Winthrop University: Anthropology Research Lab Created to Promote Winthrop’s Study of Humans
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Anthropology Research Lab Created to Promote Winthrop’s Study of Humans

March 11, 2022

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Co-directed by Professor Richard Chacon and Associate Professor Brent Woodfill, the lab is dedicated to studying past and present human societies.
  • Chacon said current research efforts include but are not limited to Indigenous natural resource utilization, environmental justice, native belief systems, ritual violence and warfare, the rise and persistence of social inequality, the advent of social complexity, sustainable development and Indigenous rights. 

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Two Winthrop University faculty members have created the Anthropology Research Lab of the sociology, criminology, and anthropology department to offer collaborative opportunities for students and colleagues from other institutions.

Co-directed by Professor Richard Chacon and Associate Professor Brent Woodfill, the lab is dedicated to studying past and present human societies. It will promote investigative innovation and integration in the study of human behavior through archaeological excavations and ethnographic fieldwork. 

Chacon said current research efforts include but are not limited to Indigenous natural resource utilization, environmental justice, native belief systems, ritual violence and warfare, the rise and persistence of social inequality, the advent of social complexity, sustainable development and Indigenous rights. 

“We have a very productive anthropology program here at Winthrop and multiple students who are doing fantastic research with us,” Chacon said. “The anthropology lab is a great way to bring all of these projects and participants together and a way to easily open space for collaboration with our colleagues from other institutions.”

No Substitute for Field Research

Whether it be excavating an archaeological site or conducting an interview, there simply is no substitute for actual field research, Woodfill said. Students will gain valuable firsthand experience in various archaeological and ethnographic data collection methods as a result of their involvement with the Anthropology Research Lab. 

Chacon added: “Most importantly, participation in the Anthropology Research Lab will provide students with a window into how cutting-edge anthropological research is conducted. What’s more, in consultation with the co-directors, students may present their own findings at various conferences.”

Woodfill and Chacon's Work Projects

Currently, Woodfill has archaeological work at Maya sites in Guatemala and Mexico; archaeological work in collaboration with the U.S. Forestry Service in Sumter National Forest, which involves Winthrop students; ethnographic research with traditional salt producers in Mexico and Guatemala; and aerial surveys with drone in Guatemala, Mexico, and South Carolina. Closer to home, Woodfill has conducted analysis and documentation of the Salazar Collection in the Louise Pettus Archives and Special Collections, which is a donated collection of more than 40 Precolumbian pots, tools and sculptures from Central America. 

Meanwhile, Chacon is working on the Scandinavian Bronze Age Rock Art Project which is conducted in conjunction with University of Gothenburg and explores the relationship between rock art, long distance trade, warfare and the rise of social complexity that took place during the Scandinavian Bronze Age.

Chacon also is researching the origins of inequality, social complexity, Indigenous natural resource utilization and recording oral histories from descendants of those who were enslaved at Brattonsville Plantation located near McConnells in York County.

He also has worked with the Maritime Encounters Interdisciplinary Project, conducted in conjunction with University of Gothenburg, and focuses on the role that watercraft played in the advent of social complexity cross-culturally. To this end, during the summer of 2018, ethnographic fieldwork was conducted among the Haida of Canada. During the summer of 2022, ethnographic fieldwork will be conducted among the Bella Coola of Canada, and during the summer of 2023, ethnographic fieldwork will be conducted among the Tao of Taiwan.

Scholars and Students Invited to Collaborate

The Anthropology Research Lab also invites scholars at academic institutions in the United States and abroad to forge collaborative archaeological and ethnographic research projects.

Winthrop students interested in becoming involved in the lab’s ongoing projects should contact the co-directors for information on research possibilities, independent study and/or internship opportunities, etc. 

For more information, contact Chacon at chaconr@winthrop.edu and Woodfill at woodfillb@winthrop.edu.

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Last Updated: 7/13/22