Courses of interest to scientific explorers of the human past


Spring 2023:

ANTHRO 92XR: Archaeological Research Methods in Museum Collections

Time: TBD

Prof. Jason Ur

Special (individual) study of Peabody Museum (PM) collections approved by the PM Director and directly supervised by a member of the PM curatorial staff. Requires a project involving a museum collection developed in consultation with the supervisor. Must be taken for a letter grade. Priority given to students in Anthropology and related departments. To enroll, submit a petition form (available on the Anthropology [Archaeology] website), signed by the supervisor, the PM Director, and the Head Tutor for Archaeology and including a proposed research agenda, preferably during the term preceding the term of enrollment. See the Head Tutor for Archaeology or members of the Peabody Museum curatorial staff for more information.

ANTHRO 1150: Ancient Landscapes

Tues and Thurs 10:30 – 11:45 am

Prof. Jason Ur

Archaeology has focused traditionally on excavations of settlement sites. However, no settlement existed as an island; ancient peoples moved within a larger environment which constrained their actions while it was simultaneously transformed by them. In addition to the modification of physical spaces, communities also imposed meaning upon them, and were affected to varying degrees by the meanings of landscapes imposed by their ancestors. This course will investigate the relationship between ancient societies and their landscapes. We will review the ways in which ancient "off-site" activities are preserved in the landscape and how archaeologists identify and document them. We will discuss the exploitation of the landscape for agriculture, pastoralism, and industry (particularly in the context of the earliest complex societies). We will examine the relative roles of anthropogenic and climatic influences on the development of human societies. Throughout, we will consider how ancient communities perceived their landscapes and imbued them with meaning. In the process, we will review and critique a variety of theoretical approaches to landscape.


ANTHRO 2220: The Archaeology of Ancient Cities

Mon 3:00 – 5:45 pm

Prof. Jason Ur

This seminar delves into the world’s earliest cities: their origins, their operations, and their collapses. It considers how we define this term, and why every settlement doesn’t grow into a city. The course will investigate the earliest experiments with settlement nucleation globally, and then reviews scholarship on urban centers in north and south America, the Middle East, China, Africa, and the Mediterranean. Topics will include urban structure, feeding of city populations, urban institutions, planning and self-organization, and cosmology.


ANTHRO 1060: Introduction to Archaeological Science

Tues and Thurs 1:30-2:45pm

Prof. Christina Warinner

Archaeological science is the application of scientific techniques to study the human past. Methods in archaeological science build upon core concepts and methods in the biological, chemical, and physical sciences and use them in surprising and exciting ways to answer a wide range of questions, including:

  • How do we measure time? How do you date a stone tool? a bone? a pot?
  • Who were the Neanderthals? When were they last alive, and what happened to them?
  • What did the earliest farmers eat? How do we know?
  • Where was maize domesticated and how did it spread throughout the Americas?
  • Where did dairying begin and how did it transform Bronze Age Eurasia?
  • What caused the Black Death? Where did it come from? Did it exist in prehistory? How do pathogens emerge and evolve?
  • How does our knowledge of the past inform our future?

This course offers an introduction to eight major areas of archaeological science: (1) relative and absolute dating, (2) human osteology, (3) paleoethnobotany and micro remains, (4) stable isotopes, (5) organic residue analysis, (6) zooarchaeology and ZooMS, (7) proteomics, and (8) paleogenomics. Students will gain an understanding of the history of the field and its future directions, the method and theory behind how different tools and techniques work, and how archaeological science is transforming archaeology today. During the laboratory sections, students will have practical sessions on each topic and engage in a semester-long experiment determining taxonomic identifications and stable isotope values from archaeological animal bones.

ANTHRO 2061: Archaeological Science

Tues and Thurs 1:30-2:45pm (meeting time is flexible)

Prof. Christina Warinner

This course, ANTHRO 2061, is an advanced Archaeological Science course that runs parallel to the introductory course ANTHO 1060, Introduction to Archaeological Science. Students enrolling in ANTHRO 2061 are expected to have completed the course ANTHRO 1060 or an equivalent course. ANTHRO 2061 offers the opportunity for graduate students and advanced undergraduates to gain hands-on practical experience in archaeological science laboratory methods. Students will undertake an independent bimolecular archaeological science project over the semester which will involve wet chemistry laboratory work, bioinformatics and data analysis, and interpretation of the results in the archaeological context. In addition, students will learn the basis of drafting a project proposal, keeping laboratory notebooks, and writing a scientific grant or article.


ANTHRO 3070: Professionalization in Archaeology

Tues and Thurs 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm

Prof. Christina Warinner

All good research begins with a strong foundation. This course is aimed at providing graduate students with the foundational knowledge and basic tools needed to succeed as a professional archaeologist. Aided in part by guest speakers from within and beyond Harvard, this course emphasizes collaborative research, presentation, publication, grant proposal writing, conflict resolution, and other skills to help you complete your PhD and to be competitive on the job market afterwards, and to navigate the complex intellectual, social, and personal demands of academia.


CLASARCH 11: Roman Archaeology

Tues 9:45 -11:45 am

Prof. Margaret Andrews

This course provides a broad overview of the history Roman art, architecture, and material culture from the time of the Republic and through the Imperial period, to the age of Constantine. It offers basic knowledge about core categories of archaeological artifacts and remains within their physical setting and within the context of Roman culture and society. It also includes issues of methods, theoretical approaches, and problems of current research.


