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Daniel Sayers

Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology

  • Trained in philosophy, anthropology, history, and archaeology, Dr. Sayers is a Historical Archaeologist who works in the United States. Currently, his Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study is exploring the social and economic history of communities that existed in the swamp interior from 1607 up through the Civil War. The project includes several scholars from around the U.S. as well as several AU graduate and undergraduate students. Dr. Sayers is also working to develop an archaeological project centered on transient laborers and hobos in 1920-1950 America. Additionally, Dr. Sayers is developing a novel animal emancipation agenda for historical archaeology, he is elaborating original marronage theories and perspectives, he is engaged in the politics of the "Underground Railroad", and, he continues his work the 19th century transition to agrarian capitalism in the Midwest and beyond.
  • Degrees

    PhD, Historical Archaeology (Anthropology), College of William & Mary
    MA, Anthropology, Western Michigan University
    BA, Philosophy and Anthropology, Western Michigan University
  • Book Currently Reading:

    Some favorite authors, Fiction or otherwise: Jack Kerouac, J.P. Sartre, F. Dosteovsky, Marx, Bertrand Russell, John Dominic Crossen, W.E.B.Dubois, Elaine Pagels, Peter Singer, James Bamford, David Harvey, Berke Breathed, Charles Bukowski, Carl Sagan, Pat McManus, and Allen Ginsberg. Current read: (revisiting) James the Brother of Jesus, by Robert Eisenman.

  • CAS - Anthropology
  • Hamilton - 101
  • Fall 2014-On research sabbatical until January 2015. By appointment only, office phone messages will be checked regularly.

  • (202) 885-1833 (Office)
  • (202) 885-1837 (Fax)
  • Send email Profile UserID

  • To request an interview for a
    news story, call AU Communications
    at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

Partnerships & Affiliations

  • US Fish and Wildlife Service

    In Partnership

  • Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

    In Partnership

  • Society for Historical Archaeology



  • Fall 2015

    • ANTH-531 Topics in Archaeology: Archaeology of Undocumented
    • Description
    • ANTH-634 Foundations of Archaeology: Ideology and Politics
    • Description

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

My primary interests, in no particular order, include: political economy; landscapes; alienation; Diasporae and exile; marronage, maroon communities, and the Underground Railroad; labor and commodities; defiance and resistance; animal emancipation/rights and archaeology; Marxian-existentialist perspectives; community systems and structure; Hobos, the Great Depression, and labor transience; politics of archaeological resource stewardship; capitalist transformations/transitions; archaeological research modeling and methods; race/racism/racialization; and, historical archaeology as public and political praxis.

Professional Presentations

Sayers, Daniel O. (2014) The Great Dismal Swamp and its Archaeology. Invited speaker, Nature Conservancy and US Fish and Wildlife Service Partnership 40th Anniversary Celebration, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Suffolk, VA, May 9.

Sayers, Daniel O (2014) Modes of Production and the Resuscitation of Historical Praxis. For, Annual Conference of the Society for American Archaeology, Austin, TX, April.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2014) The Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study: A Big Swamp, its Communities, and the Future. Keynote presentation, Annual Meeting of the Archeological Society of Maryland, Crownsville, MD, April 5.

Uehlein, Justin, and Daniel O. Sayers (2014) Living on the Rails in the Twentieth Century: Archaeology, Hobos, and Transient Laborers. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, March, Albuquerque, NM.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

2013, Distinguished Alumni, Department of Anthropology, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

2012, Keynote Speaker and Co-Ribbon Cutter, US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Historical Interpretation Pavilion Official Opening, February 24, Suffolk, VA. 

2008, College of William and Mary Distinguished Dissertation in the Social Sciences Award.      


In production: Interviewed as maroon sites archaeologist in, Maroon Project, Haile Gerima, Howard University.

2011: Interviewed as maroon sites archaeologist in, Dismal History, Imtiaz Habib, Old Dominion University.

2005: Interviewed as maroon sites archaeologist, The Great Dismal Swamp: Glimpses into the Wild, KCTV-Chesapeake, Virginia.

