Contemporary Issues in Archaeological Theory | Home
Rocky Point Amusement Park, Warwick RI
Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
This course explores how archaeologists make sense of the world from artifacts of the past. Human practices and cultural processes resonate, live within the material traces that surround us in our everyday life. How do archaeologists re-imagine these traces as residues of real people in history rather than imaginary beings and ghosts? How do archaeologists place material objects and spaces in the context of human practices, cultural processes and long-term history? In short, we will read, think and write about archaeological ways of thinking about the world.
Archaeology, as a modern discipline, investigates the past through the study of its material remains. This material record is documented and interpreted through various intellectual activities from fieldwork to publication. But archaeologists are usually torn between their work in the field (digging, surveying, drawing, travelling, taking notes) and in their academic environment (processing data, interpreting, publishing). Throughout the semester we will spend some thought on this divided life between the field and discourse, and explore some of the novel attempts have been made to bridge them.
Archaeology frequently becomes entangled with our daily lives through its politicized engagement with the past and issues of identity. We will examine various theoretical approaches and historiographic models used in archaeology since its inception in the 19th century, while putting a particular emphasis on the recent developments in the theories and methodologies in archaeology in the last few decades. It is intended to provide a solid theoretical and historigraphic basis for the discipline of archaeology. The first few weeks of the course will be dedicated to discussing the central movements in the discipline such as culture-history, New Archaeology, and contextual archaeology, while the second half deals with more contemporary theoretical paradigms such as gender and sexuality, technology and agency, space, place and landscape, and issues of ciltural heritage. Particular archaeological materials, sites, projects will be used in discussing the potentials and disadvantages of various approaches. Archaeological case studies will be drawn mostly from the ancient Western Asian and Mediterranean worlds.