ARCHY 105 A: The Human Past

MWF 10:30am - 11:20am / THO 135
Th 10:30am - 11:20am / ECE 045
Ben Fitzhugh

Syllabus Description:

Link to Lecture Slides page

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Instructor:     Professor Ben Fitzhugh      (206) 543-5240
Office hours:           By appointment (for your benefit)

Important Note about Lecture Rooms:

Due to limited classroom availability, Archy 105 will meet in TWO locations every week. These were changed in August and are fixed as follows:

--- MWF 1030-1120 in THO 135 (Thomson)
--- Th 1030-1120 ECE 045 (Electrical Engineering)

As of August, the Discussion/Quiz Sections intended to go with this class were cancelled.  We will build discussion and other hands-on activities into the 'lecture' classes. 


Archy 105 examines the history of the world and the bewildering diversity of cultural practices through the lens of archaeology.  Students will learn about the latest developments on the oldest human technologies; ponder the question of Neanderthal use of fire and language; examine the most enduring economic systems and ask why some societies invented agriculture and others did not. We will examine architectural marvels and artistic novelties and ask what they can tell us about politics, economics and the construction of cultural diversity and meaning. In the process we will examine how archaeologists study the human past.

Students can expect a fast-paced class, a mix of lectures and activities, readings and movies to introduce topics from a range of perspectives and approaches. Readings will be drawn from a combination of popular and modestly technical sources. Weekly quizzes will help students keep up with the content and provided "low stakes" grading. A midterm and final exam will be used to help you synthesize your learning.


Course Outcomes: For most students, this will be the first class in Archaeology you have taken.  As a result, by the end of the class, you can expect to be able to:

  • Follow key debates and developments in human evolution and social/cultural change from the first tool using hominins to the archaeology of the contemporary past.
  • Understand the strengths and limits of archaeological data, methods and concepts for exploring and accounting for these changes.
  • Question the assumptions and examine the biases of archaeological interpretations by both professional and avocational archaeologists and enthusiasts.


Class time will be devoted to lecture, open discussion, small group discussion, activities and occasional movies or video clips.  My intention is to provide for lots of opportunity for, and indeed to compel, student interaction in the course.

Lecture slides will be provided after each lecture (as soon as I am able), and can be used to study for quizzes and tests. I start every class with an outline of topics to be covered in the session, and at the start of each class, you will have opportunities to ask questions about previous lectures or other aspects of the class. I try to record class lectures (slides and audio) using the Panopto software for use by approved students (those with legitimate absences or official accommodations). These recordings are not available as an alternatives to attending class, and the system sometimes fails to record as intended. On request, I might make lecture video’s available to the whole class for general review a few days before exams.


Canvas is the online courseware platform used in this (and most UW) course(s) and will be the central location for all information, assignments, and performance updates for the course outside of the lecture time. Canvas provides a single location for you to find the course syllabus, assignments and quizzes, reading and review materials, etc.  This site will be updated regularly. Check your Canvas account regularly to see a list of upcoming assignments, announcements, and other information. You can Canvas settings to send course notifications to email, SMS or Twitter accounts (see  If you are not already reading this syllabus on our canvas courseware site, you will find the Archy 105 Canvas Course at:


There is no required textbook for this course. Instead I will provide all reading materials as online PDF files or html links in Canvas.  Usually these will be posted at the top of a Discussion prompt with cues for your Reading Reflections (below).  Assigned readings need to be completed on the dates they are listed on, along with any associated Reading Reflections. Readings are/will be mostly short, popular but authoritative, magazine articles, book chapters and perhaps a few non-technical academic articles.

Readings will be posted at least the week before they are due. I am developing the course materials from scratch this quarter. One consequence of not using a textbook is the need (and opportunity) to hand-pick resources to supplement and facilitate lectures and discussions. As of the start of the quarter, I am still hard at work doing that. Also, given the immense scope of the course topic and inevitable limits on what can be covered, I want to direct some of the course content towards student interests. Be patient, but also let me know if you think something is missing. I may just have neglected to make it visible.


Reading Reflections are responses you are required to post after completing assigned readings.  You will find prompts on the assignment to help you focus on what I think is particularly important or to encourage you to think beyond the reading to broader issues of course relevance.  These reflections will often prepare you for in-class discussions and they will always be useful review for exams (C/NC).

