Anthropological Sciences 361

ANSC 361: Human Impacts on the Prehistoric Environment

Prerequisites: ANSC 101 and sophomore standing, or permission of instructor

Credit Hours: (3)

This course introduces students to the archaeological study of how human activities impact the natural environment. The course focuses primarily on a series of prehistoric case studies drawn from many regions of the world.

Detailed Description of Course

    I. Human Ecology and Human Impacts
        * history of attitudes toward the environment
        * humans as part of the natural world (evolution, adaptation, etc.)
        * environmental impacts of the early hominids
    II. Archaeological Materials Useful in Modeling Human Ecology
        * botanical, faunal, sedimentological, technological, etc.
    III. Hunters, Gatherers, and Fishers
        * the ecology of hunter-gatherers
        * hunter-gatherers as 'natural'
        * technology and other economic factors
    IV. The Impacts of Agriculture and Pastoralism
        * varieties of agriculture and potential impacts
        * the impacts of herds
        * technology and other economic factors
        * village life and the process of resource intensification
        * intensification in complex societies
    V. Islands as Micro-Models of Human Impact
        * island biogeography as a closed system
    VI. Conclusions
        * comparative perspectives on human impacts
        * modern parallels & lessons from the ancient world    

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

This class will be taught using a combination of classroom media, including lecture, discussion, and video. Whenever possible, current archaeological studies published in magazines and journals and on the internet will be included to introduce students to the active field of environmental archaeology.

Goals and Objectives of the Course

Students who successfully complete ANSC 361 will be able to:

    1. describe and discuss several exemplary archaeological case studies, chosen by the instructor, that illustrate the relationship between human societies and technology on the one hand, and the natural environment on the other.
    2. discuss, in written and/or oral form, the role that human environmental impacts have had in the development and collapse of past civilizations.
    3. evaluate, analyze, and interpret the major categories of archaeological data that can be used to model past human-environmental interactions (e.g., plant remains such as pollens, faunal materials such as bone and shell, etc.).
    4. evaluate the impact of different forms of human activities and technologies (e.g., dry farming vs. irrigation farming, herding, and horticulture) in a wide range of natural environments using archaeological data.
    5. draw analogies between modern environmental challenges and those of the past with the goal of learning from the success and mistakes of the ancient world.

Assessment Measures

Students in ANSC 361 will be evaluated using a combination of in-class exams and writing assignments. Exams will be comprised of multiple-choice and short-answer questions designed to assess students' mastery of basic class concepts. Writing assignments may take the form of research papers, take home essay exams, and shorter writing exercises, in order to allow students to demonstrate understanding of broader processes and concepts that are not easily represented in multiple-choice format.

Other Course Information

Review and Approval
December, 2009