Research Facilities

Yale University students and faculty have access to some of the finest collegiate resources in the world. Archaeological Studies students may research using the second-largest academic library in the world, extremely important and extensive museum collections, and state of the art research facilities ranging from the Council’s newly established Yale Initiative for the Study of Ancient Pyrotechnology to the Center for Earth Observation.

Yale Initiative for the Study of Ancient Pyrotechnology

Ellery Frahm, PhD, Director
The Yale Initiative for the Study of Ancient Pyrotechnology (Y-PYRO) serves as an umbrella organization for archaeological research carried out by Council on Archaeological Studies (CAS) faculty and students on five continents. Additionally, Y-PYRO oversees the Yale University Archaeology Laboratories (YUAL), a cluster of integrated analytical, dating, and other research facilities maintained by the CAS.

The development of technology, particularly with respect to synthetic materials such as pottery and metals, can be conceptualized in terms of the control of fire: pyrotechnology.  The development of new technologies and materials, until quite recently in human history, depended on attaining - and controlling - greater and greater temperatures.  This process began as early as 1.5 million years ago, when control of fire enabled changes in human behavior, diet, and even technology, such as heat treatment of stone tools, wood implements, and complex adhesives to join them.  Baked clay (terracotta) eventually followed, as did ceramics, metal, faience, glass, and other substances on which civilization was built.

The faculty and students of Yale’s CAS conduct field- and laboratory-based studies on how increasingly sophisticated human control of fire, as evidenced in material culture and the archaeological record, became a critical stimulus to the emergence of complexity around the world. In addition, thermally-induced magnetic signals recorded in artifacts and features form the basis for precise dating in Yale’s Archaeomagnetism Laboratory. Yale and the CAS have a growing reputation worldwide for innovative research in emerging complex society, and as such the CAS identified a critical need for enhanced laboratory capabilities and field training in pyrotechnology as an integrated archaeological science.

The study of pyrotechnology unifies the STEM fields (materials science, chemistry, geology, etc.) and anthropological archaeology, producing a scientific perspective that is more than the sum of those parts.  Pyrotechnology does not simply lie at the cutting edge of one field.  Instead, it lies where the cutting edges of multiple fields meet.  Therefore, archaeological science at Yale, including the training of undergraduate and graduate students, is organized around - although not limited to - an overarching theme of pyrotechnology.  In turn, Y-PYRO serves to focus and unify many of the diverse research projects of CAS faculty and students.

Yale University Archaeological Laboratories (YUAL)

The primary mission of the YUAL is to facilitate and support research and teaching, as well as the management and curation of Yale’s archaeological reference and teaching collections. YUAL is comprised of seven research labs and two support labs:

  • Archaeohistology Lab
    51 Hillhouse Ave, Room 4
  • Archaeomagnetism Dry Teaching and Equipment Room
    51 Hillhouse Ave, Rooms 5 and 5A
  • Archaeometallurgy Lab
    51 Hillhouse Ave, Room 4A
  • Ceramic Petrography Lab
    51 Hillhouse Ave, Room 4
  • Spatial and Visual Technologies Lab
    51 Hillhouse Ave, Room 1
  • Fume Hood Lab
    10 Sachem Street, Room 22
  • Kiln and Liquid Scintillation Counter Lab
    10 Sachem Street, Room 3
  • Clean Lab
    10 Sachem Street, Room 24
  • Dirty Lab
    10 Sachem Street, Room 23

Museums

Museum of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture at Casa Concha

In February 2011, Yale University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Universidad Nacional San Antonio de Abad, Cuzco (UNSAAC), Cuzco’s preeminent university, as part of a comprehensive agreement with the government of Peru. This agreement envisions a long-term collaboration between the two universities that will involve educational exchange and joint research. It also commits Yale to the permanent display of the Bingham Machu Picchu Collections in the Casa Concha, a recently restored Colonial residence built on Inca foundations in the center of the city of Cuzco, administered by UNSAAC with joint oversight by Yale.

An important goal of the partnership is to help the Archaeology Program at UNSAAC and to further its effort to become a major center for archaeological training and research for Perú and all of Latin America. Given the three-century history of UNSAAC and the unique cultural importance and resources of Cuzco, they believe that this objective is both reasonable and realistic. With the financial support of the Cartago Foundation and the Yale Provost’s Office, the first step towards academic collaboration was begun during the summer of 2013 with the organization by Lucy Salazar and Richard Burger of two archaeology courses at the Casa Concha.

