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Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia

Household Archaeology in the Mediterranean

Instructor: Kondyli Fotini

Have you ever wondered how daily life was in ancient times? How did houses look like, smell, taste and even sound like in the past? How did ancient people throw house parties and run businesses from home? Why did they bury people and objects under house floors?

These are some of the key questions we will explore in the Household archaeology class. Household Archaeology is a relative new sub-field of archaeology that moves away from the monumental and highly visible public spaces of antiquity and focuses on the architecture, spatial patterning, daily activities, behaviors and experiences of the ancient house. Household archaeology allow us to move from excavated walls to people and discover the fascinating stories of individuals that made and used the object we finds in archaeological contexts. Our main goal in the course is to explore how ancient houses can help us better ancient societies. In doing so, we will investigate key sites in the eastern Mediterranean ranging from the Neolithic to the Early Modern period, that have enabled archaeologists to explore this new field and introduce us to archaeological assemblages found in ancient houses.

Acquiring new skills and knowledge about:

The field of archaeology

• Train in basic archaeological principals that will allow us to understand how archaeological data is formed, collected and analyzed

• Critically evaluate how contemporary values and experiences impact our understanding of the past.

• Discover how household archaeology has developed through time

Ancient houses:

• Understand ancient households as non-static entities and explore the factors that contribute to their development and changes

• Investigate the diverse economic, social, religious and political roles of ancient households

• Develop appropriate methodologies to reconstruct ancient houses’ life histories that allow multiple readings of the data and encompass different perspectives to include all members of society.

New technologies in archaeology:

• Learn how to create 3D environments for archaeological data

• Evaluate how well new technologies can visualize and inform the interpretation of archaeological data

Contemporary life and self-awareness:

• Compare ancient houses and life conditions to your own experiences and house life

• Reflect on the ways this course can contribute to your life goals and professional development.

You should take this course because:

• We will learn together, gain new skills and create a community where everyone is respected, feels included and valued. The course is both for archaeology and non- archaeology majors who are creative and curious about the past and the use of new technologies in creating ancient 3D environment.

• We are all custodians of the past and of World Heritage. Learning about the past help us to protect it at a critical time for the survival of world monuments threatened by war, climate change and political agendas.

• Household archaeology is about daily life and ordinary people, like you and me, rather than about elites, kings and grand monuments. We all have a role to play in human history and deserve to be part of the historical narrative.

• This course is equally about the present, our lives and our relation to others. In leaning about how people lived in the past, we can better understand aspects of our own lives and behaviors and those of the people around us. If we want a better future, we should start with the past.

• Working in groups and being a good team member are key skills for success and well- being regardless of your career choices. Archaeology is a team sport so learn how to play before you go to the field!

Warning: After taking this course you will never think of houses in the same way, whether you are looking for a new house, visiting a friend’s house or walking in a new neighborhood. You will become more aware of all the clues that surround us daily and reveal information about people’s self-representation, background, behaviors and aspirations. Houses will never be the same in your eyes!

How you will be assessed:

(More detailed descriptions of each course assessments can be found on the Assignment Folder)

Participation /Leading discussion (10%): You are expected to fully attend and actively participate in all class activities and contribute to class discussions. Students are also expected to have done the assigned readings prior coming to class and have with them all required material (readings, laptops etc.) in class. At some point in the semester you will also lead at least one class discussion for twenty minutes based on the class readings.

Weekly Written Activities: 30%:

Your weekly written activities are small writing essays no more than 1000 words each. They include two different types of writing, Critical Thinking and Reflections. In the Activity Folder you will find a detailed week by week guide of each of these written assignments, their topics, deadlines etc.

Critical thinking (15%): Every other week you will turn in a small writing assignment usually up to 1000word. Written assignments involve writing a critical review of a reading, interpreting archaeological assemblages, investigating different readings for the same find.

Reflections (15%): Every other week you will turn in a small writing assignment reflecting on your own learning process by evaluating what you have learned during the week and how that knowledge contributes to the final project (3D reconstruction project), to your professionalization and understanding of the world around you.

Mock Excavation (10%): We will spend a day excavating household assemblages! The goal of the assessment is to simulate the environment of a real excavation. You will discover, record, collect, analyze, and interpret all archaeological data found in their trenches. You will also need to fill in an excavation notebooks, photograph, draw and measure artifacts and produce a final report. Participation in the excavation is mandatory so make sure to save the date, we dig on FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7.

3D reconstruction project (50%: 30% for the 3D product, 20% for the written part):

The project has a digital (group assignment) and a written component (individual assignment). You will conduct research synthesizing and analyzing excavation finds to create a 3D reconstruction of an ancient house of your choice. The goals of the project are:

• analyze and interpret archaeological data and reconstruct the architecture, spatial organization and aspects of daily life in an ancient household

• .train students in new technologies (SketchUp, Unity, 3D printing) to visualize and disseminate archaeological data for a wider audience.


Course Number: 
ARTH 3591
DH Certificate requirement :