1 x 2-hour seminar weekly
Enrolment not permitted
ARCH3013 has been successfully completed
Topic description
Archaeology has long had a prominent, if often inaccurate, public image. It has also been put to a large variety of public purposes. This topic will track some of the perceptions, uses and abuses of archaeology and of interpretations of our cultural past. These range from stereotypes in film, through Victorian concepts of 'progress' and later political propaganda, to claims for Phoenician or Egyptian cities in Australia and America and space aliens as the source of all 'sophisticated' technology. On what basis do we make claims about our past? How much do, or can, we as archaeologists know? Why do many people often prefer interpretations that fly in the face of scientific evidence? This topic is intended to explore the various processes by which accounts of the past are created - whether by archaeologists, novelists, the general public or the lunatic fringe. While the topic will principally be concerned about how archaeologists know things, it will also explore how archaeological interpretations are used (or misused) for a variety of political purposes in the present.
Educational aims
This topic aims to:

  • introduce students to the socio-political debates that surround the representation/interpretation of the past and the ethical issues of engaging with this as an archaeologist or cultural heritage interpreter

  • make students aware of the ways in which archaeological interpretation infiltrate their everyday lives through a range of public media

  • encourage students to apply critical thinking skills that enable them to evaluate the quality of archaeological interpretation as it appears in public media

  • provide students with an opportunity to shape and direct the classroom learning process and collaborate creatively with their peers
Expected learning outcomes
On completion of this topic students will be able to:

  • recognise the many ways in which the human past can be reconstructed and link this knowledge to political and social issues in the past and present

  • critically evaluate the contents and ideas behind the process of archaeological and other reconstructions

  • identify constructive and creative ways for presenting material in class and directing classroom discussion

  • identify constructive and creative ways for presenting archaeological interpretations to the public in ethical and effective ways