors and/or Supervisory/Reading Committee as relevant to the student’s research. 

Grant Funding & Publishing

While not a formal requirement of the PhD program, students are strongly encouraged to apply for external grant funding and to begin publishing their research in peer-reviewed journals before completion of their PhDs. Peer-reviewed publications allow the broader dissemination of one’s work to benefit the scientific community and demonstrate one’s capability to contribute meaningfully to the discipline. Grant funding supports high quality research, demonstrates one’s ability to support their work, and provides an external check on the merits of that research. It is difficult to get post-PhD jobs in academia without a strong grant funding and publication record. For students who decide not to continue in academia, grants and publications are still likely to be helpful on the job market. Students should strategize with the chair/s of their Supervisory Committee and other advisors about applying for grants and submitting their work for publication.


Before receiving the PhD degree, the candidate is encouraged to serve as a teaching assistant in anthropology, or as an instructor of a course in anthropology at least once. The course should be evaluated by the students enrolled, and this evaluation should be shared and discussed with the PhD student's chair/s. To increase the opportunity to teach at least one such course, students are encouraged to apply starting mid-program. Summer instructorships are ideal first teaching appointments and are often used to provide experience prior to appointment to Academic Year instructorships. As with grants and publications, teaching experience is highly valued in job searches.


The dissertation must represent the product of original research on a significant topic in archaeology. Normally it is based upon field or laboratory work conducted by the student, but this is not required. The dissertation may take the form of a monograph or a series of, three or more, related peer-reviewed publications, publishable papers, or equivalent public scholarly works. The student should discuss these options with their chair/s, and become familiar with the relevant expectations early in their studies. Close cooperation between the Reading Committee and the student is essential. The student is responsible for keeping their committee fully informed of the dissertation progress on a quarterly basis. 

Final Examination

Following completion of research, the candidate prepares a dissertation, which is submitted to the dissertation Reading Committee, ideally within the first two weeks of the quarter in which the final examination (dissertation defense) are expected to be scheduled. On the recommendation of the Reading Committee, the candidate presents to the community a short public seminar based upon the dissertation, and then sits for the closed final examination (an oral defense of the dissertation required by the Graduate School and administered by the Supervisory Committee). The final examination is scheduled by the Dean of the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the Supervisory CommitteePlease take note of any relevant deadlines on the Graduate student dates & deadlines and the Academic Calendar.

Once the date and time of the final examination have been established, the student must submit a Doctoral (Final Exam) request in MyGrad. Please refer to the Procedural Steps to Degree page for details about how to submit requests in MyGrad. The final examination is administered by the Supervisory Committee and is limited to the student's dissertation; any member of the graduate faculty may attend the final examination. For information about how to submit a dissertation, visit the Dissertation Submission page, the Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs): Overview, and the Procedural Steps to Degree page.

Please visit the Graduation Requirement page for a comprehensive list of University requirements.