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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Benjamin Marwick
ARCHY 369
Seattle Campus

Special Problems in Archaeology

Delineation and analysis of a specific problem or related problems in archaeology focusing on developing research and scholarly communication skills.

Class description

This course is about Mainland Southeast Asian Archaeology. This region is defined as Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma. This area includes highly diverse and ancient cultural groups that have produced civilizations and cities, such as Angkor, that are comparable to ancient Egyptians and Mayans. The course is organised around major transitions. We will start with the transition from a biological landscape to a cultural landscape and investigate evolutionary questions about how and when the first humans appeared in mainland SEA. Then we'll investigate the social and economic significance and timing of the transition from hunting and gathering to plant and animal domestication. The transition to metal technologies - namely the Bronze Age and Iron Age - is another major transition that we will examine the evidence for and significance of. Finally we will look at the transition to states and empires and see how the roots of modern Southeast Asian states can been seen in the archaeological record. At each transition we will draw on comparative archaeological evidence from Europe, Africa and elsewhere to identify common themes and unique details about mainland Southeast Asia. We will also touch on some of the practical, social and political issues related to doing archaeology in this part of the world.

Student learning goals

The most difficult concept in this class is learning how to use archaeological evidence to tell a convincing story about past human behavior. In this course we will be using mainland Southeast Asia as a giant case study to practice the application of this fundamental archaeological concept.

Students will gain an understanding of the diversity and complexity of the material culture of the archaeological record in mainland SEA from the earliest hominids to historical period empires.

Students will be familiar with the basic timeline of prehistory in mainland SEA and the timing of major social, economic and technological transition events across the region.

Students will understand the controversies current in mainland SEA archaeology and will learn to apply scientific thinking to evaluating the different sides.

Students will be able to interpret archaeological evidence to present their own positions on current issues in mainland SEA archaeology and understand the contemporary cultural significance of their position.

General method of instruction

The course will be taught by lectures and quiz sections. The lectures are pretty informal, with occasional short discussion/writing activities and opportunities for Q&A. The Catalyst system will also be used (eg. GoPost, Collect It and WebQ) to deliver and collect materials.

Recommended preparation

None! If you enjoy Pad Thai or a bowl of Pho then come and find out where these dishes came from and what people were eating before they were invented! All you need is a general interest in Southeast Asia and archaeology.

Class assignments and grading

The assignments will be a combination of a few quizzes, a few short written pieces and one longer research paper. Nothing too stressful or busy. Extra credit opportunities will be available.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Benjamin Marwick
Date: 07/30/2009