Key PagesChristopher Witmore |
Archaeologies of the Greek Past (undergraduate lecture)
Beginning with the destruction and abandonment of the Bronze Age palaces, through the classical age of Greek art and architecture to the conquests of Alexander the Great. This course provides a general survey of Greek archaeology and art. It will address questions of how archaeology helps to (re)construct ancient Greek society, and it will capitalize on the energies and mystique of the Greek past—the monumental sites of Mycenae, Corinth, Olympia, Athens, etc; the art, sculpture and mundane materials of the Classical period; the everyday architectures of the Greek household; the storied landscapes of the Peloponnesus. At the same time, it will engage questions of why the Greek past is important; in what ways are Greek pasts folded into the fabric of contemporary American culture and society?
13 things: Archaeology, material culture, science studies and design (undergraduate lecture)
Each week explores a different approach to the study of things. Material culture studies, science studies, design studies, consumption studies, the sociology of technology, archaeology, phenomenology, etc.; the course will explore a range of approaches in dealing with 13 things—the wheel, a Neolithic Megalith, an Ancient Greek perfume jar, the castle of Acrocorinth, a Moroccan watermill, a map, the pocket watch, barbed wire, the light bulb, a surgical blade, the portable radio, a Leica IIIc 35mm camera, and the personal computer. Returning to the etymology of a thing, the course argues that things are best conceived as a gathering of achievements (global in scope) which are neither wholly exclusive to any single era nor any immediate set of relations. Designed to appeal to a wide range of students, the course builds a rich toolkit to aid in the ‘unpacking’ of thing from a number of angles. Students are charged with the task of selecting a thing, whether ancient or contemporary, and researching it using the perspectives encountered in the course.
Between 900 and 600 BCE profound socio-cultural, demographic and material transformations took place in the Aegean World. While these transformations gave rise to Greek poleis, they also set the stage for what is often described as a ‘revolution’ in political form: by 500 BCE Athens would be collectively governed by the whole of its citizen body. Drawing on perspectives from archaeology and sociology, this course takes a closer look at the mundane spaces and materialities behind the formation and maintenance of community and democratic politics in Greece between 900 and 323 BCE. Urbanism, public spaces, architectures of assembly and modes of boundary delineation and maintenance, writing and public display, standardizations in militaries and markets, aspects of travel and movement and the excluded: the course will reassess of the composition of the demos from the ground up.
Things! The Material Worlds of Humanity (graduate seminar)
This course explores the relationships between people and things. From archaeology to material culture studies to philosophy to science studies we will examine a wide variety of approaches to the world of objects, artifacts, material goods, etc. The range of perspectives will include: materialist approaches, consumption studies (including notions of fetish), phenomenology, social constructivism, cognitive approaches, actor-network-theory and more. Along this transdisciplinary path we will critically question the place and importance of things for humanity: is the world of objects separate, demarcated and distinct from that of subjects? Should artifacts be understood as epiphenomena or do things actually work to hold society together? This line of questioning will lead us to continually ask what is it to be human? Course members are encouraged to develop the strategies encountered throughout the course in the context of their own work.
Archaeology and Modernity (lecture/seminar)
Modernity may be defined as a constellation of ideological, material and social beliefs oriented around notions of progress and development where past societies, it is commonly supposed, differ fundamentally from our own. Indeed, archaeology has long been deployed in service of modernity, but does modernity in turn provide a necessary condition for archaeology to exist? From antiquarians and artists to topographers and landscape archaeologists; from travelogues, maps, and landscape painting to regional syntheses and survey reports, this course explores the history of archaeology and its relationship to modernity. It engages issues relating to the rise of the nation state, imperialism, and colonialism and the uses of the material past in these processes. It will explore issues related to the antiquity of humankind, the Heritage industry, museums, collecting culture and tourism. Ultimately, it will explore the possibility of archaeology outside of modernity.
Archaeology in the 'Information Age' (seminar/lab)
Archaeology must circulate the material past in two dimensions. The right combination of image (maps, plans, illustrations, photographs) and text has defined professional archaeology since the second half of the 19th century. However, the current explosion of digital (emergent) media has spurred profound shifts in all domains of archaeological practice and documentation. Rather than simply providing new skill sets for “using these new digital tools” this course encourages a reevaluation of archaeological media, which pertains to information technology across the humanities and sciences. It asks why would one want to use these various media? What do these various media do? How might we effectively enroll new digital technologies? What new archaeological practices might the use of such media precipitate? Given these questions, how do we go about documenting place, landscape or things?
This course develops an unique, long-term, comparative approach to the digital information age by addressing transformations in archaeological media over the last 200 years. From the genre of the archaeological site report and photography to GIS and VR to social software and video this course develops ways of thinking creatively and critically about digital (as well as paper-based and analog) media in archaeology. This course builds skills with which expand our range of expression. It encourages and fosters the experimental use of digital media for students across the humanities and sciences through archaeological case studies. This course will also explore distinctive crossovers between the digital and the material through new documentary practices in archaeology.
Archaeologies of landscape (an introduction to the history, practices, and thinking concerning the Mediterranean landscape)
Informative bodies: The archaeology of media