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Discovering the Past: Introduction to Archaeology

This course is no longer being offered.

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Course Description

Do you like solving ancient mysteries? Do you fantasize about traveling to exotic parts of the globe, visiting ancient monuments, examining ancient artifacts, and studying history up close? If so, then this course is for you! Discovering the Past will introduce you to the fascinating field of archaeology: what it is, how it’s done, how it can help us understand the human past, and how it can help us make sense of present-day human behavior and the current politics of cultural heritage.

Over the course of three weeks you will become acquainted with the basic principles and methods of archaeological research. We will explore several varieties of archaeology across the globe, from the very ancient to the very modern, and we will consider the legal, ethical, and political aspects of archaeological research. The ultimate goal of this course is for you to gain a recognition of and appreciation for archaeology in its many guises.

In this class, our explorations will lead us from the classroom to the “field.” All of our classes will involve hands-on components consisting of multi-media presentations, in-class activities and exercises (some with real ancient objects!), and a field trip to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum. The workload of the course is designed to expose you to the rigors and demands of scholarship at the university level, and to provide useful background for university-level courses in the fields of archaeology, history, art history, classics, anthropology, and law, among others.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • define archaeology in its broadest terms, and to explain the differences between different kinds of archaeology;
  • explain the various scientific and analytical methods and approaches used by archaeologists to recover ancient artifacts and to study them;
  • conduct basic archaeological analyses of small artifact assemblages and synthesize the results in written form;
  • understand the basics of hominid evolution;
  • debate and discuss the legal and ethical aspects of archaeological research in relation to case studies;
  • understand the importance of archaeology for the modern world;
  • understand the role and importance of museums for the preservation of archaeological heritage..

There are no prerequisites—just a keen interest in the human past!

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