Introduction to Archaeology
Dr. Bruce Owen
Office: Stevenson 2070 J
Tuesday and Thursday, 4:00-5:15
Phone (I rarely check the voicemail): (707) 664-3963
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.
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.