Introduction to Archaeology

Dr. Bruce Owen

Anthropology 324

Office hours: Mon & Wed 3:30-5:00 and Tues 1:00-2:00

Fall 2002

Office: Stevenson 2070 J

Tuesday and Thursday, 4:00-5:15

Phone (I rarely check the voicemail): (707) 664-3963

Stevenson 2001

Email (I check it regularly): Owenbruce@aol.com

Class web page: members.aol.com/postquem/324f2002.htm

 

Introduction to Archaeology

This course will introduce you to the goals, methods, theories, and practice of archaeology. Archaeology is our only access to much of the past. Archaeologists have the privilege and responsibility of figuring out what happened before now, and trying to explain why. Archaeology is a wonderful field for jacks-of-all-trades and renaissance people, because within its humanistic approach to understanding people and societies of the past, there is room and need for a staggering diversity of ways of thinking, skills, and interests. Archaeology needs historians, linguists, ethnographers, and artists; it needs chemists, botanists, statisticians, and computer experts; it needs hikers, photographers, mechanics, and diggers who can dissect the ground like a three-dimensional puzzle; and many others. It is best if you can be all of those, while constantly thinking like a scientist and an anthropologist. Archaeology is fun and challenging.

This course will start with an introduction to the general approaches and goals of archaeology, that is, what archaeologists want to learn. We will then look at the most concrete aspects of archaeological methods, including dating, building chronologies, and finding and digging sites. We will move on to ways to squeeze conclusions from archaeological data, from ethnographic analogies and experimental archaeology, through methods for studying animal bone, plant material, and human remains. With these tools under control, we will look at how archaeologists approach the grander questions like the origins of inequality, gender roles, complex societies, and even human consciousness. Finally (as well as all along), we will consider how archaeology fits into the real world: the conservation and study of archaeological remains as a moral and legal matter, the role of the observer in creating the past, archaeology and the television-watching, museum-visiting public, and the really thorny issues of who owns archaeological remains and the purposes and ethics of their use in the modern world. Real projects will serve constantly as examples, but this is not a course on world prehistory. The focus is not on the past itself, but on the thinking, methods, issues, and ethics of the field.

Class meetings will be a mix of lectures and discussion, often covering material related to, but different from, the reading. The reading is from a textbook, an amusing mystery with digressions into archaeological theory, and some articles on reserve and/or available through the class web page. I have kept the reading reasonably light because I want you to really do it before class and be prepared to discuss and work with the material. There are a fair number of assignments, but they are short, varied, and meant to be interesting. If you keep up, this should be a fun and not too taxing course.

If you want to talk about archaeology, course assignments, preparing for the tests, or anything else, please drop by during my office hours, arrange to see me at some other time, or contact me by email. I will gladly comment on drafts of your assignments so that you can revise them before handing them in.

If you are a student with a disability and think you may need accommodations in this course, you must contact the Disabled Students Services located in Stevenson 1038 (664-2677).

Reading: The syllabus indicates what you should read before each lecture, so you can discuss the material in class. The readings are from three sources:

  1. Archaeology: Down to Earth, 2nd Edition, by David Hurst Thomas: A clear, concise, easy to read textbook. Thomas' approach and opinions are almost always right on (that is, they agree with mine!).
  2. Death by Theory, by Adrian Praetzellis: A humorous mystery with archaeological theory larded through it. Although this is a fun book, it is required and we will use it to lead into class discussions.
  3. Additional readings: Additional items will be on reserve at the library and/or available on the Web. The current (and past) reading assignments will be posted on the class web site.

Both books are available at the SSU bookstore, Amazon.com, and elsewhere. The readings include material that is not specifically covered in class, and class sessions will often include material that is not in the readings. The tests will cover all this material, whether or not is has come up in class.

Library reserve and Internet World Wide Web access: My class notes will be on reserve at the library and may also be downloaded from the Anthropology 324 web page. Some students bring copies of these notes to class and add their own comments. The notes are a useful study aid, but they are no substitute for attending class, reading the assignments, and participating in discussions. The class web page is located at:

http://members.aol.com/postquem/324f2002.htm

Assignments and their weights in grading (details will be posted on the class web page):

10% Behavior observation (2-3 pages). You observe some human behavior, consider what evidence of it might be left for the future, and explain how (and how well) it might be reconstructed by archaeologists in the future. You do this twice: once with behavior that could be at least partially reconstructed, and once with behavior that would be difficult or impossible to reconstruct.

10% Archaeology website review (3-4 pages). You visit two web sites about archaeological topics of your choice. You describe them, explain the things you do and do not like about them (both content and presentation), and evaluate how reliable you think they are as sources of information, using criteria posted on the class web site. The two sites should include one that you feel is reliable enough to use for a research paper, and one that you think is probably biased or of questionable accuracy.

20% Paper review (3-4 pages). You pick a published archaeology paper from a list of suggested references and review it, explaining the question that the research proposed to address, the methods used, and how the conclusions were drawn; you also evaluate the conclusions, considering what assumptions the author(s) made and looking for weaknesses in the argument and alternative explanations. If you have a particular subject you would like to pursue, we can probably find a suitable paper in your area of interest.

