230: 003 Special Topics in Archaeology - Archaeological Approaches to Technology

Instructor: Lisa A. Maher

Time: Tu 9:00 am - 11:59 am

Units: 4

Course Number: 33774

Technology, as both a process and a practice, is a fundamental theme in archaeology. This graduate seminar course explores anthropological, archaeological and materials science approaches to the study of technology and material culture. Technologies never exist in isolation; therefore, this course takes an integrative approach that considers multiple technological traditions and materials, such as stone tools, pottery, metallurgy, and perishable technologies. We will explore these traditions through case studies from a wide range of times and places. Themes that we will cover include raw material acquisition, distribution, trade and exchange, craft specialization, organization of production, and consumption and disposal. Technology will be viewed through the lenses of practice theory, agency, materiality, communities of practice, technological choice, and invention and innovation. Drawing on archaeological and ethnographic examples, we will examine questions such as: How and where is identity created through technology? How does technology shape human experience? What is the role of things in creating and maintaining social networks? How is technical knowledge transmitted between individuals and groups? What information is communicated through the manipulation of material substances? Students will also have the opportunity to explore themes that are relevant to their own research topics.

Archaeological approaches to technology have a lot to offer on contextualizing how we interact with technology today, placing global issues of technological change, reliance, accessibility, and integration into a long-term perspective that considers how humans have constructed and engaged with a material world that structures and shapes culture. Thus, we examine the decisions made and actions taken throughout entire production sequences in order to investigate the reasons for these choices, how they varied across space and time, and how they influenced social relationships.