Book Review: Archaeology Theories Methods and Practice by Colin Renfrew and Paul G. Bahn

Archaeology Theories, Methods and Practice (5th edition) by Colin Renfrew and Paul G. Bahn is the basic and indispensable text book for undergraduate archaeology students. In this new 5th Edition, many new theoretical advances, such as agency and materiality theories, have been added, while older approaches have been re-looked. Field procedures have been updated. Renfrew and Bahn had emphasized global climate change and its effect on human behavior patterns. This latest edition also includes new information on subjects as diverse as Otzi the Iceman and llama domestication. New topics are introduced as modern archaeology advances through the use of advanced technology such as satellite survey techniques, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the use of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). The 5th edition also has a companion web site and study guide for the text.

The text book covers the required practical skills of the field archaeologist. It also has a large section on the history of archaeology and includes a number of somewhat detailed case studies. However, as it covers such a wide range of topics in such a vast and varied field as archaeology, it can be nothing more than a rather brief and very general reference book. The serious student of archaeology will need to seek out other, more in-depth, reference books as they “dig into” the field more deeply and especially as they begin to specialize further.

However, unlike a number of other introductory text or reference books, Archaeology Theories, Methods and Practice is very readable for the new student to the field. This is likely the reason that it is usually recommended for the undergraduate archaeology student. The text is nicely arranged; it is well indexed, which makes it easy to find specific references. Which is not to say that the book is jargon-free, because it is most certainly has plenty in it. In fact, the prose is liberal in its use of the archaeologists’ lingo, but at least Renfrew and Bahn have tried to explain the unfamiliar terms and concepts. Unlike other writers of text books, the two authors have not just assumed that the reader is already aware of the language.

To sum up, Archaeology Theories, Methods and Practice (5th edition) is an immense and insightful text book about the field of archaeology. While there is some jargon, the jargon is explained. And for the serious student of archaeology the text book is not only a must-read, but also a must-keep. The book will certainly be used as a continuing and very useful reference to the field.


Understanding College Rankings

US News and World Report, Forbes, The Princeton Review and Newsweek put out annual reports on US College Rankings. Each of these companies uses far different methodologies to decide these US College Rankings.

US News and World Report:

The schools were designated National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities, and Regional Colleges.

Graduation rate accounts for 7.5 percent of the final score.

High school counselor’s rankings are calculated at between 15 and 22.5 percent.

Undergraduate academic reputation is weighted at 22.5 percent for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges and 25 percent for Regional Universities and Regional Colleges based on peer ratings.

Graduation and Freshman retention rates count for 20 percent for the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges and 25 percent for Regional Universities and Regional Colleges.

Faculty resources account for 20 percent.

Student selectivity is 15 percent.

Financial resources is 10 percent

Graduation rate performance is 7.5 percent for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges only.

Alumni giving rate accounts for 5 percent

US News and World Report US College Rankings are finally determined by ‘grading on a curve’ with the top school in each category getting a score of 100 and the rest of the schools listed in descending order with the scores rounded to the nearest whole number.


Forbes: Draws on a number of sources to determine US College Rankings

First factor: Student Satisfaction is weighted at 27.5%
Second Factor is Postgraduate Success weighted at 30%
Third factor is Student Debt weighted at 17.5%

Fourth Factor is the Four-year Graduation Rate weighted at 17.5%
Fifth Factor is Competitive Awards weighted at 7.5%

The 600 colleges then were ranked in descending order based on the weight of the scores.

The Princeton Review US College Rankings methodology is not mathematical but is more subjective.

The 373 colleges are based on the consider opinions of students parents educators and the staff of the Princeton review; with 99.5 percent of the opinions collected from an on line survey of students and interviews with the colleges’ staffs. These interviews were conducted in person by the Princeton review staff.


The Newsweek/Kaplan US College Rankings is based on a metadata approach:

The school must be listed in either Fiske’s Guide to Colleges, the Princeton Review’s, and U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges.

The school must have high academic standards with at least the 75th percentile SAT score (critical reading and math) for the incoming freshman class of 1,150 or higher

The school must offer a wide range of different degrees.

SAT or ACT scores, percent admitted were given a “2” weighting. Student-to-faculty ratio and retention rate received a “1”. Endowments, a .5 weighting. Dining, housing, facilities and climate, each had a “.25” weighting.

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US News and World Report has the most rigorous and scientific US College Ranking system while the Princeton Review has the most subjective. It is far to say that all of these systems have pros and cons, but the fairest and most objective that still captures student inputs is Forbes’ combined approach to US Collage Rankings.

Tips for Staying Motivated while Completing an On-Line Degree

Keeping up with your school work and staying motivated does require some planning and work, but is not impossible. After all, you were certainly motivated enough to seek more education, that motivation to better yourself should be in the front of your mind throughout as you pursue your online degree.

The key to taking an online course is exactly the same one as for taking a class at a traditional brick and mortar classroom. That key is motivation. As an adult, you have so very many things going on in your life besides school; family and work to just name two. However, it is this very busy lifestyle that moved you into taking your advanced degree online, but it is also this busy lifestyle that can distract you from successfully completing your education.

First, plan your work: Most online courses will require written projects; you will have to read and also join in on online discussions. The professor should provide a syllabus for the whole of the course that describes these assignments in detail and what standard needs to be met. So you have to plan your school work as you would plan your work “work”. If you have an assignment due, know how much work it will take and carve out enough time to complete it.