20% Grant proposal. You form a group with one or two other classmates and pick a publication or web site from a second list. This time the sources make controversial archaeological claims. As a group, you write a "grant proposal" in which you outline the claim, what is controversial about it, and any evidence that is said to support it. Then you propose an archaeological research design that would test the claim, explaining what data you would gather, what methods you would use, and how the data would resolve the problem. Some additional research might be necessary.

40% In-class midterm and final exam (20% each). These tests include essay questions, short answer questions, and "objective" questions in formats such as multiple-choice and matching.

Drafts: I will gladly review drafts of any of the assignments and make suggestions to improve them.

Deadline policy: I will accept assignments up to one week late with a 15% grading penalty.

Submitting assignments by email: You may submit assignments or drafts by email. Save your assignment in any common format and attach it to an email message to me (Owenbruce @ aol.com). Also paste your assignment as text directly into the body of the message. I will attempt to use the attached file, but if I have trouble with it, I will use the plain text in the message. The email deadline is the same as for assignments on paper. I will reply with a message saying that I received your assignment. If you do not hear from me, I probably have not gotten it. It is your responsibility to make sure it reaches me.

Introduction to Archaeology

Lecture and Reading Schedule, Fall 2002

1

Thur

Aug

29

Introduction: Outline of the course, syllabus, readings, class mechanics, grading

2

Tues

Sept

3

What archaeology is and how it got that way

Thomas: Ch. 1, pp 1-28

3

Thur

Sept

5

What we want to learn - and how

Thomas: Ch. 2, pp 29-47

4

Tues

Sept

10

Archaeological -isms and the nature of the world

Thomas: Ch. 2, pp. 47-58

5

Thur

Sept

12

Absolute dating: Tree rings and radiocarbon

Thomas: Ch. 3, pp. 60-77

Owen: How radiocarbon dating works (posted on the class web page)

6

Tues

Sept

17

Absolute dating: More physics tricks and dating in historical archaeology

Thomas: Ch. 3, pp. 77-85

Thomas: Ch. 4, pp. 109-114

* Due: Behavior observation

7

Thur

Sept

19

Chronology as brain teaser: Stratigraphy and index fossils

Thomas: Ch. 4, pp. 87-102

8

Tues

Sept

24

Types, seriation, components, and culture history

Thomas: Ch. 4, pp. 102-109, 114-120

9

Thur

Sept

26

Discussion and catch-up

Praetzellis: Ch. 1-4 and their talking points, pp. 161-162

10

Tues

Oct

1

Finding sites and reading culture from maps

Thomas: Ch. 5, pp. 121-134

To be announced: Survey and regional analysis reading

11

Thur

Oct

3

Data without digging: surface collections and remote sensing

Thomas: Ch. 5, pp. 134-147

To be announced: Within-site spatial analysis reading

12

Tues

Oct

8

Digging square holes

Thomas: Ch. 5, pp. 148-156

To be announced: Excavation reading

* Due: Web site review

13

Thur

Oct

10

Site formation, linking arguments, and ethnoarchaeology

Thomas: Ch. 6, pp. 157-175

14

Tues

Oct

15

Experimental archaeology

Thomas: Ch. 6, pp. 175-182

Baker: The dead elephant (posted on the class web page)

15

Thur

Oct

17

* Midterm exam

16

Tues

Oct

22

Animal bones

Thomas: Ch. 7, pp. 184-198

17

Thur

Oct

24

Plant parts

Thomas: Ch. 7, pp. 198-215

18

Tues

Oct

29

Human remains: health, activity, diet

Thomas: Ch. 8, pp. 216-229

19

Thur

Oct

31

Human remains: relatedness, migration

Thomas: Ch. 8, pp. 230-241

To be announced: Bioarchaeology reading

20

Tues

Nov

5

Social groups, status, gender, and inequality

Thomas: Ch. 9, pp. 243-259

21

Thur

Nov

7

Discussion and catch-up

Praetzellis: Ch. 5-7 and their talking points, pp. 162-163

22

Tues

Nov

12

More inequality: Marx, power, and agency

Thomas: Ch. 9, pp. 259-270

To be announced: Inequality reading

23

Thur

Nov

14

Evolutionary views of culture: explaining adaptation

Thomas: Ch. 10, pp. 271-287

* Due: Paper review

24

Tues

Nov

19

Evolution plus: explaining complex societies

Thomas: Ch. 10, pp. 287-299

25

Thur

Nov

21

The archaeology of consciousness

Thomas: Ch. 11, pp. 300-321

To be announced: Cognitive archaeology reading

26

Tues

Nov

26

Reflexive archaeology

Thomas: Ch. 11, pp. 321-327

 

Thur

Nov

28

Thanksgiving holiday: No class meeting

27

Tues

Dec

3

Archaeology in Our Real World: Guest session with Adrian Praetzellis

Reading to be announced

28

Thur

Dec

5

Public archaeology

Thomas: Ch. 12, pp. 328-346

Museo Contisuyo website (Link and details on the class web page)

* Due: Group "grant proposal"

29

Tues

Dec

10

Archaeology and Native Americans

Thomas: Ch. 12, pp. 346-354

Kennewick Man reading(s) (links and details on the class web page)

30

Thur

Dec

12

Discussion, review, and evaluation

Praetzellis: Ch 8-9 (you haven't read this already?) and their talking points, pp. 163-164

Final exam. Thursday, Dec 19, 5:00 - 6:50.