Preview Workflow

Viewing: ANTH 024 C2: Archaeology Pop Culture

Last approved: Tue, 29 Oct 2019 19:36:50 GMT

Last edit: Tue, 15 Oct 2019 14:37:21 GMT

First Name Last Name Userid Title Home School Org Short Name
Douglas Smit dksmit Senior Fellow School of Arts and Sciences Anthropology
Spring 2020 (Deactivations ONLY)
Fall 2019
Archaeology Pop Culture
Archaeology often captures the popular imagination through fantastic and farfetched portrayals of lost civilizations, aliens, and spectacular treasures. While these depictions of archaeology and the past may not be accurate, the story being told is nonetheless significant and reflects something about the culture that produced it. This course explores how these films, televisions shows, books, and video games tell stories about the past, what stories are being told, and what these representations imply about the relationship between archaeology and modern society. We will critically analyze popular representations of archaeology, comparing how competing visions of science and population science, fact and fiction, operate in the public sphere. By the end of the semester, you'll be able to: explain what archaeologists do and why; understand how archaeology and popular culture interact, how archaeology is portrayed in popular media, and how the public impacts archaeological research; to foster critical thinking skills and evaluate how science is communicated to the public; understand the relationship between the archaeological study of the past and the politics of the present.

Foundational Approach

Course not offered every year
Cultural Diversity in the US
Douglas Smit
Full Time Lecturer
Full Time Lecturer
This freshman seminar will introduce many students to broad themes in anthropology through an examination of a familiar cultural theme. This course will fulfill a distribution elective within anthropology and for the archaeology concentration.
Pop archaeology portrays a particular American culture but does not often question its own position, source, or social impact. This course will critique the portrayal of adventure and research in its social context. The use of popular cultural forms in addressing race, class, and ethnicity in archaeological thinking will create students aware of their own position and of the role of popular culture in enforcing dominant cultural norms in the science of the past.

Methods of Assessment

You will write three 1000 word reviews that explore how one or several themes drawn from the assigned readings (for that week, and also from previous weeks if you wish) play out in a particular film or TV episode that is on our required viewing list. Your papers should include some critical analysis and your own thoughts on the subject. We will assign particular films/TV programs to individual students at the beginning of the semester, and your papers will be due in class on the week in which we discuss that film/program.
There will be a midterm and final (Finals Week). The exams will not be cumulative, and consist of multiple choice, short answers, and essay prompts. Study guides will be provided ahead of time for each exam.
Students must post a response question on CANVAS for each reading by 9 AM the day of every class session. One-line questions will not be accepted for credit, but rather each question must contain at least three sentences.

Cross Cultural Analysis


Cultural Diversity in the US

This course examines how archaeology is portrayed in popular culture, and how the politics of the present produce popular presentations of the past. We will mostly focus on race/ethnicity, social class, and gender; as these identities often shape who studies the past, who produces popular culture about the past, and who the *imagined* audience is regarding the past.
Our primary focus will be on how popular culture depicts archaeological engagements with the past, which often entails a majority white/male/upper class engagement with indigenous prehistoric and historic culture.
The intersection between race, gender, and class will be significant, as the trope of Hollywood conceptions of an archaeologist (white male adventurer) will be a common thread running through the course.
Inequality and power will be central to the course objectives, as seminar discussions will focus on who is able to tell stories about the past, for specific intended audiences that often map onto historical and ongoing inequalities in the United States.
Analysis of primary texts such as films, video games and pulp novels, paired with academic archaeological literature.

Quantitative Data Analysis


Formal Reasoning


Administrative Fields

Key: 879