In coordination with UNSAAC President’s office and Gladys Lagos, coordinator of the Archaeology Program, these courses were held during a six-week period in July and August of 2013. The courses were designed for specialized archaeology faculty and advanced archaeology students at UNSAAC. Andrew Womack and Michelle Young, graduate students from the Archaeology program at Yale, and Tom Hardy, a Yale graduate currently in the doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania also participated. In addition, a group of archaeologists from the Ministry of Culture, Cuzco took part in the courses.

The first course “Introduction to the Use of the Ground Penetration Radar in Archaeology: techniques and analysis “was taught by Dr.Timothy John Horsley, Scientific Research Associate in Yale’s Department of Anthropology. The simultaneous translation of Horsley’s presentations was provided by Lucy Salazar. The sub-surface mapping of archaeological sites has become an important technique in archaeological research over the last decade, but it has rarely been used in Cuzco. It is crucial in defining the extent and nature of sites, as well as in strategic decisions concerning where excavations should be carried out. The classroom component of this course was complemented by GPR survery of local archaeological sites and the processing under Horsley’s supervision of the data recovered. The GPR survey focused on the sub-surface mapping of the Inca remains beneath the patios and garden area of the Casa Concha, with an eye to excavating one or more of these zones in the future. These efforts were followed by the mapping of the Early Horizon site of Marcavalle in the City of Cuzco. The efforts in both sites were highly successful. In the case of the Casa Concha, deeply buried Inca walls were identified and in the case of the Marcavalle, possible circular house structures and an area of public architecture were documented. Although Marcavalle has been known for half a century, these are the first prehistoric structures located on the site.

The second course was devoted to the study of animal bone. The course “Laboratory Analysis of Faunal Remains was taught by Dr. George Miller, a former visiting professor at Yale and currently a Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Eastbay. This intensive course allowed participants to develop practical skills of faunal identification as well as familiarize them with the broader issues of zooarchaeological analysis. Study of Faunal analysis has proved to be among the most powerful tools developed in the archaeological laboratory over the last two decades and it offers insights into the economy, diet, exchange patterns and cultural concepts of ancient peoples. Since animal bone is recovered in virtually all excavations, the ability to extract meaningful information from these materials is extremely valuable; despite this, faunal analysis is rarely employed in Cusco. Through this course the students were able to acquired generalized considerations of vertebrate anatomy and identification of major Andean fauna; analytical techniques of extracting relevant cultural information from animal bones; use of a microcomputer database for zooarchaeological analysis; and the identification, coding and analysis of a small sample of animal bone materials from the archaeological site of Batan Urqo. Both courses were a great success, and the general satisfaction with these efforts was celebrated at a final banquet made even more enjoyable by folkloric dances from the different regions of the Peruvian coast and highlands.

Museum Studies Curriculum Yale’s Council on Archaeological Studies is in the process of developing a Museum Studies Curriculum. Professor Anne Underhill has offered a team-taught course on museums with Dr. David Odo from the Yale University Art Gallery during spring semester 2012 called Museums and Their Objects. During spring semester 2015, Professor Underhill will offer a related team-taught course with Professor Douglas Rogers from the Department of Anthropology, called Anthropology and the Material World. Seminar participants will discuss methods of interpreting material objects in archaeology and sociocultural anthropology for understanding cultures, and related methods used for researching museum objects.

The Peabody Museum of Natural History contains extensive collections which are largely available to students for research. From Incan pottery or Egyptian statues to fine palaeontological examples of ancient species. The Peabody boasts one of the most important collections in the country.

The Yale University Art Gallery gives students and affiliates of the university the opportunity to work with some spectacular pieces of art. Several sections are relevant to Archaeological Studies students are the Ancient Art and the Art of the Ancient Americas collections.

Libraries

The Yale University Library System is the second-largest academic collection in the world. With around 13 million volumes spread over 22 buildings, the collection is one of the world’s great centers for scholarly research. Sterling Memorial Library, the largest and most central library on campus, contains around 4 million volumes. Of particular importance to students of Achaeological Studies are the Art & Architecture, Anthropology, Geology, and Classics collections.