Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Digging for Answers: 5 Big Questions of Our Time
Climate change, race, violence, inequality, consumerism: most attempts to understand and resolve these issues deal with contemporary causes and recent history, often over the last 100 or 200 years. This course looks at the longer term, with an archaeological perspective. It shows that by ‘digging’ down into deep time we can get a new and different perspective on the key questions of our time.
The five questions are:
Where do we come from? We will look at how archaeologists use ancient DNA to study immigration and ‘race’ through time. What is ‘race’ and how is it defined?
Has inequality increased? Was Dynastic Egypt more or less unequal than today? What causes inequality and are current trends unusual given a long-term view?
Have we become more violent? It is often argued human violence has increased over time. We will explore the evidence and see how archaeologists measure violence.
Why do we consume so much stuff? Independent and group work will allow you to problem solve ways in which archaeologists quantify our dependence on material stuff over time.
What is the relationship between humans and climate change? We will see how we can measure and study the relationship between human societies and climate change.
The aim in this course is to explore the archaeological evidence for long-term change with regard to these five questions of our time. You will be introduced to recent publications for class debate and to the ways in which archaeologists use evidence in order to explore the five themes. We will use Stanford’s archaeological collections on-line so that you can explore artifacts and you will be able to problem solve using data from the instructor’s own excavations. We will also talk remotely to people working in labs (bioarchaeological and genomic for example), local museums, and local archaeological excavations.