Relevant Courses (2018-2019)

The following courses have been suggested by Early Cultures faculty as especially relevant to interested students. Courses marked with an asterisk have also received PEC funding for additional programming. Many of our Affiliated Departments also include course listings for the current year, as well as past or future years, on their websites. To view all courses being offered at Brown University in the current academic year, visit the university's online listings, [email protected].

Fall 2018

ANTH 1720  The Human Skeleton (CRN 16104)

More than simply a tissue within our bodies, the human skeleton is a gateway into narratives of the past--from the evolution of our species to the biography of individual past lives. Through lecture and hands-on laboratory, students will learn the complete anatomy of the human skeleton, with an emphasis on the human skeleton in functional and evolutionary perspective. We'll also explore forensic and bioarchaeological approaches to the skeleton. By the course conclusion, students will be able to conduct basic skeletal analysis and will be prepared for more advanced studies of the skeleton from medical, forensic, archaeological, and evolutionary perspectives.

ANTH 2560  Lived Bodies, Dead Bodies: The Archaeology of Human Remains (CRN 16920)

Bioarchaeology is the study of human remains from archaeological contexts. We will survey the "state of the art" in bioarchaeology, while exploring its relevance and application to the archaeology of complex societies. We will survey a range of bioarchaeological methods and applications, including paleopathology, stable isotope analysis, population affinity/ancient DNA, perimortem trauma, and body modification. In turn, we will explore how bioarchaeology can be used to approach a wide range of archaeological problems relative to complext societies, including subsistence, economy, migration, urbanism, social inequality, conflict and warfare, and identity. Open to graduate students only. S/NC.

ARCH 1900  The Archaeology of College Hill (CRN 17129)

A hands-on training class in archaeological field and laboratory techniques. Topics include the nature of field archaeology, excavation and survey methodologies, archaeological ethics, computer technologies (such as GIS), and site and artifact analysis and conservation. Students will act as practicing archaeologists (i.e., actually dig and analyze the results!) through the investigation of local historical and archaeological sites in the College Hill area (e.g. the First Baptist Church of America and Brown University's Quiet Green).

ARCH 2535  The Levant and Egypt: Cultural Contacts and Connections (CRN 17361)

A land steeped in story and history, the Levant (now Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan) was a dynamic crossroads of ancient civilizations, from Mesopotamia and Anatolia and stretching across Europe. But this region is nearly always viewed through the lens of its larger, well-known neighbor: Egypt. This course will shift this viewpoint by exploring the nature and agency of trade, colonization, diplomacy, migration – and even war – between the Levant and ancient Egypt, paying particular attention to the archaeological record in reconstructing these interactions and cultural interconnections.

ARCH 2630  Global Romans and Indigenous Persistence (CRN 17204)

The military expansion of the Roman Republic has long been regarded as the starting point for profound cultural transformations around the West Mediterranean, as conquered indigenous societies were assumed to be "becoming Roman" as a result. In contrast with that traditional, profoundly hegemonic interpretation, this seminar will trace the longevity and influence of indigenous traditions -- particularly those of Gallia Narbonensis, the Hispaniae, Africa, and the major islands -- that began well before and extended far beyond the Roman conquests.

HIST 0270A  From Fire Wielders to Empire Builders: Human Impact on the Global Environment before 1492 (CRN 16966)

This is a new lecture course intended to introduce the field of environmental history to students with no previous experience in it. The study of prehistoric, ancient and medieval environments is a heavily interdisciplinary research field, and the course will emphasize the variety of sources available for studying it. We will combine textbook readings with primary source readings from scientific and archaeological reports and, especially, contemporary texts.

