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Many courses taught in Wesleyan’s Archaeology Program use the Environmental Archaeology Lab collections for hands-on lessons and activities. The lab space is also used for class meetings for courses.

ARCP204 Intro to Archaeology

What can fragments of pottery, stones, and bones reveal about the lives of people who lived thousands or even millions of years ago? What does the archaeological record reveal about human evolution, past human diets and health, ancient socioeconomic systems, and the emergence of early cities? And how can we preserve archaeological sites and artifacts for future generations? This course will introduce students to the interdisciplinary field of archaeology. We will discuss key methods and principles that archaeologists use to study the human past while covering a survey of world prehistory from the earliest stone tools to the archaeology of contemporary material culture. Students will have the opportunity to examine real archaeological artifacts–including artifacts excavated from historic Middletown–and will be encouraged to think critically about the ways that archaeology informs our understanding of both the past and the present. 

ARCP203 The Secrets of Ancient Bones: Discovering Ancient DNA and Archaeology

New analyses of ancient DNA preserved for millennia in bones and soils have revolutionized the field of archaeology. Suddenly, archaeologists have gained new insight into human origins, past population migrations, ancient diseases, plant and animal domestication, and even the factors that contributed to the extinctions of megafauna such as woolly mammoths. Recent genetic case studies will provide a lens for learning about the archaeology of diverse world regions and time periods, from Oceania to Mesoamerica and from the Paleolithic through recent history. Topics will include: human evolution and genetic relationships between humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans; the peopling of the globe; extinction and de-extinction; domestication and the origins of agriculture; paleodiseases and paleodiets; and ethics in genetic research. 

ARCP257 Environmental Archaeology

Archaeological materials provide long-term records of how humans have modified past environments and how human societies respond to environmental change. In this course, students will learn how data from ancient plants, animals, and soils can be analyzed in order to draw interpretations about past human-environmental interactions. We will also discuss key topics in environmental archaeology, including the long-term environmental impacts of plant and animal domestication and debates over environmental causes for the “collapse” of civilizations such as the ancient Maya. The course will involve hands-on preparation of plant and animal specimens to add to the Wesleyan Environmental Archaeology Laboratory comparative collections.

ARCP291 East Asian Archaeology

This course will introduce students to remarkable archaeological discoveries from East Asia, focusing on the archaeology of ancient China, but also including finds from Japan, Korea, and Mongolia. Beginning with “Peking Man” and Asia’s earliest hominin inhabitants, we will explore the lives of Paleolithic hunter gatherers, the origins of domestic rice and pigs, the emergence of early villages and cities, the origins of writing, ancient ritual systems, long-distance interactions through land and maritime Silk Roads, and the archaeology of Chinese diaspora populations living in the 19th Century United States. We will also consider the current state of archaeological research in East Asia, focusing on site preservation, cultural heritage management, and the political roles of archaeology.