You should set aside a certain amount time each day to check your online discussion board, to read or write on your school assignments. This doesn’t have to be a lot of time, usually about an hour a day will do, if you stick to your schedule. This is a good method for staying up with your school work, but not having it affect much of the rest of your life.

If you are falling behind, talk to your instructor. Most of them will understand the circumstances that might have caused you to miss some school work and will work with you to help you get caught up.

Also if your other activities are going to be interfering with your school work, let your professor know. For example, if you may have to go on that business trip, most online instructors will make allowances for that sort of thing.

Successfully completing an online course provides you at least as much satisfaction as completing a course of study at a traditional college. All you need to do is stay active and motivated to complete the work on time.

Top 10 Worst Paying College Degrees

Number ten: A Horticulture Bachelors of Science degree will get someone as starting salary of about $37,200 per year.  Indeed, it seems money does not grow on trees in this field. A person getting a degree in Horticulture would most likely not do so to make big bucks.

Number nine: Someone with Bachelors Degree in Hospitality and Tourism will earn as starting salary of about $37,000 dollars.  Positions that are low paid in regular salary but with tips and other earnings might be pushing this average somewhat low.  Also, there are many perks in this field, such as low or no cost travel, discounts on food and drink as well as lodging. So for the person that wants to travel this might be a good choice for them.  Also the average pay in this area will improve as the economy improves and average people start to travel again.

Number eight: An Education Degree; starting teachers earn very little, average first year salary is just over $36,000 dollars. To earn the big dollars in this field a person must have advanced degrees and enter administration.  Good news is the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the need for teachers at all grade levels will increase by almost 15% over the next ten years.  The law of supply and demand should push up earnings in this area.

Number seven: A Fine arts degree holder will earn more than the person with the Drama degree, (see below) but not by much (average starting pay: $35,800 dollars per year).  But living the life of a starving artist might be what some people want to do.

Number six: A Drama degree starting salary is about $35,600 dollars.  Sure some of the big stars in Hollywood have this degree and they make 10 Million dollars a picture.  Those top earners may be dragging this average up some.  But outside of those A-list stars most people with Drama degrees are working in fields outside of movies and the theater, and if they are acting it is not in blockbuster Hollywood hits, but in commercials, small theaters and even in on-line productions.

Number five: A Spanish degree is worth just over $35,000 a year.  Spanish is spoken by more native speakers than any other language except Mandarin Chinese.  Most people who have this degree work as  teachers or as translators.

Number four: A Theology major will on average earn $34,800 per year to start. Having a “higher calling” will not allow someone to make a lot of money, but then again if a person wanted money it is doubtful they would study Theology

Number Three: A Music degree earns a person about $34,000 per year to start. Like Drama and Fine Arts, mostly someone is not taking this degree to make money, but for the love of the subject.  .

Number two:  A Social Working degree earns a starting salary of just under $33,500 per year.  This is yet another degree people take not to earn money but to do some good in life.

Number one: An Elementary Education degree will earn a person about $33,000 per year to start. This specialized education degree is on the low end of the scale of all Education degrees. But again demand is increasing for this specialty, so pay should increase as well.


Top 10 Weirdest College Majors

Forget about degrees in business or the sciences, instead set your cap on some of the oddest degrees being offered on today’s colleges.

Number 10 is Sports Ministry.  That is right, teaching the “word of God” through sports. This program is taught at Campbellsville University of Campbellsville, Kentucky. It is designed to prepare the student for placement in non-profit organizations that use athletics to teach religion.

Number 9 is Adventure Recreation. Are you the extreme sports type? Do you like rock climbing, water skiing, scuba diving, snowboarding, kayaking? Why not turn your avocation into a career. Green Mountain Collage in Vermont offers both a major and a minor is “Adventure Recreations”. The great thing about this course of study is the student is not confined to those dusty classrooms like other college students.

Number 8 is the Professional Nanny Major. Nannying is offered by Sullivan University as an online degree program. The program claims to produce skilled graduates that are ready to provide in-home child care as a member of a team. It is unclear if classes on flying by means of umbrella or using a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down are included.

Number 7 is Puppetry. The University of Connecticut offers this as a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree program. But this is no Punch and Judy show. The university claims that graduates do more than stick their hands into socks.

Number 6 is Comedy: Writing and Performance from Humber College in Canada.  Actors say comedy is hard, apparently this college thought it was so hard that a degree was required to actually be funny. Classes in this major include; Stand-up, sketch comedy and improvisation.  Hitting someone with a rubber chicken or the correct way to shoot a seltzer bottle was left for self-study.

Number 5 is Golf and Sports Turf Management. Did you ever dreamed of being the greens keeper of a gold course or managing the infield at Yankee’s Stadium, if so this is the major for you. Mississippi State University offers this course of study for those that want to combine a green thumb with the love of sports. However for graduates this major is no joke, the program boast a 90 percent first time job placement rate.

Number 4 is Retail Floristry another offering of the estimable Mississippi State University. This program offers classes in flower wholesaling, event design and advanced gardening. It also can boast a 90 percent graduate placement rate.

Number 3 is Comic Book Art from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Want to be the next Lichtenstein or Moebius? Then this program is for you. Courses in this major include Digital Coloring for Comic Books and Children’s Book Illustration.

Number 2 is Bowling Center Management from Vincennes University in Indiana. If bowling is in your blood, then this major might be “right up your alley”. Classes include Center Management and Lane Maintenance.

Number 1 is Astrobiology from the University of Glamorgan in Scotland.  Since as far as we know, no life has ever been found beyond the Earth, this degree program offers a wide open field of study, without much practical lab time.