Roman Archaeology



Roman Archaeology


Spring, 2015






In Roman archaeology (Classics 301), students are engaged in a conversation about the ways in which Romans made their material culture meaningful how we, two thousand years later, can come to find that meaning and understand their history. The pursuit of the Romans, therefore, confronts students with an ancient Mediterranean civilization in all its surviving forms – art, literature, architecture, and common implements of daily life – as well as a number of analytical tools archaeologists use to discover them. While traditional methods such as excavation and pedestrian survey are critical, new, technologically infused approaches in Roman Archaeology continue to challenge students to think critically about how collecting evidence influences what we can say about the past. Moreover, by its distance in both geography and time, ancient Rome is doubly foreign to the modern student, forcing her/him to evaluate modern biases as a barrier to interpretation.

Roman Archaeology, addresses the some fundamental questions about the foundations of western civilization (including, importantly, its myths), about what is unique in modernity, and what intellectual tools are available to speak to those questions. In assignments, students in the classroom are regularly asked to work in groups, just as they would in the field, to think critically about the evidence generated by their tasks, and to build up historical interpretations based on layers of such evidence. These interpretations are then communicated in a number of visual formats, but long form narrative writing remains the primary mode of expression. Finally, because archaeological evidence is heterogeneous and the methods of its analysis are interdisciplinary, students delve into a wide range of literatures and information formats that they learn to navigate on the way to understanding Roman culture. Students receive feedback in many assignments, first from peers in brainstorming sessions as they wrestle with the data in these assignments, and later from the instructor both in in-class review discussions and more formally via Moodle.

Thus, there are two primary goals for this course. The first is to illustrate the material history of the Romans with their art, architecture and cities and to peer into the lives of people who would otherwise remain invisible, including the lower classes of society. A second goal is to explore the methods used by Roman archaeologists to help write the history of the classical past.


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