John Chenoweth, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Anthropology, Anthropology Discipline Coordinator
John Chenoweth
College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters
Behavioral Sciences
Tues / Weds, 11am-12noon, and by appointment

Teaching Areas:


Research Areas:

Contemporary Archaeology, Historical Archaeology, Religion

Biography and Education

John M. Chenoweth is an anthropologist and historical archaeologist studying the archaeology of religion and the negotiations between religion, race, class, and other social identities. His work combines archaeological and documentary evidence, practice theory, and geographic and materials science data to understand daily life. Though working in many areas and different groups, one focus has been the Caribbean, especially the British Virgin Islands, and another the Religious Society of Friends (“Quakers”). In particular, he has studied Caribbean Quakers who, despite ideals of equality and pacifism, held enslaved Africans. This culminated in the publication of his first book, Simplicity, Equality, and Slavery, in 2017, as well as a series of articles. He has also worked on Free African sites in the BVI, both before and after emancipation.

Recently, he has initiated a project in eastern Massachusetts, studying how religious community is altered by local anthropogenic environmental change. This includes work on the earliest European settlements on outer Cape Cod and how the social and environmental landscape was changed by deforestation and soil exhaustion. He has also worked in the relatively new area of Contemporary Archaeology, the application of archaeological approaches to the present, studying the implications of contemporary ideas of nature and culture in National Parks—work recently published in American Anthropologist—and contestations of race and identity in popular references to past events and places.

Locally, he leads the River Raisin Archaeology Project in Monroe, where annual fall-semester field schools give UM-Ann Arbor, UM-Dearborn, and other local students an opportunity to learn field archaeology by doing primary research. This late 18th and early 19th century settlement was destroyed in the War of 1812, and provides insight into the encounter between French Catholic, Anglo-American Protestant, and Native religions and cultural identities in the British and early US period. This site and battle were pivotal for both the War of 1812 in the “Old Northwest” and for relations between Native communities and the US government throughout the 19th century. See the UM-Dearborn Archaeology page for more information and a brief video.

He received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of California-Berkeley (2011) and also holds an MA in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania (2006). Most recently before coming to Michigan, he was a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University’s IHUM/Thinking Matters program and a lecturer in Stanford's Anthropology Department (2011-2013).


Ph.D.: Anthropology, University of California-Berkeley (2011)

M.A.: Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania (2006). 

Postdoc: Stanford University (2011-2013)

Selected Publications

I've published in journals such as American Anthropologist, Historical Archaeology, the International Journal of Historical Archaeology, and the Journal of Social Archaeology, and have published several edited volumes and chapters.



2017.  Simplicity, Equality, and Slavery: An Archaeology of Quakerism in the British Virgin Islands, 1740-1780. University of Florida Press.

Reviewed in Historical Archaeology and AAR’s Reading Religion


Peer-Reviewed Chapters and Articles

2021. (Chenoweth, John M., Laura Bossio, and Mark Salvatore). Modeling Colonial Paternalism: GIS and Multi-Spectral Satellite Imagery at Kingstown, British Virgin Islands. American Antiquity. (First published online August 3, 2021)

2021. Spatial Analysis of Religious Community: An Integrated Approach to Barbados Quakerism, 1655–1780. Historical Archaeology 55(4). (First published online Aug 17, 2021)

2021 “In the Beginning Was the Word”: Religious Communities, Religious Landscapes. Historical Archaeology 55(4). (First published online Aug 17, 2021)

2020. (Wilkie, Laurie A. and John M. Chenoweth). “Introduction: Continuities and Changes.” In A Cultural History of Objects Volume Six: The Modern World, Laurie A. Wilkie and John M. Chenoweth, eds. London: Bloomsbury. (Published Dec 24, 2020)

2019.  Reconstructing a Changing Religious Landscape: the Material Traces of Barbados Quakers. International Journal of Historical Archaeology. 23(2): 462-495.

2018. Marine Shell and Small Island Slavery in the Caribbean.  Historical Archaeology 52(4): 467-488.

2017. Natural Graffiti and Cultural Plants: A Contemporary Archaeology of Yosemite and Detroit. American Anthropologist 119(3): 464-477.

2016. (Chenoweth, John M., Lynsey Bates, and James Delle) Introduction: The Caribbean Spaces In Between. In Archaeologies of Slavery and Freedom in the Caribbean: Exploring the Spaces in Between. Bates, Lynsey, John Chenoweth, and James Delle, eds. University Press of Florida.

2016. The Archaeology of a Postemancipation Smallholder in the British Virgin Islands. In Archaeologies of Slavery and Freedom in the Caribbean: Exploring the Spaces in Between. Bates, Lynsey, John Chenoweth, and James Delle, eds. University Press of Florida.

2016. Collecting, Updating, and Building on the Classics. In The Historical Archaeology Laboratory Handbook.  John M. Chenoweth, ed. Society for Historical Archaeology.

2016. (Chenoweth, John M. and Meta Janowitz) A Primer on Historic Ceramics. In The Historical Archaeology Laboratory Handbook.  John M. Chenoweth, ed. Society for Historical Archaeology.*

*Peer-reviewed by SHA editors, but anonymous peer reviewer later became a collaborator and the resulting piece was not sent for further blind peer review.

2015. (Chenoweth, John M, and Alan Farahani) Color in historical ceramic typologies: A test case in statistical analysis of replicable measurements. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 4: 310-319.

2014. Practicing and Preaching Quakerism: Creating a Religion of Peace on a Slavery-Era Plantation. American Anthropologist 116(1): 94-109.

2013. The Archaeology of Quakerism in Philadelphia and Beyond: Identity, Context, and Conformity. In Kings and Commoners, Settlers and Savants: The Historical Archaeology of the Delaware Valley, 1600-1820.  R. Veit and D. Orr, eds. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. Pp. 185-204.

2012.  Quakerism and the Lack of ‘Things’ in the Early Modern. In The Mystery and Meaning of Modern Materials: Selected Papers from the 2009 CHAT Conference, Keble College, Oxford. L. McAtackney and B. Fortenberry, eds.  BAR, Oxford. Pp. 73-84.  

2009 Social Identity, Material Culture, and the Archaeology of Religion: Quaker Practices in Context. Journal of Social Archaeology 9 (3): 319-340.

2006 “What’ll Thou Have”: Quakers and the Characterization of Tavern Sites in Colonial Philadelphia.  Northeast Historical Archaeology 35: 75-90.


Edited Volumes

Chenoweth, John M., guest editor. 2021.  Historical Archaeology 55(4). (First published online Aug 17, 2021)

Wilkie, Laurie A., and John Chenoweth, eds. 2020. A Cultural History of Objects, Volume Six: Objects in the Modern Age. London: Bloomsbury. (Published Dec 24, 2020)

Chenoweth, John M., ed. 2016. The Historical Archaeology Laboratory Handbook. Society for Historical Archaeology [3 volumes], Germantown, MD. (Three volumes of previously published material, in addition to two original pieces authored or co-authored by myself.)

Bates, Lynsey, John M. Chenoweth, and James Delle, eds. 2016. Archaeologies of Slavery and Freedom in the Caribbean: Exploring the Spaces in Between. University Press of Florida.  Reprinted in paperback, Sept 2018.