Techniques, methods, and goals of archaeological research. Excavation and dating of archaeological materials. General problems encountered in explaining archaeological phenomena.
This class introduces and explores archaeological method and theory. Every year we hear about new and dramatic discoveries that stir our imaginations: The "Ice Man" discovered in the Alps on the border between Italy and Austria melting out of a snow bank after 5000 years; The amazing discovery of an untouched 1000 year old royal tomb on the Peruvian coast with sacrificed slaves and pets, preserved feather and textile garments, and gold ornaments; The discovery of a miniature race of people living in isolation on the Indonesian island of Flores as recently as 13,000 years ago; The earliest agricultural domesticates in the New World; Evidence of human occupation in the high arctic almost 30,000 years ago! How do archaeologists study the past? What can we learn from people's ancient garbage, tools, architecture, and living surfaces? Why should we even care about the archaeological record or what we can learn from it? Archaeology is a science of intrigue, the solving of mysteries and the excitement of discovery. The excitement of archaeology is inevitably also mixed with controversy. Archaeological discoveries sometimes contradict our beliefs about the past or can disturb sacred ground. Who has a right to study remains of the past? Who should control access? This class will explore all of these questions with a focus on the methods that archaeologists use to explore our archaeological heritage around the world.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Lecture, Discussions, Lab and Field excercises (we will use the campus grounds to explore some of the techniques archaeologists use to study the past), movies, internet and library research.
An interest in archaeology... Most of us dreamed about being an archaeologist when we were kids. This class will show you what real archaeologist do and why and how they do it.
Class assignments and grading
Weekly readings (average 50 pages per week), individual and group excercises (in lab and across campus). Many assignments will provide an opportunity to work with artifacts, archaeological site maps, and other "data" in an effort to learn how archaeologists build an understanding of the past.
Three exams, occasional quizzes, and exercizes. Students submit journal entries based on "ethno-archaeological" observations of the world around them and participate in online discussions of important issues raised in class, section, or readings.