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Daniel Sayers Assoc Professor Department of Anthropology

Additional Positions at AU
Graduate Director, Anthropology
PhD, Historical Archaeology, College of William & Mary
MA, Anthropology, Western Michigan University
BA, Philosophy and Anthropology, Western Michigan University

Book Currently Reading
Barrow, 1994, The Origin of the Universe
• Time Logged--doing what?: I have spent over 25 years working as an Anthropological Historical Archaeologist in the U.S. I have been on faculty at AU for 15 years.
• My Angle: I build from an engaged and Marx-indebted worldview in all of my research.
• Fieldwork: I have several central research projects (1995-present):
        1. the 1834-1860 Shepard Farmstead in Battle Creek, Michigan
        2. the 1600-1863 resistance community sites of the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina        and Virginia
        3. the 1830-1863 Underground Railroad in southwest Michigan
        4. the 1880-1940 Delta (PA) Hobo Site
        5. the Archaeology, Speciesism and Human Entitlement Study (ASHES).
• Rationale of Fieldwork: I intentionally select the aspects, people, and sites of the past that I think will help generate wider progressive momentum and action—I don’t just excavate any old site.
• Engagement: I have appeared in various media (e.g., TV, newspapers, magazines, film, art, and podcasts) in order to bring archaeological knowledge to wide audiences.
• Writing: I have published, in aggregate, many academic books and articles, technical reports, fiction, and non-academic essays
• Expansion of work: I have worked as a visual media writer, content developer, and on-screen talent for television episodes and the like.
• Student Collabs: I have worked with many graduate and undergraduate students who have successfully completed dissertations, theses, and capstone projects in archaeology and the other disciplines of anthropology.
• What you may be wondering: Though I do not often exploit this fact nor the people with whom I collaborate for my own gain in my publications, I have always worked with, consulted with, and sought input from stakeholders in my work, including descendants.
• Stuff I Wasn't Trained to do but Have Done: Administrative experience includes being Department Chair (for 6 years, recently) and Graduate Program Director (in my 2nd year)
• Public Spaces and My Work: I have worked in various ways with many museums on permanent as well as temporary displays.
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.


Spring 2023

  • ANTH-531 Topics in Archaeology: Activist Archaeology

Fall 2023

  • ANTH-253 Introduction to Archaeology

  • ANTH-602 The Craft of Anthropology II

Partnerships & Affiliations

  • Society for Historical Archaeology

  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
    In Partnership

  • Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
    In Partnership

  • Great Dismal Swamp Stakeholder Collaborative

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

Exploring the following through a political economic perspective:

  • Diasporas and exile
  • Alienation
  • Labor
  • Marronage, Maroon communities, and the (so-called) Underground Railroad
  • Farmsteads and rural life
  • defiance and resistance
  • animal emancipation/rights and archaeology
  • existentialist aspects of life
  • community
  • multispecies transience
  • Gendered family
  • research modeling and methods (e.g., excavation, survey, and certain modes of data recordation)
  • homed and unhomed (a.k.a., homelessness, unhoused)
  • race, racism, racialization
  • the nature of the archaeological record
  • historical archaeology as a deliberate, strategic, interventionist and world-transformational praxis.

Media Appearances

Recent appearances:

July 2023

Appeared as a collaborative team member in, “Searching for a Fortress Built by People Who Escaped Slavery”, by Matthew Hutson, The New Yorker

May 2023

Appeared as Dismal Swamp archaeology expert and commentator on Indigenous American social history in Great Dismal Swamp. In the podcast, Tribal Truths, episode, “Nansemond Indian Nation: Looking for Ancestors in the Great Dismal Swamp”, WVTF, Virginia Public Radio.

August 2022

American Landscapes w/ host Baratunde Thurston, PBS, Episode 4 on the Mid-Atlantic; appeared as archaeology expert and interviewee with host in the Dismal Swamp.

February 2022

The Underground Railroad, episode 3 in 4-part series on Discovery Science Channel; appeared as archaeology expert in Dismal Swamp segment.

December 2020

The Great Dismal Swamp was a Refuge for Escaped Slaves. A Congressman Wants to Revive its Forgotten History”, The Virginian-Pilot.

November 2020

Enslaved People on the Run: The Great Dismal SwampConstant Wonder, Brigham Young University Radio, Podcast interview.

October 2020

What on Earth?, Discovery Science Channel, Dismal Swamp Archaeology segment (original air date 10/22/2020)

Grants and Sponsored Research

NEH "We the People Collaborative Grant; Canon/National Park Service/American Academy of Arts and Sciences Grant        


Escape to the Great Dismal Swamp, Smithsonian Channel, 2018.

Selected Publications

Recent Public Work

Sayers, Dan. 2021, The Secret Society of the Great Dismal Swamp. TedEd short film.

Sayers, Daniel O. 2018, A Modest Firearms Proposal, The Doctor T.J Eckleburg Review.

Sayers, Daniel O., 2017, Guest Columnist, "The Shepard House Has Alot to Teach Us."

Recent Books

Sayers, Daniel O. (2023). The Archaeology of the Homed and the Unhomed. Archaeology of the American Experience, Michael S. Nassaney and Krysta Ryzewski, series eds., University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2014). 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. (Second, paperback edition, 2016).

Recent Articles and Book Chapters

Sayers, Daniel O. (2023). Some Thoughts on Landscape’s Political-Economic Fissures and Understanding Past Social Radicals. Thematic volume on “Cracks in Capitalism.”, Wurst and Dezsi, eds. International Journal of Historical Archaeology.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2019). The Radical Antebellum Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and Virginia, USA: Maroons, Indigenous Americans, and the Power of Underdeveloped Landscapes. Revue d’histoire du XIXe siècle 58:125-146.

Sayers, Daniel O., and Justin Uehlein (2018). Animal Emancipation and Historical Archaeology: A Pairing Long Overdue. In, Critical Animal Studies: Towards Trans-species Social Justice, Atsuko Matsuoka and John Sorenson, eds., pp.117-142, Rowman & Littlefield International, London, UK.

Short Fiction

Daniel Owen Sayers, 2018, The Omphalos of Pritchard McCoveyPoor Yorick Journal 

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

WMU Distinguished Anthropology Alumnus; William and Mary Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation in Social Sciences; Keynote, Great Dismal Swamp NPS Network To Freedom Ceremony      


*The Great Dismal Swamp collaboration effort is yielding good results:

**See our Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study Facebook page.

Professional Services

Expert consultant activities include

  • Jamestown Rediscovery Museum Revamp: Content, Tour Info, and Exhibits
  • USFWS Archaeological Excavation and Architectural Survey Consulting
  • USFWS and NPS Great Dismal Swamp Public History Interpretation Pavilion: Info, Text, and Images
  • Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (National Mall, Washington DC): Exhibit development and content, facilitation of artifact loans

Examples of courses developed and taught include

  • Grad: Craft of Anthropology; Foundations of Archaeology: Marxism, Material Culture, and Space; Archaeology, Alienation, and the Existential Condition
  • Grad/Undergrad: Great Depression Undocumented Laborer Project/Delta, PA Archaeological Field School (AU, co-taught); Archaeology of the Homeless and the Home; Radical Archaeologies; humAnimal anthropology
  • Undergrad: Human Origins; Introduction to Archaeology; Early America: The Buried Past

AU Experts

Area of Expertise

Content is not available at this time.

For the Media

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

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