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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Anthropology 220

Fall 2016- Prof Alison Carter

Key considerations for getting started

The Assignment:

(Note: description is summarized- refer to your syllabus for more detailed instructions)

Your final paper will involve picking an artifact from the Spurlock Museum collection database ( and writing a research paper about the object and the culture that produced it. Your object can be ancient or more recent, but in either case you will take an archaeological approach to its study. With permission, your completed paper can be given to the Spurlock Museum to include with the museum record about this object.

As you write your paper you should bring in themes/topics/theoretical perspectives that we cover in class.  Your final paper should also fulfill the following criteria:

  • 5-7 pages long with a one-page bibliography
  • Text should be double-spaced, using 1-inch margins, and 12pt Times New Roman Font
  • You should use proper in-text citations and avoid plagiarism.  If you have questions, be sure to ask Dr. Carter. More information on plagiarism can be found here:
  • Include proper academic citations from at least five (5) sources, such as journal articles, books, and/or chapters from books. Websites, especially sites like Wikipedia, are not acceptable.

Important information you need to determine prior to searching:

  • What region/country is the artifact from?
    • Sometimes the names and spellings of the regions/countries change over time. You may need to search by both modern day and former names, or by the name which was in use at the time your artifact was created/used. Also consider whether you need to focus on a specific smaller region within a country (such as a province, city, or geographic region), or a larger regional grouping, to get the most accurate information about the artifact and the group who used it.
  • What is the name of the cultural/ethnic group who made or used the artifact?
    • Ethnic groups often have "ethnonyms," alternative names which have changed over time, or which were used by non-natives to refer to that culture. When you search the library catalog and databases, you may need to add these names as alternative search terms so that you don't miss any relevant results. For example: Hopi OR Moqui OR Tusayan.
    • Not sure whether the culture you are researching has ethnonyms? Check the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, or eHRAF World Cultures.
  • What is the time period during which the artifact was made and/or used?
    • The time period may include a range of dates, and/or the name of a specific period of time or archaeological tradition (e.g. Hellenistic Period; Tang Dynasty) that places it in the context of both time period, geographic location and cultural tradition.
  • Other contextual information about your artifact (if known)
    • What kinds of activities was it used for, and how might they be described/ categorized?
    • How was it made and what is it made from?


Using key words from your answers to the above questions, you can begin to search for information about the archaeological and cultural context of the artifact.