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Discovering the Past: Introduction to Archaeology

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Do you like solving ancient mysteries, traveling to exotic parts of the globe, visiting ancient monuments, examining ancient artifacts, and studying history? If so, then this course is for you!! This course 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.

Over the course of two weeks you will become acquainted with the basic principles and methods of archaeological research. We will explore different types of archaeology across the globe, from the very ancient to the very modern. You will become familiar with the methods and approaches used by archaeologists to study a whole range of research topics, including hominid evolution, human prehistory, Greek and Roman civilization, modern garbage, underwater shipwrecks, ancient burials, and modern dead bodies. We will also discuss the role of museums, the legal parameters and ethical implications of archaeological research, and the importance of archaeology in today’s world. The ultimate goal of this mini-course is for you to gain a recognition of and appreciation for archaeology in its many guises.

In this course, our explorations will lead us from the classroom to the “field”. Most of our classes will involve hands-on components consisting of multi-media presentations, in-class group exercises, laboratory analyses, and a fieldtrip to either the Rhode Island School of Design Museum or the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. 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 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, synthesize the results in written form, and present the findings orally;
- articulate the basics of hominid/human evolution;
- define ‘archaeological heritage’ and intelligently debate the legal and ethical aspects of archaeological research in relation to numerous case studies;
- articulate the importance of archaeology for the modern world and for understanding present-day human behavior;
- articulate the role and importance of museums for the preservation of archaeological heritage.

Prerequisites: None - just a keen interest in the human past!