Great Discoveries in Archaeology

Great Discoveries in Archaeology
Department of Anthropology
Brandeis University
Professor Travis Parno
Office Hours: TBA, and by appointment, Brown TBA
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: TBA
We passed hieroglyphic scrolls, gold jewelry, sarcophagi, statues of pharaohs, and
huge chunks of limestone. Why would someone display a rock? Aren't there
enough of those in the world?
- Rick Riordan, The Red Pyramid
This course is an introduction to archaeology based on some of the greatest discoveries in
the field. Archaeology is the study of past human activities through the scientific analysis of
material remains. It provides a general framework for our understanding of what makes us
human and what constitutes cultural similarities and differences. Through a series of case
studies, this course explores major transitions in the human condition over time. We begin
with human origins in Africa and move along exploring the domestication of plants and
animals, food production, craft technology, artistic production, ancient writing systems,
and social ideology in the development of ancient civilizations. Some of the best-known
discoveries in archaeology are used to illustrate the most salient topics covered—Olduvai
Gorge, Stonehenge, Troy, King Tut’s tomb, the fort at Jamestown (my personal favorite),
and the monumental walls of Inca kings, to name a few. In addition to such great
discoveries, the course will present the discovering archaeologists, what they did, and how
they made their interpretations. The course will end with an evaluation of how the past is
presented, valued, and protected in modern society. We will do all this in order to allow us
to better comprehend and appreciate what makes us all human and how and why our
societies past and present seem at once so alike and so entirely different.
Course Expectations
Throughout this course, I will lecture on the history of archaeological discoveries and we
will discuss their impact on our knowledge of the past. Because of this, it is expected that
you will come to class prepared to engage the material in a thoughtful manner. You will
undertake a midterm exam at the halfway point of the course and a final exam at the
conclusion of the term. You will also write two essays in which you will explore the impact
of archaeology in contemporary society.
Learning Goals
• Engage the history of major archaeological discoveries and learn how they shaped
and continue to shape our understanding of the human past.
Develop critical thinking skills by exploring complex concepts in peer-to-peer
discussions and two analytical essays.
Understand fundamental archaeological practices, particularly how to study
cultures via written and material evidence.
Compare social and technological development cross-culturally in pursuit of
commonalities and idiosyncrasies.
Evaluate the ways in which archaeology is used in contemporary society to further
ideological agendas.
Course Texts
All readings for this class other than the required text below are available through the
course website.
Price, T. Douglas, and Gary Feinman, 2012, Images of the Past. McGraw-Hill. 7th edition.
ISBN-13: 978-0078034978
Course Grading
Course grades will be determined by four main components; (1) class participation; (2) a
midterm exam; (3) two response essays; and (4) a final exam.
Class participation
Midterm exam
"Archaeology in the News" essay
"Archaeology in Popular Culture" essay
Final exam
CLASS PARTICIPATION counts towards 15% of the final class grade. Class participation
(1) Attendance: Barring an emergency situation, you are expected to attend every
class meeting.
(2) Completion of reading assignments: You should arrive prepared to discuss the
assigned reading on the day it is due.
(3) Thoughtful contribution to class discussions: This includes discussions of class
readings, active engagement with small-group work, and completion of inclass exercises.
A MIDTERM EXAM and FINAL EXAM account for 25% and 30% of the grade, respectively.
These exams will be completed in class. You will receive a study guide prior to each exam
that will assist you in your preparation.
Two RESPONSE ESSAYS comprise the final 30% of your grade (each assignment is worth
15% of the final grade). You may complete the essays in any order, but one must be
submitted by DATE and the second must be submitted by DATE.
"Archaeology in the News" essay: For this essay, you will conduct research in the
library or on the web to find an archaeological discovery made within the last three
years. You will then write a 1–2 page essay describing the discovery, who is credited
with the discovery, and how the work changes our understanding of the past.
"Archaeology in Popular Culture" essay": For this essay, you will need to locate an
example of archaeological practice and/or archaeological subject matter in
contemporary popular culture. Your example should come from film, television,
theater, toys/games, or some other medium you have discussed with me prior to the
completion of your essay. You will engage with your chosen piece of popular culture
and then write a 1–2 page essay critiquing the representation of archaeology in your
example. What does it "get right" about archaeology? What does it "get wrong"?
What would someone who knows nothing about the archaeological subject matter
learn about it from your example?
