North American Archaeology

North American Archaeology @Penn

The North American Archaeology Lab is located in room 329B, just across from the main Anthropology Department office. The Lab is directed by Dr. Meg Kassabaum and staffed by Penn students through work-study, volunteer, and paid lab assistant positions. If you are a student interested in gaining research experience through the lab, please contact Dr. Kassabaum at Research opportunities are available through all of the projects listed on this page and can be tailored to a given student’s interests.


Our Work

Smith Creek Archaeological Project (SCAP)

Wilkinson County, Mississippi
Project Director: Dr. Megan C. Kassabaum 

As the flagship project in North American Archaeology at Penn, the Smith Creek Archaeological Research Project (SCAP) was launched in 2015 after preliminary excavations in 2013 as part of the Mississippi Mound Trail Project. The project focuses excavations on the Smith Creek site in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, which consists of three earthen mounds surrounding an open plaza. The site was constructed primarily during the Late Woodland, Coles Creek period (AD 700 – 1200), but heavy occupation continued into the subsequent early Plaquemine period (AD 1200 – 1350). The transition from Coles Creek to Plaquemine marks a period of major transition in the American South -- from the construction of smaller burial mounds to large platform mound-and-plaza centers, from largely egalitarian to hierarchical sociopolitical organization, and from hunting and gathering to corn agriculture. SCAP explores the relationship between these important changes through archaeological excavation and analysis of the recovered materials. 

Current Graduate Students

  • Justin Reamer (Penn, Anthropology), Investigating Agricultural Intensification in the Late Woodland Upper Delaware River Valley. 

SCAP Project Crews 

  • 2016: Kara Amori, Chandler Burchfield, Isaac Burg, Ben Davis, Cindy Fiorini, Susannah Fishman, Anna Graham, Wiktoria Moroz, Kyle Olson, Arielle Pierson, Justin Reamer, Eric Roberts 
  • 2015: Zhenia Bemko, Chandler Burchfield, David Cranford, Stacey Espenlaub, Susannah Fishman, Monica Fenton, Ally Mitchem, Kyle Olson, Ben Reynolds, Jordi Rivera-Prince, Sheridan Small, Ashley Terry 
  • Lab: Zhenia Bemko, Stacey Espenlaub, Susannah Fishman, Anna Graham, Alex King, Ally Mitchem (honors thesis, 2016), Arielle Pierson, Justin Reamer, Sheridan Small, Ashley Terry (honors thesis, 2016) 


Research on the American Section Collections in the Penn Museum

More information coming soon! 


Digital Archives of Archaeology in American South

More information coming soon!

Selected Press

Baton Rouge Advocate, 2015, “Mississippi Valley archaeological site reveals transition from hunter-gatherer to farming cultures of ancient Native Americans

School of Arts and Sciences, 2016, “An Archaeobotanist Blooms from the Classroom to the Field”

Woodville Republican, 2016, “Archaeological Studies Continue, Digs at Two Wilkinson County Indian Mounds on Hwy. 24”

The Pennsylvania Gazette, 2017, “Earthworkers”

Broad Street Review, 2017, “America’s Earthen Pyramids”

Popular Archaeology, 2017, “5000 Years of Native American Moundbuilding”

Philadelphia Inquirer, 2017, “The Mystery of the Mound - Penn digging into ancient curiosities”

Indian Country Today, 2017, “Moundbuilders of Native North America, Before the Pyramids, at Penn Museum”

Primary Supervising Faculty from Anthropology

Dr. Megan C. Kassabaum: