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Live like it's 3000 BC: Introduction to Experimental Archaeology

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

Have you ever wondered how ancient people lived? How they made their tools, clothes, and food? How they wrote on clay and papyrus? Do you want to learn about ancient artifacts and recreate them? This course offers a unique opportunity to experience how archaeologists use experimental archaeology to study the relationship between people, materials, and ancient techniques, and how they reconstruct ancient lives.

Experimental Archaeology is an analytical tool to answer a great variety of research questions in archaeology. It helps us recreate aspects of ancient societies in order to test archaeological hypotheses or interpretations. This course is designed to introduce students to experimental archaeology by making and using the materials and objects used around 3000 BC. Our goal is to understand how archaeological information is produced and what kind of evidence it is based on.

By focusing on a different aspect of everyday life each day, we will explore ancient technologies of production and design. All of our classes will involve hands-on components: We will first learn about the daily materials and artifacts from cross-cultural archaeological and ethnographic case studies. We will then design research questions and try to answer them by making and using these artifacts. In these classes you will have the chance to interact with ancient objects from the Joukowsky Institute of Archaeology and the Ancient World and the Haffenreffer Museum collections. We will visit the Engineering department to observe metal working techniques. During the course we will also have a field trip to the RISD Museum to survey ancient materials to design our own exhibit.

Our main themes for this course will be: food and drinks, tools, art and religion, and writing. You will have the opportunity to work with different materials, including: clay, stone, metals, wood, bone, and papyrus, and learn about their properties. By transforming raw materials into objects you will observe the challenges and constraints of creating them and working with them, and how this contributes to the archaeological interpretation and study of ancient objects.

By the end of this course students will be able to
1. learn about the scientific and empirical methods that archaeologists use to interpret ancient materials, and to reconstruct ancient lives
2. recreate ancient objects and use them
3. identify the potential and limitations of experimental approaches
4. recognize cross-cultural similarities and differences in the daily lives of ancient and modern people
5. design research questions and to develop analytical and critical thinking skills

There are no prerequisites for this class other than interest in materials, making, and the ancient world!

*Please note: This course has a supplemental fee of $50

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