Archaeology often justifies its existence by invoking the trope that we must learn about the past in order to create a better future. The COVID-19 pandemic is itself an event that will enter the historical record. Thus, the universality of this public health crisis is a unique opportunity to assess the relevance of university-level archaeology curricula to our present historical moment. We studied an upper division general education course on the archaeology of complex societies at a public liberal arts college in California. The instrument of data collection was a questionnaire administered at the end of the Fall 2020, Spring 2021, and Spring 2022 semesters. Students read an article about archaeological approaches to pandemics, then reflected on how it connected to course content and to their own experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Content analysis of student responses suggests that course themes of complex societies, the environment, archaeological evidence, the future, and social hierarchy resonated most with students on both intellectual and personal levels. We also identified emergent concerns with diseases (COVID-19 and others) and cultural responses to them, employment status, and psychological effects, suggesting that these themes are increasingly relevant to archaeology students during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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