Final grade / percentage equivalences are the following: A = 94–100%; A- = 90–93%; B+ =
87–89%; B = 84–86%; B- = 80–83%; C+ = 77–79%; C = 74–76%; C- = 70–73%; D = 60-69%;
F = <60%.
If you are a student with a documented disability on record at Brandeis University and
wish to have a reasonable accommodation made for you in this class, please see me
Laptop Policy
I find that students using laptop computers in class is distracting to me and other students,
in part because the temptation to take “just a second” to check email or web updates is
hard to resist. If you feel that your learning will be hampered by not having access to your
laptop for note-taking or other legitimate purposes, please speak to me. Otherwise, keep
your laptop turned off and stowed away during class.
Plagiarism Policy
You are expected to be familiar with and to follow the University’s policies on academic
integrity (see Faculty may refer any
suspected instances of alleged dishonesty to the Office of Student Development and
Conduct. Instances of academic dishonesty may result in sanctions including but not
limited to, failing grades being issued, educational programs, and other consequences.
Schedule of Course Meetings
Readings should be prepared prior to the first class meeting of each unit. Any additional
assigned readings with be posted on our course website and announced well in advance.
WEEK 1 (July 6–10)
Introduction—What is Archaeology? Archaeological Principles and Practices
Course description, requirements, and expectations. Definition, history, and
goals of archaeology. Culture and context, stratigraphy, and association.
Archaeological dating methods. Doing archaeology: survey, excavation,
analysis. Publication, dissemination, and the public interest. Studies
contributing to the age of the Earth.
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 1–33, 137–138, 543–557
Early Hominins on the Human Path
Introduction to paleoanthropology. Earliest fossil discoveries in Africa. Lucy
and the First Family, Homo habilis, Homo erectus. Out of Africa I.
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 34–96
Becoming Human
The emergence of modern humans. Out of Africa II vs. multiregional
evolution. Neanderthals and Cro Magnons. Cultural complexity and art.
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 98–133
Azéma, Marc and Florent Rivère. (2012). Animation in
Paleolithic Art: A Pre-Echo of Cinema. Antiquity 86: 316-324.
Lieberman, Daniel E. (2007). Homing in on Early Homo. Nature 449:
Wong, Kate. (2005). The littlest human. Scientific American 292: 56–
WEEK 2 (July 13–17)
Neolithic Revolution and the Spread of Agriculture
The Natufians at Jericho and Abu Hureyra. The first domestication of plants
and animals. The Neolithic town of Çatalhöyük. Agriculture throughout the
rest of the world. Fishing at Franchi Cave, living by the lakes, and
investigating the Iceman.
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 149–155, 178–213, 244–247, 488–505
Curry, Andrew. (2008). Gobekli Tepe: The World's First Temple?
Smithsonian Magazine, Nov. 2008: n.p.
First Cities, First Civilization: the Sumerians
Emergence of civilization/complex societies. The “urban revolution.” The
Sumerians of Mesopotamia. Sir Leonard Wooley and the Royal Cemetery at
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 483–487, 418–435
Baadsgaard, Aubrey, Janet Monge, Samantha Cox, and Richard L.
Zettler. (2011). Human sacrifice and intentional corpse
preservation in the Royal Cemetery of Ur. Antiquity 85 (327):
*** Essay #1 due today***
Stonehenge and the European Iron-Age
The megaliths of northwest Europe. Fantasy and reality at Stonehenge. Bogbodies in the fields of Denmark and elsewhere.
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 98–133
"Stonehenge road tunnel plan: some say victory, others say
disaster." The Guardian:
Gaffney, Chris et al. (2012). The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes
Project. Archaeological Prospection 19: 147–155.
WEEK 3 (July 20–24)
Egypt, Pharaohs, and the Pyramids
"Rediscovery" of ancient Egypt. Belzoni, Napoleon, and Egyptomania. The
Rosetta Stone and the decipherment of hieroglyphics. Pharaohs and
pyramids. Howard Carter and the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen.
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 444–456
"New generation of archaeologists takes ancient Egypt into 21st
century." The Guardian:
Wynn, L. L. (2008). Shape shifting lizard people, Israelite slaves,
and other theories of pyramid building: Notes on labor,
nationalism, and archaeology in Egypt. Journal of Social
Archaeology 8(2): 272–295.
Ancient Life in Southern and Western Asia and the Mediterranean
Indus Civilization – early egalitarians? Schliemann and Homer’s Troy. Evans’
discovery and “reconstructions” of Minoan Crete. The Mycenaeans.