HIST 1202  Formation of the Classical Heritage Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, and Muslims (CRN 15411)

Explores essential social, cultural, and religious foundation blocks of Western Civilization, 200 BCE to 800 CE. The main theme is the eternal struggle between universalism and particularism, including: Greek elitism vs. humanism; Roman imperialism vs. inclusion; Jewish assimilation vs. orthodoxy; Christian fellowship vs. exclusion, and Islamic transcendence vs. imminence. We will study how ancient Western individuals and societies confronted oppression and/or dramatic change and developed intellectual and spiritual strategies still in use today. Students should be prepared to examine religious thought from a secular point of view. There is no prerequisite or assumed knowledge of the period. P

HMAN 1973M   Art, Secrecy, and Invisibility in Ancient Egypt (CRN 17194)

Ancient Egypt is well known for having produced large and eminently visible art and architecture. But a persistent theme in Egyptian visual culture is that of invisibility, of art made and then deliberately hidden or destroyed. The range of examples is vast and varied, suggesting a complex relationship between visibility and meaning. This seminar will explore how unseeable art intersects with themes of audience, agency, and time in ancient Egypt, utilizing examples from other cultures - including our own - to examine the meanings of the invisible.

RELS 0100  Buddhist Thought Practice and Society (CRN 15498)

From its beginnings to the 21st century. Principal teachings and practices, institutional and social forms, and artistic and iconographical expressions.

Spring 2019

ANTH 0680  Anthropology of Food (CRN 24477)

An exploration of the human experience of food and nutrition from evolutionary, archaeological, and cross-cultural perspectives. The course will review the various approaches employed by anthropologists and archaeologists to understand diet and subsistence in the past and present. Starting with the evolutionary roots of the human diet in Plio-Pleistocene Africa, we will trace patterns of human subsistence to the present, including the social and health implications of the agricultural revolution. We will then explore modern foodways in cross-cultural perspective, focusing on the interplay of ecology, politics, technology, and cultural beliefs.

ASYR 1700  Astronomy Before the Telescope (CRN 25009)

This course will explore the relationship between astronomy, divination and politics in the ancient world. The sky provided ancient cultures with many possibilities for observing occurrences that could be interpreted as omens. In many cultures, celestial omens were directed towards the king and his government. As a result, interpreting and controlling celestial omens became an important political activity. In this course, we will explore how and why astronomical events were used politically in ancient Mesopotamia, the Greco-Roman world, and ancient and medieval China. No prior knowledge of astronomy is necessary for this course.

CLAS 1120Z  Literature of Empires* (CRN 24939)

This course compares and contrasts the literatures of the ancient empires of East and West Asia (including the Mediterranean), with an emphasis on Chinese and Greco-Roman cultures. We will explore the literary discourses that grew up in support of and in opposition to imperialism and colonization; specific topics may include how empires use mythology, how tensions between centers and peripheries create imperial identities, how an empire assimilates a multiethnic past, the constitution of archives, and what “classic” means to different audiences. All readings will be in English.

HIST 1835A  Unearthing the Body: History, Archaeology, and Biology at the End of Antiquity (CRN 25518)

How was the physical human body imagined, understood, and treated in life and death in the late ancient Mediterranean world? Drawing on evidence from written sources, artistic representations, and archaeological excavations, this class will explore this question by interweaving thematic lectures and student analysis of topics including disease and medicine, famine, asceticism, personal adornment and ideals of beauty, suffering, slavery, and the boundaries between the visible world and the afterlife, in order to understand and interpret the experiences of women, men, and children who lived as individuals—and not just as abstractions—at the end of antiquity. P

JUDS 1002  Targumic Aramaic (CRN 16316)

A systematic study of the grammar of Targumic Aramaic followed by readings from Targum Onqelos to the Book of Exodus. Prerequisite: knowledge of the grammar of a Semitic language (preferably Hebrew). Open to undergraduates and graduate students with the necessary background. Regular attendance and thorough preparation are mandatory for all students in this class. By the end of the semester, we will have translated at least four chapters of the Onqelos Targum to Exodus. This course will serve as a foundation for any further work students intend to do with Aramaic (e.g., Old, Imperial, Biblical, Talmudic).

RELS 2380A  Chinese Buddhist Texts (CRN 24229)

Each week we will engage in close reading through translation of Buddhist texts in the original Chinese. Selections will draw from sutras, commentaries, prefaces, colophons, biographies, and Chan literature. The course introduces research methods, major sources, dictionaries, and digital tools, and culminates in a seminar paper demonstrating original research using the tools and methods practiced in class. Prerequisite: Reading competence in classical Chinese.