The Department of Sociology & Anthropology


Benjamin CarterBenjamin Carter , Ph.D. Email Lana Williams

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Coordinator of the Sociology/ Anthropology Research Lab

Registered Professional Archaeologist

B.A. Anthropology (Minors in Archaeology and Chemistry), Drew University, 1996
A.M. Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis, 2000
Ph.D. Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis, 2008

Dissertation: Technology, Society and Change: Shell Artifact Production among the Manteno (A.D. 800-1532) of Coastal Ecuador BPC diss


I am an archaeologist and a teacher. I believe students need to get their hands dirty to learn archaeology. To that end, I attempt to tie my research directly to my teaching, engaging students in the process of archaeology from planning to excavation to analysis to presentation.

I have been at Muhlenberg since 2010 and teach Field Archaeology, Human Evolution, Prehistory and Archaeology (the class formerly known as The Rise of Ancient Civilizations), Archaeology Method and Theory, the Archaeology of Objects and Archaeology in Maine.


I currently have three active research projects.One in Pennsylvania, one in Maine and another in Latin America.


In the fall of 2010, a small group of hearty students and I began a project to relocate the site of a Moravian mission known as Gnadenhuetten, which had been occupied by Moravian missionaries and Native Americans, mainly Delaware (Lenape) and Mahican, from 1742 until 1755, On November 24th of that year, ten missionaries were killed in a Native american raid essentially ending the Moravian presence in the area. We have been able to relocate the site using documents, especially maps, from the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem. We believe the site to be fairly well preserved. We are currently in the process of trying to relocate the structures through excavation.

The 2010 field season was successful only because we were able to recover a few artifacts that indicate late 18th and early 19th century occupation. We were unable to relocate structures nor any other historic feature.

Currently (Fall 2012) we are working on relocating the Gemeinhaus (a Moravian "chapel"). We are working in the northeast corner of the site and think it likely that we will have more luck here. However, we have been plagued by poor weather and are desperately trying to schedule more time in the field.


In 2008, I took a group of students to my hometown of Surry, Maine in an attempt to establish a research project in the US. I want to take students into the field and it is simpler logistically to bring students to Maine than to Ecuador, where I completed my dissertation research. A friend had recovered some amazing Middle Archaic artifacts while excavating a sand pit to build a road. Our project was to locate the unaffected part of the site. Unfortunately, we found no remains of the site, so half way through our three week stay, we switched to a historic site on the same property. While this began as an oppurtunistic excavation based upon convenience rather than research design, it has become much more.

The Joy-Flood site was occupied by the mid 1770s until 1811, when the Flood family abondoned it and moved inland to the newly constructed road. Therefore, the site provides a window into a four to five decade time period on the coast of Maine. It was at this time that settlers began to move in large numbers to this "forgotten frontier." We are investigating the lifestyle of early coastal settlers in order to better understand the changes in material culture that people undergo in situations where they are physically disconnected from their past, as they are in many situations in the historic and modern US. Also, we aim to better understand the role of coastal subsistence and trade in establishing communities in Maine at this time.

Latin America

My dissertation research focused upon shell artifact production on the coast of Ecuador during late prehistory. I am further developing two parts of this research. First, I am attempting to establish, using isotope and elemental analyses, a method for tracing Spondylus, a marine bivalve used throughout much of the Americas, to it's source.

I am investingating the myriad ways in which technology changes. Shell bead production invovles a limited number of highly repetitive motions and, as such, these techniques are programmed into the muscles of the artisans. With such deeply embedded skills, how does a technology change? What conceptual changes cause a well trained body to stop producing?