Planning an Individualized Major in Archaeology

Developing a plan for the Archaeology major and writing a prospectus are important steps in becoming an Archaeology major at Cornell.  Since the major is an Individualized one, it should be tailored to your interests, strengths, and career goals.  The Catalogue provides guidelines and suggestions, but it is up to you to create a program that fits you.

When should I develop the plan?

Since everyone at Cornell must declare a major by December 1 of their sophomore year, it is good to meet with your Archaeology adviser by the end of October to begin the process.

What are the steps?

The first step in creating your plan is to make a list of all the archaeology-related courses that you have taken as well as the courses that you hope to take over the next two years.  At least five of those courses must be at the 300- or 400-level.

The second step is to reflect and write a paragraph explaining what stirred your interest in archaeology and a second paragraph clarifying what areas of the world you are most interested in, what cultural or scientific aspects most intrigue you, and what career goals motivate you.

Third, after you have made a list of courses and reflected on your interests and goals, it is time to talk with your adviser and see if you are on the right track or if you might want to consider additional options.

Fourth, after the two of you have talked things over, it is time to write your prospectus.  The two paragraphs you wrote explaining your interests and goals should begin the prospectus.  The next several paragraphs will explain why each course on your list of courses contributes to your individualized major.  These paragraphs should not simply list the courses in chronological order, but should be grouped in ways that show how various courses are linked; e.g., they provide a foundation for the major, contribute to a particular area of the world (e.g., the Caribbean, Mexico, the eastern Mediterranean, or the North American Great Plains) or cultural phenomenon (religious ritual, domestic space, funerary customs, diet), and/or develop a special area of expertise within archaeology (ceramics, geographic information systems, conservation, public education).  Your adviser will share a sample student prospectus with you as an example.

After both of you are happy with the prospectus, it is time to choose two other faculty members who will approve your prospectus and be part of your team advising you on their areas of expertise as you progress through your major.

Junior and Senior Years

As important as your Cornell courses are, you also need hands-on experience in the field or in a lab to see what you are best at and to build your resume.  Join the Archaeology Club and participate in lectures, excursions to museums, and trips to archaeological sites and excavations.  Visit the Resources for Students page on the Cornell Archaeology page to learn about field schools, both at home and abroad, and internships, at the Office of the State Archaeologist or a museum.  We recommend that every archaeology major should have two off-campus experiences to apply their book knowledge in active archaeological investigation.

What happens if I want to change my prospectus?

No problem.  Many Archaeology majors develop new areas of interest as they progress through their major, gain field experience, and do internships.  They realize that they have gaps in their knowledge, or want to go deeper into a particular area, or discover a new passion.  At that point, it’s quite appropriate to revise the prospectus to suit your new interests and goals.  Simply meet with your adviser and talk about these new interests and make a new plan.