We will often have in-class readings discussions or exercises that build from readings.  These will often be scheduled on Thursdays, to make use of a slightly more flexible room in Electrical Engineering (045)


Expect 8 online quizzes throughout the quarter. These will cover material since the last quiz or exam up to and including the date that the quiz opens.  Quizzes will cover material from lectures and in-class activities, any scheduled films, and assigned readings.  Quizzes will open on 8 Friday afternoons and close the following Tuesday evenings.  These graded quizzes exist for two, and only two, reasons: 1. To encourage you to regularly review and get feedback on course concepts and evidence and 2. To provide plenty of low stakes grading opportunities so you can evaluate your performance and make adjustments well ahead of exam time.  We will make time to review quiz topics in class on each Wednesday after a quiz.  The lowest quiz grade will be dropped from the final grade.


We will have one Midterm and a Final Exam.  Exams will include a combination of short questions (true/false, multiple choice, matching, identifications, short answer and short essay). Students may construct study guides for each exam by compiling the questions posted at the start of each lecture, reading reflection prompts, movie study guides, and weekly quizzes.

  • Midterm: Wednesday Oct 30, In Class, THO 135 (Blue book exam)
  • Final: Monday December 9, 8:30-10:20am in THO 135 (Blue book exam)


Canvas presents grades on a 100% scale. Grades will be converted to GPA grades according to a standard formula.

  • Participation: 25%

    • Reading Reflections (C/NC)
    • In-class participation (C/NC)
  • Weekly Quizzes (8 offered, drop lowest): 25%
  • Midterm Exam: 25%
  • Final Exam: 25%

Grading conversions:

  • Letter    4 pt        100pt average
  • A           4            98-100
  • A           3.9         96-97     
  • A-         3.8         94-95     
  • A-         3.7         92-93     
  • A-         3.6         91
  • A-         3.5         90
  • B+         3.4         89
  • B+         3.3         88
  • B+         3.2         87
  • B           3.1         86
  • B           3            85
  • B           2.9         84
  • B-         2.8         83
  • B-         2.7         82
  • B-         2.6         81
  • B-         2.5         80
  • C+        2.4         79
  • C+        2.3         78
  • C+        2.2         77
  • C          2.1         76
  • C          2            75
  • C          1.9         74
  • C-         1.8         73
  • C-         1.7         72
  • C-         1.6         71
  • C-         1.5         70
  • D+        1.4         69
  • D+        1.3         68
  • D+        1.2         67
  • D          1.1         66
  • D          1            65
  • D          0.9         64
  • D-         0.8         62-63     
  • D-         0.7         60-61 (Pass)              
  • E           0            0- 59  (Fail/Unoff. WD)



I want to make sure that everyone has the resources to succeed in this course. If you have established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS.  It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.


I trust that all students in this course will participate in the class with respect towards each other, visiting speakers and the instructor. The University of Washington is a place for learning through openness, consideration of diverse viewpoints and respectful dialog. Nothing about the past or its interpretation in the present is free of perspective, bias, or dispute. A successful course requires that we start from the presumption that we come to this class with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, biases, and privileges, and that we engage with the course material and each other with generosity and curiosity.

Conduct in the class that disrupts the learning environment of others or the instructor’s ability to teach is not acceptable. The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at

The University takes academic integrity very seriously. Behaving with integrity is part of our responsibility to our shared learning community. If you’re uncertain whether something is academic misconduct, ask me. I am always happy to discuss questions you might have. Acts of academic misconduct may include but are not limited to:

  • Cheating (working collaboratively on quizzes/exams and discussion submissions, sharing answers and previewing quizzes/exams)
  • Plagiarism (representing the work of others as your own without giving appropriate credit to the original author(s))
  • Unauthorized collaboration (working with each other on assignments)

Concerns about these or other behaviors prohibited by the Student Conduct Code will be referred for investigation and adjudication. Students found to have engaged in academic misconduct may receive a zero on the assignment (or other possible outcome) and repeat offenses will result in an E grade (0) for the course.


Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Faculty Syllabus Guidelines and Resources. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form available at


Call SafeCampus at 206-685-7233 anytime – no matter where you work or study – to anonymously discuss safety and well-being concerns for yourself or others. SafeCampus’s team of caring professionals will provide individualized support, while discussing short- and long-term solutions and connecting you with additional resources when requested.

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Catalog Description: 
Explores human cultural and biological evolution: how ancestors 2,500,000 years ago were like us but still different, Neanderthals and their extinction, social/economic revolutions from foraging to farming to states and empires, setbacks, failures, relationships with social and natural environments, and the role of technology. Examines the astonishing variety of adaptations humans have made.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
April 14, 2020 - 9:10pm