ARCHY 483 A: Analyses of Stone Artifacts

Meeting Time: 
TThF 10:30am - 12:20pm
DEN 403
Ben Marwick portrait
Ben Marwick

Syllabus Description:


Professor Ben Marwick
Contact details & office location

Office Hours: After class Tuesdays or by making an appointment 
Ms Liying Wang (
Office Hours: Fridays 12:30-1:30 or by appointment 
TA Office location: Denny 4th floor TA loft

Course description

The aim of this course is to gain an understanding of stone artefact assemblages and acquire a foundation of basic lab skills, data collection and analysis skills, and a familiarity with interpretive frameworks to prepare you for advanced research (with all fingers intact, hopefully). All materials will be delivered in the class meetings, on the course canvas page, and on our class Slack channel (there is no textbook). This is a 6 credit course that will satisfy the (NW) The Natural World and (QSR) Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning requirements. It is a core course for the UW Archaeological Science Option

Learning objectives

    At the end of this course, you will be able to:

    • Describe stone artefact technologies characteristic of the Palaeolithic and post-Palaeolithic periods
    • Understand analytical and theoretical approaches used in the analyses and interpretation of stone artefact assemblages.
    • Apply scientific archaeological thinking to evaluate different sides of the current controversies in the measurement and interpretation of stone artefacts, and evaluate the validity of different explanations

    Learning content

    • Introduction to lithics, artefact anatomy and fracture mechanics (slides)
    • Describing Lithics: Attribute & debitage analysis (slides)
    • Describing Lithics: Bipolar, raw materials, cores, Chaîne opératoire (slides)
    • Principles of classification: Typology, epistemology & systematics (slides)
    • Interpreting inter-assemblage variation: mobility, landuse & provisioning (slides)
    • The Oldowan & Acheulean (slides)
    • The Middle Palaeolithic & Levallois (slides)
    • The Upper Palaeolithic (slides)
    • The Neolithic, Mesolithic, Chalcolithic & the advent of iron (slides)

    Characteristics of class meeting 

    To succeed in this class you should plan to attend three class meetings per week: Tu, Th and Fr, 10:30 am - 12:20 pm in DEN 403 (check available places). Online correspondence will be here on Canvas, and on our class Slack channel. If you would like to provide anonymous feedback about anything at all, you can send it to us here.

    On Tuesdays we meet for a lecture class where I will help you (1) get up-to-date information on current research an theories relevant to the topics we’re studying, (2) summarize material scattered over a variety of published sources and (3) adapt the material to a level and style that is easier to understand than how it appears in publication. In the lectures I also hope to stimulate your interest in the topic through by providing structure and expectations (and of course though our sheer enthusiasm for the topic). There will not be any readings assigned for the lectures, but you will be expected to directly engage with the material presented and we will be doing a variety of activities to ensure engagement, including in-class writings (see the schedule of assignments below). We will also have a very brief lecture quiz at the start of each lecture. You are welcome to ask questions during the lecture, and about lecture topics on the class Slack channel. 

    On Thursdays we will meet for the seminar class. We will have a class discussion that reviews the readings you did for the week. Each week the seminar will include a brief informal review of how we are going with assignments. This is a time when we discuss, organize and prepare for the assignments. You can also ask questions about assignments on the class Slack channel. 

    On Fridays we will meet for a practical lab exercise to be done in small groups. This will usually be accompanied by a short written activity to be submitted before the next lab class. Our Friday classes will often involve activities that may be dusty, dirty or dangerous (due to sharp edges on stone artefacts). We will supply lab coats, safety glasses and gloves for your protection. You are expected to use these when directed by an instructor. If you decline, you will not be able to participate in the lab exercises. For the labs you will need access to two pieces of free software: R and RStudio. Ideally you will have these installed on a computer you have good access to. If that isn't possible, you can freely use them on any public computer via You can ask questions and get help with the lab work during the lab classes and on the class Slack channel. 

    Course assessment and expectations

    You can measure your progress in achieving the learning goals for this course by doing the assignments and reviewing our feedback. We can divide the assignments for this class into two groups: small things and big things. You can see how these contribute to your final grade by looking at the assignments page. A calendar view of the assignments is online here (the UW calendar of term dates and holidays is here).

    The small things are participation (in class and on the class Slack channel), lecture quizzes, seminars and lab reports. The motivation for these assignments is to show you the best practices for engaging with the topics of the course, and to give you recognition for your engagement. These activities will be focused on the describe, construct, evaluate, and interpret learning goals described above. The seminars require you to closely read one scholarly journal article per week, add your annotations to the article online and respond to annotations from other students. The seminars also require you to participate in the in-class discussion, and submit a hard copy of your seminar notes at the end of that class. This activity is focused on the learning goals of evaluating and understanding, as noted above. The lecture quizzes are every Tuesday at the start of each lecture, and are focused on the learning goals of describing and evaluating. The lab reports are short summaries of the lab activities to help you practice description and application of the skills you've learned.  

    The big things are a replication report on a previously published study of stone artefacts, and an experimental assemblage analysis report. These is focused on the learning goals of describing, understanding and applying and evaluating. Both of these big things have several smaller assignments to provide scaffolding for you. These smaller assignments have been carefully designed to give you the skills you need to succeed in the big project, at the time you need them. These smaller assignments will help you get a good grade on the final product. 

    From time to time we will request your feedback and responses using an online quiz or similar. The will be infrequent and easy. They are not graded and will not form part of your final grade for the class. The purpose of these is to encourage you to participate and find meaning in your experience of this class in ways that are not focussed on getting a grade. We do this because it will help you to prepare to participate effectively in civil society, where we often do things because we believe in their essential worth, rather than to get a higher salary or improve our status in material ways. 