CLASARCH 125: Roman Daily Life: The Other Side of Rome

Tues 12:45 – 2:45 pm

Prof. Margaret Andrews

What did the Romans ever do for us? Highways, toilets, baths, bars, board games, firefighters, and dry cleaning, to name just a few. This course will examine various aspects of life in the Roman empire—housing, street life, leisure, shops, military life, industry, travel, sanitation, and even sex—largely from the perspective of the archaeological evidence. Examples and evidence will be drawn from sites across the Roman empire and across social classes. The best preserved cities—Rome and Pompeii—will feature prominently. We will also incorporate ancient textual sources that are particularly instructive for the lives of everyday inhabitants of the empire.


ESPP 90H: Climate, Crops, and Food Security

Thurs 9:00 – 11:45 am

Prof. Peter Huybers

The number of people suffering from hunger began to increase in 2015, after decades of steady decline, and began to rise more sharply since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.   The drivers of these trends in food security and malnutrition that are highlighted by international aid agencies (e.g., United Nations report on The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2022) are conflict, economic shocks, and climate extremes.  In this course we will inquire, specifically, into linkages among climate change, extreme weather events, agricultural production, and food insecurity, and also consider the broader context of how conflict, socioeconomic, and health conditions may be susceptible to extreme weather and influence the ability to mitigate and adapt to changes in extreme weather.  The answer to this inquiry is important: insomuch as climate change is a fundamental driver of recent decreases in food security, the almost inevitable continued changes in climate in the coming decades are of major concern for food security going forward.  Moreover, identification of the specific pathways by which climate change influences food security is critical for devising appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures.  We will cover how variations in temperature, water, and sunlight influence crop yield; how exposure to these environmental variations alters under climate change; connections between food production shocks and food insecurity; and overall determinants of food insecurity.  Individual classes will be organized around academic papers with conflicting or, at least, incongruent view points, and through reading, discussion, and calling upon auxiliary material and outside speakers we will, as a class, seek some overall understanding of how and the extent to which changes in climate are driving decreases in food security.


GENED 1027: Human Evolution and Human Health

Mon and Wed 12:00 – 1:15 pm

Prof. Daniel Lieberman and Dr. Bridget Alex

How and why did humans evolve to be the way we are, and what are the implications of our evolved anatomy and physiology for human health in a post-industrial world? Why do we get sick, and how can we use principles of evolution to improve health and wellbeing? To address these questions, this course reviews the major transitions that occurred in human evolution, from the divergence of the ape and human lineages to the origins of modern humans. Also considered are the many effects of recent cultural and technological shifts such as agriculture and industrialization on human health.


GENED 1099: Pyramid Schemes: What Can Ancient Egyptian Civilization Teach Us?

Mon and Wed 1:30 pm – 2:45 pm

Prof. Peter Der Manuelian

How does ancient Egypt enlighten our times about what defines a civilization, and were those ancient humans, with their pyramids, hieroglyphs, and pharaohs, exactly like or nothing like us? How much of your impression of the ancient world was put there by Hollywood, music videos, or orientalist musings out of the West? How accurate are these depictions? Does it matter? This course examines the quintessential example of the “exotic, mysterious ancient world” – Ancient Egypt – to interrogate these questions. Who has “used” ancient Egypt as a construct, and to what purpose? Did you know that pyramids, mummies, King Tut, and Cleopatra represent just the (overhyped) tip of a very rich civilization that holds plenty of life lessons for today? Combine the ancient Egyptians’ explanations of the world’s natural forces with all the social complexity of human interaction and you have a fully formed society—about four millennia of accumulated experience! Can investigating the “real” ancient Egypt unpack our current misconceptions about the land of the pharaohs? Hardly morose, tomb-building “zombies,” the Egyptians embraced life in all its messy details. Piety and corruption, imperialism and isolationism, divinity and mortality all played significant roles in life along the Nile. What can we learn about the nature of politics and society in our time by seeing the parallels between the ancient past and today? We will explore archaeology, modern Egyptomania, repatriation, new digital visualization technologies, and international politics. What was ancient Egyptian racism? What is modern archaeological racism? Who owns the past? Who needs it? We will take excursions into Egyptian art, history, politics, religion, literature and language (hieroglyphs), plus the evolution of Egyptology as a discipline. (Most likely virtual) field trips to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Peabody Museum, and the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East (formerly Harvard Semitic Museum) are included, along with the famous Giza Pyramids in 3D. Students will gain a transformative appreciation for the outstanding monuments and intellectual traditions of ancient Egypt. And with newly broadened horizons, we will debunk many popular myths.


GENETIC 379: Applying Population Genetics to Find Disease Genes

Time: TBD

Prof. David Reich

Description forthcoming


HIST 97P: “What is Indigenous History?”

Tues 12:00 – 2:45 pm

Prof. Philip Deloria

While some first peoples prefer culturally specific identities over the general term “indigenous,” others embrace indigeneity as an opportunity to establish global connections, explore overlapping colonialisms, assert political identities, or seek redress through international institutions. This seminar investigates the challenges and opportunities to be found in indigenous history. Drawing from the Americas, the Pacific, the Arctic, Asia and elsewhere, we will consider settler colonialism, genocide, slavery and survivance, representational politics, and a range of common challenges such as language loss, climate change, and reconciliation. We’ll explore colonial archives and oral histories, political tracts and legal cases, autobiographies, protest movements, and more.


HIST 2029: Digital Methods and Primary Sources: Seminar

Mon 12:00 – 2:45 pm

Dr. Gabe Pizzorno

This seminar will teach participants how to use digital tools to design and implement data collection strategies that anticipate their future analytical needs and maximize the research potential of the sources being collected. The course will focus on the design and implementation of effective workflows for digitization and data mining of primary sources, data modelling, and advanced computational approaches to the management of large collections and the extraction of information from a range of visual and textual sources.