Current Courses

Students performing a lab in CAAM.

Fall 2021

ANTH 003
Introduction to Human Evolution

How did humans evolve? When did humans start to walk on two legs? How are humans related to non-human primates? This course focuses on the scientific study of human evolution describing the emergence, development, and diversification of our species, Homo sapiens. First we cover the fundamental principles of evolutionary theory and some of the basics of genetics and heredity as they relate to human morphological, physiological, and genetic variation. We then examine what studies of nonhuman primates (monkeys and apes) can reveal about our own evolutionary past, reviewing the behavioral and ecological diversity seen among living primates. We conclude the course examining the “hard” evidence of human evolution – the fossil and material culture record of human history from our earliest primate ancestors to the emergence of modern Homo sapiens. You will also have the opportunity, during recitations, to conduct hands-on exercises collecting and analyzing behavioral, morphological, and genetic data on both humans and nonhuman primates and working with the Department of Anthropology’s extensive collection of fossil casts. [Fulfills Living World Sector (all classes)]

ANTH 148
Food & Fire: Archaeology in the Laboratory

This introductory course will let students explore the essential heritage of human technology through archaeology. People have been transforming their environment from the first use of fire for cooking. Since then, humans have adapted to the world they created using the resources around them. We use artifacts to understand how the archaeological record can be used to trace breakthroughs such as breaking stone and bone, baking bread, weaving cloth and firing pottery and metals. The seminar will meet in the Penn Museum’s new Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials. Students will become familiar with the Museum’s collections and the scientific methods used to study different materials. Class sessions will include lectures, demonstrations, discussions, and guest presentations. Recitation/lab sections will include practical experience with laboratory procedures and equipment, examination and analysis of archaeological materials, and tours of key Museum departments. [Fulfills Humanities and Social Science Sector]

ANTH 221/521
Material World in Archaeological Science

By focusing on the scientific analysis of inorganic archaeological materials, this course explores processes of creation in the past. This course is team-taught and organized into three integrated modules: analysis of metals, analysis of ceramics and analysis of stone. Each module combines lectures and assignments, giving students applied experience with archaeological materials. The course covers quantitative and qualitative research methods and introduces students to several analytical techniques such as thin-section petrography, metallography, x-radiography, elemental composition, and experimental tests. Ultimately, the course examines how the transformation of materials into objects provides key information about past human behaviors and the socio-economic contexts of production, distribution, exchange and use. Discussion topics include the invention and adoption of new technologies, change and innovation, use of fire, and craft specialization.

ANTH 362/562
Introduction to Digital Archaeology

Digital methods allow archaeologists to approach research questions about the human past with increasing accuracies on larger datasets and at multiple scales. This class introduces students to the three main steps of digital archaeology: data management, analysis, and sharing. Data management involves the design, creation, and curation of digital objects that capture the archaeological process and evidence. Students will gain deep familiarity in working with the main types of digital archaeological data: structured data (relational databases), 3d models/spatial data, and raster images. The class will provide abundant hands-on experience with the latest equipment and software for working with many different kinds of data. We will learn about data analysis techniques through a close examination of a variety of case studies in the literature that demonstrate how other archaeologists have applied digital methods to their archaeological questions. Finally, we will discuss the importance of sharing data through open access data publication and we will apply our skills with structured data to existing online archaeological datasets. The goal of this class is to prepare students to make methodological decisions during future research endeavors, both in the field and in the archaeological lab. Prior archaeological classwork and/or experience preferred.

ANTH 533
Archaeobotany Seminar

In this course we will approach the relationship between plants and people from archaeological and anthropological perspectives in order to investigate diverse plant consumption, use, and management strategies. Topics will include: plants as foods and intoxicating beverages; medicines, poisons, and psychoactive plants; plants as building supplies and textiles; wild plant collection, and the origins of plant domestication. Students will learn both field procedures and laboratory methods of archaeobotany through a series of hands-on activities and lab-based experiments. The final research project will involve an original in-depth analysis and interpretation of archaeobotanical specimens. By the end of the course, students will feel comfortable reading and evaluating archaeobotanical literature and will have a solid understanding of how archaeobotanists     interpret human activities of the past.


Center for Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM)