Archaeological Approaches to Material Culture


Fall 2012


4th Floor Classroom


Archaeology is a discipline dependent on and defined by the analysis of material culture. Frequently working without written sources, archaeologists study ancient societies through the tangible and fragmentary remains of the past. Drawing on case studies covering a broad temporal and geographical range, this course explores the methods employed by archaeologists to examine all aspects of human behavior in the past. In addition to introducing students to both visual and non-visual/compositional analyses of the form, function and production of varied classes of archaeological material (ceramics, textiles, stone tools etc.), this course considers how scholars use these methods to reconstruct past social organization, ideologies, economies, gender and ethnic identities, and so forth. Utilizing literature written over the past century, the course also traces shifts in archaeological perspectives on the relationship between people and things, from the ‘pots equal people’ notion dominant in the early/mid twentieth Century, through post-Processual debates about the role of material culture in creating and transforming social worlds, to recent discussions defying the very concept of material culture as inanimate object. 3 credits.