Work In Progress

Sayers, Daniel O. The Archaeology of Early Capitalism in North America. Invited essay, Journal of Archaeological Research. In preparation for March 2015 submission.

Sayers, Daniel O., et al. Archaeological Approaches to the Pre-Civil War Political Economy of the Great Dismal Swamp. Article in preparation for summer 2015 submission.

Sayers, Daniel O., et al. The Myopias of Common Sense: Revitalizing Social Historical Memory of the Great Dismal Swamp. For fall 2015 submission.




Sayers, Owen. [working title] Across the Dark Waters of the Desert, A Novel (in preparation).

Short Stories

Sayers, Owen. Convergences (completed, in submission process).

Sayers, Owen. Four Nights in the Country (completed, in submission process).

Sayers, Owen. Water and Stone (completed, in submission process.)

Selected Publications


Sayers, Daniel O. A Desolate Place for a Defiant People: The Archeology of Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and Enslaved Laborers in the Great Dismal Swamp. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.


Select Articles and Book Chapters

Sayers, Daniel O. (n.d.) Alienation, Praxis and Significant Social Transformations through Historical Archaeology. Chapter in, Historical Archaeologies of Capitalism, Mark P. Leone and Jocelyn Knaupf, eds. Springer, anticipated publication, 2015.

Sayers, Daniel O. (n.d.) Maroon and Leftist Praxis. Chapter in, Maroons in Brazil, Pedro P. Funari and Charles E. Orser, Jr., eds. Springer. Anticipated publication, 2014.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2014). Scission Communities and Social Defiance: Marronage in the Diasporic Great Dismal Swamp, 1600-1860. Chapter in, The Tyrannies of Slavery, James Delle, ed., University of Tennessee Press, in press.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2014). The Most Wretched of Beings in the Cage of Capitalism. International Journal of Historical Archaeology, published online June, printed version, September

Sayers, Daniel O. (2012). Marronage Perspective for Historical Archaeology in the United States. Historical Archaeology 46(4):135-161.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2007). Landscapes of Alienation: An Archaeological Report of Excursions in the Great Dismal Swamp. Transforming Anthropology, 15(2):149-157.

Sayers, Daniel O., P. Brendan Burke, and Aaron M. Henry (2007). The Political Economy of Exile in the Great Dismal Swamp. International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 11(1):60-97.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2004). The Underground Railroad Reconsidered. Western Journal of Black Studies, 28(3):435-443.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2006). Diasporan Exiles in the Great Dismal Swamp, 1630-1860. Transforming Anthropology 14(1):10-20.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2003). Glimpses into the Dialectics of Antebellum Landscape Nucleation in Agrarian Michigan.  Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 10(4):269-334 

Select Monographs and Technical Reports

Sayers, Daniel O. (editor/contributing author) (2012). Continued Excavations at the Nameless Site, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. American University/GDSLS Research Report No. 4, submitted to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, Hadley, Massachusetts, under review.

Sayers, Daniel O. (editor/contributing author) (2011) Archaeology of Antebellum Resistance Communities, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. American University/GDSLS Archaeological Research Report No. 1, submitted to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, Hadley, Massachusetts.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2008). The Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study: The Final Results of Intensive Excavations at Several Sites in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina and Virginia, 2003-2006. GDSLS Report  No. 2, submitted to United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5, Hadley, Massachusetts.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2008). The Diasporic World of the Great Dismal Swamp, 1630-1860. Doctoral dissertation, Department of Anthropology, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia. Proquest/UMI, Ann Arbor.  


Grants and Sponsored Research

    2010-2013, NEH, "We the People" Collaborative Grant (RZ-51219-10), Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study (Project Director with collaborators: Sue Taylor, Kathryn Benjamin, Will Moore, Nina Shapiro-Perl, Chuck Goode, Carolyn Finney, Dan Lynch, and Brent Morris).

    2004-2007, Canon National Parks Science Scholars Doctoral Dissertation Grant.        


*See our Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study Facebook page---www.facebook.com/GDSLS

**See our project webpage: www.gdsls.com 

***There will be no Great Dismal Swamp field school during the summer of 2014. We are taking a break from it and using that time to catch up on artifact analysis and data synthesis.

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