The material remains of the human past -objects and spaces- provide tangible evidence of past people’s lives. Today’s information technologies improve our ability to document, study, and present these materials. But what does it mean to deal with material evidence in a virtual context? In this class, students will learn basic digital methods for studying the past while working with objects, including those in the collections of the Penn Museum. This class will teach relational database design and 3D object modeling. As we learn about acquiring and managing data, we will gain valuable experience in the evaluation and use of digital tools. The digital humanities are a platform both for learning the basic digital literacy students need to succeed in today’s world and for discussing the human consequences of these new technologies and data. We will discuss information technology’s impact on the study and presentation of the past, including topics such as public participation in archaeological projects, educational technologies in museum galleries, and the issues raised by digitizing and disseminating historic texts and objects. Finally, we will touch on technology’s role in the preservation of the past in today’s turbulent world. No prior technical experience is required, but we hope students will share an enthusiasm for the past.
By focusing on the scientific analysis of archaeological remains, this course will explore life and death in the past. It takes place in the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) and is team taught in three modules: human skeletal analysis, analysis of animal remains, and analysis of plant remains. Each module will combine laboratory and classroom exercises to give students hands-on experience with archaeological materials. We will examine how organic materials provide key information about past environments, human behavior, and cultural change through discussions of topics such as health and disease, inequality, and food.
This course explores the scientific conservation of cultural materials from archaeological contexts. It is intended to familiarize students with the basics of artifact conservation but is not intended to train them as conservators. The course will cover how various materials interact with their deposit environments; general techniques for on-site conservation triage and retrieval of delicate materials; what factors need to be considered in planning for artifact conservation; and related topics. Students should expect to gain a thorough understanding of the role of conservation in archaeology and how the two fields interact.
The course will approach ancient mining from both a technical and human perspective. We will discuss the environmental, geological, and technological factors that allowed for large-scale mineral resource exploitation over time. On a human and societal level, we will dig into the lives of mining communities, looking critically at humanity’s constant exploration for natural resources, the living and subsistence practices of mining expeditions and settlements, and resource trade systems that moved production and architectural materials over vast territories. Assigned literature and discussions will take us through a series of case studies spanning from the early exploitation of stone to more recent cases of coal, minerals, and precious metals. Central topics of the course are the methods in archaeological science and landscape mapping that help understand mining technologies and the subsistence of mining communities in antiquity. Environmental effects of mining operations are also key. Hands-on and experiential components include data collection using analytical methods employed in archaeology, visits to relevant analytical equipment available on Penn’s campus and visits to mining sites in the area
Non-invasive and non-destructive methods make up an ever-greater proportion of archaeological investigations, for both intellectual and practical reasons. These methods comprise collection of data from the surface (pedestrian surface survey, geophysical prospection, geoarchaeology) and from above-ground platforms (drones, aircraft, balloons, kites, satellites), using a variety of sensors from human perception to multispectral scanning devices. The data acquired from these methods complement the contextual information drawn from traditional excavation, but also allow the archaeologist to address diverse research questions at a scale much greater than the excavated site. Aspiring archaeologists should have a good working knowledge of surface archaeological methods. In this course, we will delve deeply into these methods, and read and analyze case studies to expose strengths and weaknesses and to identify best practices. Students will have the opportunity for hands-on training in the Philadelphia area or elsewhere.
This is a skills-based methods course focusing on the application of thin-section petrography to the study of stone, ceramic and building materials from archaeological and historical contexts. Taught at the Penn Museum’s Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) this laboratory course first introduces students to the basics of optical mineralogy and the petrography of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. The skills are applied to the petrographic characterization of fabrics, mainly ceramics, but also of plaster, stone, and vitreous materials. Petrographic data is then interpreted in terms of provenance (i.e., location of production), manufacturing technology, and weathering processes. Research projects are individualized based on student interest and field of study. Prior knowledge of optical mineralogy is not required but students need to attend lab hours outside of the class meeting time.