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Daniel Sayers

Associate Professor and Department Chair, Anthropology 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 and world of resistance communities that thrived in the swamp interior from 1607 up through the Civil War. The project includes several scholars from around the U.S. Dr. Sayers is also principal investigator in and co-developer of the Great Depression Undocumented Labor Project, an archaeological program centered on transient laborers and hobos in 1920-1950 America--it particularly explores issues surrounding landscape, resistance, environment/ecology, and class consciousness. Additionally, Dr. Sayers has proposed and developed an animal emancipation perspective and 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. Dr. Sayers works with many undergraduate and graduate students in all of these projects and research areas.


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: A Man Called Intrepid, William Stephenson

Download CV (PDF)

CAS - Anthropology
Hamilton - 101
Fall 2015 Teaching: Wednesday 5:30-8 pm Office Hours: Wednesday 1-4 pm
Contact Info
(202) 885-1833 (Office)
(202) 885-1837 (Fax)

Send email to Daniel Sayers

For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.
See Also
Anthropology Department

Partnerships & Affiliations

  • Society for Historical Archaeology


  • US Fish and Wildlife Service

    In Partnership

  • Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

    In Partnership


  • Summer 2017

    • ANTH-560 Summer Fld School: Archaeology: Delta Hobo Jungle
    • Description
  • Fall 2017

  • Spring 2018

    • ANTH-531 Topics in Archaeology: The Homeless and the Home
    • 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 and some methods areas (e.g., excavation, survey, and modes of data recordation); race/racism/racialization; and, historical archaeology as social justice and world-transformational praxis.



City of Lost Slaves

Andreas Gutzeit, Director, Story House Productions 


Landscape of Power: Freedom and Slavery in the Great Dismal Swamp. 

Nina Shapiro-Perl, Director with Co-Producer Beth Geglia

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

2013, Distinguished Alumnus, 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.      


*See our Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study Facebook


Media Appearances

Recent Appearances

August 2017

    99% Invisible podcast, Dismal Swamp

    Our State (North Carolina) podcast, Dismal Swamp

July 2017

    NPR Morning Edition, Delta PA Hobo Jungle Work

May 2017

   Archaeological Conservancy, Dismal Swamp Article

December 2016

   Mysteries of the Museum, Travel Channel, Dismal Swamp segment

September 2016

   Smithsonian Magazine, Dismal Swamp Article


Selected Publications

     Recent Public Work

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

Sayers, Daniel O., 2016, The Mail, Underground Railroad. New Yorker

     Recent Books

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. (2015) Alienation, Praxis and Significant Social Transformations through Historical Archaeology. Chapter in, Historical Archaeologies of Capitalism, 2nd Edition, Mark P. Leone and Jocelyn Knaupf, eds. Springer.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2015) Maroon and Leftist Praxis. In, Current Perspectives on the Archaeology of Slavery in Latin America. Pedro P. Funari and Charles E. Orser, Jr., eds. Springer. 

Sayers, Daniel O. (2014). Scission Communities and Social Defiance: Marronage in the Diasporic Great Dismal Swamp, 1600-1860. In, The Limits of Tyranny: Archaeological Perspectives on the Struggle against New World Slavery, James Delle, ed., University of Tennessee Press.

Sayers, Daniel O. (2014). The Most Wretched of Beings in the Cage of Capitalism. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 18(3): 529-554.

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

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.        

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