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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

J.Ben Fitzhugh
ARCHY 469
Seattle Campus

Special Studies in Archaeology

Consideration in detail of specific archaeological topics, either methodological or substantive in content, of current interest. Offered occasionally by resident, new, or visiting faculty. For advanced undergraduates and graduate students. Prerequisite: ARCHY 205.

Class description

This research-oriented class is designed to introduce students to the integration of paleo-environmental science and the study of the human past with a focus on how such studies can contribute to current issues of human-environmental sustainability. Every two weeks students will explore an archaeological research question implicating environmental causes for cultural change and/or human causes for environmental change. With an introduction and guidance from the instructors to each topic, students will then break into teams to explore different facets of the problem. They will explore and synthesize information from professional literature in archaeology, geology, oceanography, climatology, paleoecology and written history to evaluate proposed scenarios current in the professional literature. A combination of online summaries and in-class discussions will seek to integrate the different domains of information and explore its relevance to the problem at hand. Effective topics will lead to additional research and further synthesis. Through the class, students will learn effective hypothesis formulation and the requirements and limitations of rigorous empirical evaluation. The overall goal of the course is to provide students interested in archaeological and/or environmental sciences experience in interdisciplinary research strategies. A unifying theme will be the connection of past human-environmental study to issues of contemporary concern in human-environmental sustainability.

Student learning goals

understand the effective synthesis of interdisciplinary information to understand past human-environmental dynamics

formulate hypotheses invoking interdisciplinary evidence

judge the effectiveness of arguments employing interdisciplinary evidence in arguments about human cultural change and/or impacts on environmental domains.

pursue research drawing on multiple disciplines and research traditions

General method of instruction

Most of the class will be devoted to discussion of one kind or another. Students will be challenged to formulate hypothesis, explore them for logical coherence, and explore the ways these hypotheses can be evaluated using interdisciplinary research approaches and evidence. Following examples provided by the faculty instructors, students will bring relevant interdisciplinary examples to class for discussion, work in groups to formulate research approaches that could help to answer inter-disciplinary questions and design research strategies that advance interdisciplinary understanding of important questions. Occasional guest speakers will provide disciplinary background to environmental science and other fields not commonly part of the training of archaeology and anthropology.

Recommended preparation

Archy 205 is strongly recommended. Willingness to engage in solution-oriented interdisciplinary thinking and to learn about interdisciplinary approaches in archaeology, including learning about complementary disciplines.

Class assignments and grading

1. Weekly readings - some pre-selected and some derived from literature searches on assigned topics. 2. Preparation for group discussions, including occasional discussion leadership 3. A Collaborative interdisciplinary team project. 4. Graded midterm assignment 5. Team project presentation 6. Final paper in place of a final examination

1. weekly posts on bulletin board (linked to weekly readings) leading group discussions (based on preparation of discussion questions when assigned to lead discussion) 2. midterm assignment 3. final presentation 4. final paper


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 J.Ben Fitzhugh
Date: 05/13/2013