Research Labs in Archaeology

The university began offering courses in archaeology as early as the 1920s. These were primarily lecture classes focused on historical archaeology, with an emphasis on ancient Greece and Rome. In the mid-1930s, following an increased interest in the archaeology of North Carolina, the university began supporting efforts to study early civilizations in the state. Using funding from the WPA (Works Progress Administration), the university started the Laboratory of Archaeology in 1939. Work at the lab was halted during World War II and then revived in 1948 under a new name, Research Laboratories of Anthropology, and with a new director, faculty member Joffre Coe. Lauded as the "Father of Archaeology" in North Carolina, Coe served as director until 1982 and helped build the laboratory into a program of national significance.

In 1997 the name was changed to Research Laboratories of Archaeology. The focus of the department was, and remains, the study of Native American cultures in the Southeast. The North Carolina Archaeology Collection, compiled by students and staff since the founding of the lab, now contains millions of artifacts spanning more than 12,000 years of history and is one of the preeminent resources for the study of Native American life in the region. The collection has had many homes on and off campus —it moved between Alumni and Person Halls in its early years and was housed for many years in Wilson Library. In 2004 the university renovated space in Hamilton Hall to house the collection.


Date Established: 1939

Date Range: 1939 – Present