The major in Archaeological & Environmental Sciences engages students in the study of scientific approaches that illuminate human interaction with environments in the past. By integrating perspectives and methods from both the natural and social sciences, students gain a well-rounded understanding of the deep history of human modifications of the environment and a deep-time perspective on sustainability. The degree allows students to accumulate considerable scientific expertise in an area, or multiple areas, of their choice, building upon a broad background in basic chemistry, biology, and data analysis methods. A capstone seminar and research opportunities with faculty from both the Archaeology Program and Department of Earth & Environment allow students majoring in Archaeological & Environmental Sciences to apply their knowledge to real-world problems of the present day, preparing them for graduate study (for example, in environmental archaeology, archaeological sciences, environmental or sustainability studies, or paleoenvironmental sciences) or professional employment (in environmental or archaeological consulting, laboratory work, nonprofit organizations, or with local, state, and federal agencies).

Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with a major in Archaeological & Environmental Sciences are able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental concepts and specific topics in biological, environmental, earth, and climate sciences that inform the study of past environments on Earth and human interactions with them.
  • Understand the application, and limits, of problem‐solving tools from the earth and environmental sciences to represent, organize, and assess information.
  • Appropriately and ethically apply methods of archaeological analysis to material remains common to archaeological data sets.
  • Identify and quantitatively analyze data in order to critically evaluate scientific arguments related to the study of human interactions with environmental systems.
  • Incorporate core knowledge of both archaeological and environmental science methods and theory to synthesize scientific data to solve complex problems and evaluate contemporary debates concerning the understanding of the human role in environmental change, past and present.
  • Communicate these understandings clearly and persuasively, orally, in writing, and through digital means of data presentation and storytelling.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Archaeological & Environmental Sciences will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Historical Consciousness; Scientific Inquiry I & II; Social Inquiry I & II; Quantitative Reasoning I & II; Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy; Writing-Intensive Course; Digital/Media Expression; Critical Thinking; Research and Information Literacy; and Teamwork/Collaboration. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

The major in Archaeological & Environmental Sciences requires a total of 14 courses (56 credits), all completed with a grade of C or higher. Those courses include seven required core courses; at least four required methods courses; and three additional electives, including at least four units of directed study or honors thesis research. With prior approval from faculty advisors, students may apply coursework taken as part of the BU Marine Program (among other study abroad opportunities) toward the total of 14 courses required for the major.

Required Core Courses (7)

  • CAS AR 190 Introduction to Archaeology
  • CAS EE 107 Introduction to Climate and Earth System Science
  • CAS BI 107 Biology 1
  • CAS CH 171 Principles of General Chemistry (or CAS CH 101 or 109 or 111)
  • CAS EE 270 Data, Models, and Analysis in Earth & Environment
  • CAS AR 307 Archaeological Science
  • CAS AR 520/EE520/AN519 Theory and Method in Environmental Archaeology

Required Methods Courses (at least 4, of which at least one must be coded AR and one coded EE)

  • CAS EE 302 Remote Sensing of Environment
  • CAS EE 317 Introduction to Hydrology
  • CAS EE 351 Paleoclimatology and Paleoceanography
  • CAS EE 371 Introduction to Geochemistry
  • CAS EE 375 Introduction to Quantitative Environmental Modeling
  • CAS EE 509 Applied Environmental Statistics
  • CAS EE/MR 544 Coastal Sedimentology
  • CAS AR 506 Regional Archaeology and Geographical Information Systems
  • CAS AR 507 Low Impact Field Methods in Archaeology
  • CAS AR 516 Paleoethnobotany
  • CAS AR 518 Zooarchaeology

Required Electives (3)

Two additional courses at the 200-level or above coded CAS AR or CAS EE, to be chosen in consultation with faculty advisors or of approved cognate courses from the list below:

  •    CAS AN 331 Human Origins
  •    CAS AN 335 The Ape Within: Great Apes and the Evolution of Human Behavior
  •   CAS AR 507 Low Impact Field Methods in Archaeology
  •    CAS AN 552 Primate Evolution and Anatomy
  •    CAS AN 556 The Evolution of the Human Diet
  •    CAS BI 260 Marine Biology
  •    CAS BI 303 Evolutionary Ecology
  •    CAS BI 306 Biology of Global Change

At least 4 units of directed study with an AR or EE faculty member in applied or laboratory research (e.g., CAS AR 401, 402, 491, 492, 503, or 556; or CAS EE 401, 402, 491, or 492)

Honors in the Major

Students who maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 are eligible to work toward honors in the major. Requirements include completion of a two-course sequence of independent study (either CAS EE 401 and 402 or CAS AR 401 and 402) and successful defense of a senior thesis. Students should complete honors coursework in the department or program in which their faculty advisor holds a primary appointment. In select circumstances, and with prior approval of the Honors Committee in the department or program in which the student will pursue thesis research, students may apply significant summer research toward the production of a senior thesis. In such cases, students combine independent summer research with one semester of a thesis course (CAS AR 401, AR 402, EE 401, or EE 402) as the basis for writing and defending a senior honors thesis.

Each honors student is advised by at least two faculty members, who act as first and second readers of the senior honors thesis. Interested students should first contact their faculty advisors no later than March of the junior year to begin the process of submitting an honors thesis proposal to the relevant departmental/program committee.