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 436–443, 514–523
Schug, Gwen Robbins et al. (2013). Infection, disease, and biosocial
processes at the end of the Indus Civilization. PLoS ONE 8(12):
Tsonis, A. A. et al. (2010). Climate change and the demise of
Minoan civilization. Climate of the Past 6: 525–530.
WEEK 4 (July 27–31)
The Life and Archaeology of the Classical Greeks and Romans
The Greek Bronze Age. Athens in the days of Perikles. The archaeology of
the Greek democracy. Agora and Akropolis. Elgin Marbles controversy. Life
and death in ancient Pompeii.
Reading: British Museum: What are the Elgin marbles?
"Amid sanctions, British Museum lends Russia controversial Elgin
Marble" CNN:
"Greece unveils museum meant for "stolen" scultures." NPR:
Africa and Eastern Asia: Great Zimbabwe, Early China, and the Khmer of Angkor
Discovery and politicization of Great Zimbabwe. Archaeology in the national
consciousness. The rise of Chinese civilization. An army of clay and the world
contained within a tomb. Angkor Wat and other sites that can be seen from
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 457–473
Murimbika, McEdward and Bhekinkosi Moyo (2008). Archaeology
and Donor Aid in 'Developing Countries': The Case for Local
Heritage in Zimbabwe. In Managing Archaeological Resources:
Global Context, National Programs, and Local Actions, edited by
Frank McManamon, Andy Stout and Jodi Barnes, pp. 87–106.
One World Archaeology Series. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press.
"Terra-Cotta Army: True Colors." National Geographic (2012):
Teotihuacán and the Maya; Culture Shock: Aztecs & Conquistadors
One of the largest cities in the pre-Columbian Americas. El Mirador and
Tikal. Maya art, script, and calendrical system. The Aztec Empire of central
Mexico encounters the Spaniards under Hernan Cortes.
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 319–352, 356–359, 378–385
"Giant Maya carvings found in Guatemala." National Geographic:
Huag, Gerald H. et al. (2003). Climate and the collapse of Maya
civilization. Science 299 (5613): 1731–1735.
Tainter, Joseph A. (2014). Collapse and sustainability: Rome, the
Maya, and the modern world. Archaeological Papers of the
American Anthropological Association 24(1): 201–214.
*** Essay #2 due today***
WEEK 5 (August 3–7)
Andean Civilizations and North America's Deeper Past
Moche and Inca sites along the west coast of South America. Incan
interactions with Pizarro. Cuzco and Machu Picchu. The incredible Moche
site of Sipán and its tragic looting. Myth of the “Moundbuilders” on the U.S.
east coast. Archaeology of the American southwest.
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 372–417, 249–253, 281–291
Andrushko, Valerie A. and Elva C. Torres. (2011). Skeletal evidence
for Inca warfare from the Cuzco region of Peru. American
Journal of Physical Anthropology 146 (3): 361–372.
Radthorne, Daniel. (2011). Poverty, pots, and golden peanuts.
Prospect n.p.
Archaeology of the Recent Past; Cultural Patrimony and Pseudoarchaeology
Defining an archaeology of the recent past. The colonies of Roanoke and
Jamestown. Contemporary archaeology and political activism. ”Kennewick
Man,” NAGPRA, and issues of looting. Pseudoscientific views of the past,
including Atlantis, ancient astronauts, crop circles, and pop culture.
Reading: Images of the Past pgs. 550–553
Ortiz, George (2006). Overview and assessment after fifty years of
collecting in a changing world. In Eleanor Robson, Luke
Treadwell, and Chris Gosden, eds., Who Owns Objects? The
Ethics and Politics of Collecting Cultural Objects. Oxford: Oxbow
Books, pp. 15-30.
Warren, Karen (1989). Introduction: Philosophical Perspective on
the Ethics and Resolution of Cultural Properties Issues. In The
Ethics of Collecting: Whose Culture? Whose Property?, edited by
P. M. Messenger. Albuquerque: University of New
Mexico Press, pp. 1‐25.
Holtorf, Cornelius (2005). Beyond crusades: How (not) to engage
with alternative archaeologies. World Archaeology 37(4): 544–
Jordan, Alexis. (2013). Dealing with electric pandas: Why it's
worth trying to explain the difference between archaeology &
pseudoarchaeology. Field Notes 5(1): 66–75.
Final Exam