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About Robert Paynter

I study historical archaeology, something I think of as the investigation of the global development, spread, and resistance to capitalism and European expansion. I start this work with the material culture – the artifacts and landscapes – produced and consumed by people caught up in these processes. These material traces are then woven with documentary traces to develop holistic understandings of how the world of today came into being. I have found it crucial to read the theoretical and historical perspectives on capitalism and conquest developed by authors positioned variously throughout the globe, bringing perspectives of people who know the diverse political economies and cultural forms of the peoples of Africa , the Americas , and Europe . This global focus frames my field work on sites in Western Massachusetts in the US, including work in Deerfield Village in Deerfield and at the W. E. B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite in Great Barrington, MA USA. This said, I have encouraged and sponsored students interested in these local areas as well as students interested in studying capitalism and conquest elsewhere around the globe. Finally, I hold to the idea that historical archaeology is best understood within a broad anthropological perspective, one that compares and contrasts the workings of the modern world with those of archaeologically known ancient and pre-state societies. I find I can best do this work with colleagues in Anthropology as well as those in the fields of Native American Indian studies, Afro American Studies, and Women's Studies. Reflecting my concerns, I taught for over 30 years in the Anthropology Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst such courses as an introduction to general anthropology for non-majors, upper level undergraduate courses in archaeology, a course on social inequality, and graduate seminars on historical archaeology, archaeological and anthropological theory and method. I taught and co-taught courses in the Anthropology Department on Native studies. And I directed and co-directed the Anthropology Department's Summer Field School in Archaeology for 18 field seasons.


May 2015 - Present Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Curriculum Vitae


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Contact Information

Machmer Hall
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst MA, 01003

Theory (16)

Connecticut River Valley (2)

New England (1)

W. E. B. Du Bois (4)

W. E. B. Du Bois Homesite Draft Site Report (18)

A draft of a site report for the 1983, 1984 and 2001 field school archaeological studies at the W. E. B. Du Bois Homesite in Great Barrington, MA