Key Pages

Revolutions and Evolutions Homepage |
- |
Revolutions and Evolutions Private Forum |
- |
JIAAW Classroom Homepage

Humankind has had a revolutionary past-or so archaeology would lead us to believe.

Uploaded Image

Course Description

The earliest evidence for language, ritual, and the arts, dating back to the extinction of the Neanderthals, is known as the "Human Revolution". The time when hunter-gatherers became farmers? The "Neolithic Revolution". And when people started living in cities? The "Urban Revolution". This course will explore the historical reasons for these revolutionary labels, and consider instead these "revolutions" as gradual processes (or evolutions).


Email: Suzanne_Birch at 
Phone: (401) 863-2306
Office Hours: M/W 1:00-2:00 and by appointment
Office: Rhode Island Hall 210


You will be expected to complete assigned readings before each class.

Regular attendance and participation in class discussions are an important component of the class and you are expected to attend all classes unless you have a valid excuse.

Books and Course Materials

Two books are required. They are available at the campus bookstore and on 24-hour reserve in the Rock. All other readings will be available on the private forum of the course wiki:[link] (login required). Readings are bulleted in the schedule below and should be completed before the lecture.  

Be sure to stop by and check out the class blog, too:

Additional Information

Student and Employee Accessibility Services Please inform me if you have a disability or other condition that might require some modification of any of these course procedures. You may speak with me after class or during office hours. For more information contact Student and Employee Accessibility Services (SEAS) at 401-863-9588 or

Libraries Our subject librarian is Ian Straughn ( You can contact him with any research or library-related questions.


Week 1: An introduction to revolutions & evolution in archaeology

09/04 Lecture: Coming to terms: typologies, chronologies, and what really happened in prehistory

09/06 Lecture: Thought, writing, argument and debate (in archaeology)

Week 2: The long march of time: dating and scale in archaeology

09/09 Lecture: Relative dating and chronologies

09/11 Lecture: Scientific and absolute dating

09/13 Seminar: Time on a human scale

Week 3: A history of archaeology

09/16 Lecture: From antiquarianism to today

All in Trigger (2006)

09/18 Lecture: Who needs theory, anyway?

09/20 Seminar: Changing perspectives in archaeological thought

Week 4: Origins

09/23 Lecture: Our earliest ancestors

09/25 Lecture: The Lower & Middle Paleolithic

09/27 Seminar: How do you define human?

Week 5: The “Human Revolution” part 1

09/30 Lecture: Movement and mobility

10/02 Lecture: Innovations in technology

10/04 Seminar: Becoming human

Week 6: The “Human Revolution” part 2

10/07 Lecture: Innovations in art

10/09 Lecture: Symbolism and identity

10/11 Seminar: Challenges in interpretation of personhood

Week 7: The “Broad Spectrum Revolution”


10/16 Lecture: You are what you eat: how diet defines peoples


Seminar: From environmental determinism to environmental management

Week 8: The “Neolithic Revolution” part 1

10/21 Lecture: What is the “Neolithic”?Advances in detecting domestication

10/23 Lecture: The “Neolithic Package”and its spread

10/25 Seminar: Was it really a revolution?

Week 9: The “Neolithic Revolution” part 2

10/28 Lecture: The origins of agriculture around the world

10/30 Lecture: The elusive “Mesolithic-Neolithic transition”

11/01 Seminar: A revolution of people or ideas?


Week 10: The “Urban Revolution”

11/04 Lecture: From caves to cities?

11/06 Lecture: The emergence of writing and “civilization”

11/08 Seminar: From the profane to the urbane

Week 11:
Another kind of revolution: crises and collapse

11/11 Lecture: Can we really talk about crisis in archaeology?

 11/13 Lecture: Case studies from the Maya to the Romans

11/15 Seminar: Time(scales) of crisis and resilience

Week 12:  A technological revolution: scientific archaeology

11/18 Lecture: Turning back the “molecular clock”: time and DNA

11/20 Lecture: Adding the details: chemical and residues analysis

11/22 Seminar: A revolutionary mindset for 21st century digital archaeology?


Week 13: Historical Archaeology: The Industrial Revolution


Lecture: The Industrial Revolution, Industrial Archaeology and the Anthropocene


WEEK 14: Modern-Day Revolutions and Antiquity

12/2 Lecture: The cost of war

12/4 Lecture: Stewardship and cultural resource management

12/6 Seminar: The story so far…a review



Forum Home  -  Site Home  -  Find Pages: