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Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Archaeology and the Ancient Near East
The decades between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries saw substantial change in the region Europeans referred to as the Near East, characterized by the decline of the Ottoman empire, the disarray of World War I, and the establishment of modern national borders.
Meanwhile, archaeologists—including scholars and scoundrels; unconventional women; dilettantes; bureaucrats and spies—physically unearthed, interpreted, and presented the history of the Near East to the western world. This cast of curious characters, including Agatha Christie and Max Mallowan, Henry Rawlinson, A.H. Layard, Leonard and Katherine Woolley, T.E. Lawrence, and Gertrude Bell, descended upon the landscape determined to discover the secrets of Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria. Seeking evidence for the great kings and cities named in the Hebrew Bible and the monumental palaces and temples referred to by Classical historians, these early archaeologists focused their efforts on the urban centers and sought great discoveries that would justify the expense, effort, and importance of their work to a western, largely Christian, audience.
In class discussions and activities, you will learn to analyze, interpret, and critically evaluate both archaeological data and the ways in which that data is used to construct an historical narrative. Throughout the quarter, you will complete a series of small assignments leading you through description and vocabulary, reflection, comparison, synthesis, and finally to interpretation. Course readings will include archaeological field reports and catalogues; travelogues, personal letters and autobiographies; films and photographs; and scholarly articles on the art and archaeology of the Near East.