    There are extra credit opportunities that can increase your final grade by a maximum of 5%, these are available to everyone, just let me know by email. If you have a medical emergency or other exceptional circumstance and want to discuss alternative assessment plans, please send me an email. 

    Here's a more detailed breakdown of how the big and small things contribute to your grade:

    Small things' contribution to final grade:

    Percent of grade Assignment
    5 Lecture quizzes
    15 Seminars
    20 Lab reports

    Big things' contribution to final grade:

    Percent of grade Assignment
    30 Replication report
    30 Experimental assemblage report

    As you can see in the table above, there are five major categories of assignment. Each of the five categories must have a non-zero total score in order for you to pass. This is a class policy to ensure that you participate in all of the learning activities we've designed for the class. 

    There is no mid-term or final exam for this class, although one is automatically scheduled by some central planning service.

    Strategies for success in the course

    I am confident that all of you are capable of doing well in this course. I especially recommend attending all class meetings, and actively engaging with the course materials by asking questions and offering comments (for example, by making connections between course content and other topics). In the Discussions section of our Canvas page I have clearly and concisely outlined my expectations on what you need to do to succeed in the lectures, in the seminars and in group work. Please ensure you are familiar with my expectations so know how to do well in the class. I have listed some other resources that are available to help you succeed here

    Overall course grading system

    Please keep an eye on your grades in the Canvas gradebook. We do make mistakes grading and are happy to correct them, but in order to make the process work smoothly we require requests for re-grading to be made in a courteous message from you. So if you feel that your work was incorrectly or unfairly graded, please write a detailed statement with the relevant details (including URLs to the assignment instructions so we know exactly which one you are referring to), and send it to us along with your original work. We'll all take a look, and as a caveat, please note that (1) we also have the option of re-examining your entire work for the course and (2) the outcome might be a lower grade rather than a higher one for the assignment you’re concerned about, or any other that we look at. For more details on how we grade:

    The following grading scale will be used:

    Percent = Grade
    95 = 4.0 88 = 3.3 81 = 2.6 74 = 1.9 67 = 1.2
    94 = 3.9 87 = 3.2 80 = 2.5 73 = 1.8 66 = 1.1
    93 = 3.8 86 = 3.1 79 = 2.4 72 = 1.7 65 = 1.0
    92 = 3.7 85 = 3.0 78 = 2.3 71 = 1.6 64 = 0.9
    91 = 3.6 84 = 2.9 77 = 2.2 70 = 1.5 63 = 0.8
    90 = 3.5 83 = 2.8 76 = 2.1 69 = 1.4 60-62 = 0.7
    89 = 3.4 82 = 2.7 75 = 2.0 68 = 1.3 <60 = 0.0

    Each student receives three free "late days", each of which allows you to submit an assignment up to 24 hours late without penalty. You will need to notify me by stating on your submitted work (not by email or Slack) that you are using a late day. Once you have used up all late days, assignments will have 10% deducted from the grade per day (including weekends). Assignments will not be accepted more than seven days after the due date (which means you’ll get a zero score for that assignment). If you have circumstances that you suspect will influence your assignment scheduling (e.g. such as observance of regularly scheduled religious obligations, military duty or university-sponsored activities such as debating contests or athletic competition) then let us know in writing in advance. I review late requests and circumstances on a case by case basis and make decisions accordingly.

    I generally am not sympathetic to technology problems (servers go down, transfers time out, files become corrupt, things get lost or stolen, the list goes on and on). These are not considered emergencies. They are part of the normal production process. An issue you may have with technology will not excuse late work. We expect you to protect yourself by managing your time sensibly and robustly backing up your work. Plan ahead, save your work frequently and use reliable services (eg. Google Drive and GitHub are ones I rely on) for backing up your work. The final decision about late penalties rests with the instructor, though you may appeal to the Chair of the Anthropology Department if you feel the instructor’s decision is unjust.

    Course policies

    Academic misconduct

    This short statement by the Committee on Academic Conduct in the College of Arts and Sciences will help you avoid unintentional misconduct and clarify the consequences of cheating. The university’s policy on plagiarism and academic misconduct is a part of the Student Conduct Code, which cites the definition of academic misconduct in the WAC 478-121. (WAC is an abbreviation for the Washington Administrative Code, the set of state regulations for the university. The entire chapter of the WAC on the student conduct code is here.) According to this section of the WAC, academic misconduct includes:

    “Cheating”—such as “unauthorized assistance in taking quizzes”, “Falsification” “which is the intentional use or submission of falsified data, records, or other information including, but not limited to, records of internship or practicum experiences or attendance at any required event(s), or scholarly research”; and “Plagiarism” which includes “[t]he use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment.”

    The UW Libraries have a useful guide for students at


    Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already 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. The website for the DRO provides other resources for students and faculty for making accommodations.


      Among the core values of the university are inclusivity and diversity, regardless of race, gender, income, ability, beliefs, and other ways that people distinguish themselves and others. If any assignments and activities are not accessible to you, please contact me so we can make arrangements to include you by making an alternative assignment available.

      Learning often involves the exchange of ideas. To include everyone in the learning process, we expect you will demonstrate respect, politeness, reasonableness, and willingness to listen to others at all times – even when passions run high. Behaviors must support learning, understanding, and scholarship.

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        Catalog Description: 
        Current approaches to analysis of lithic technology, including types of information obtainable (technological, functional, social, ideological) and constraints affecting the formation and analysis of lithic assemblages. Lectures and seminars surveying recent research and debates. Prerequisite: ARCHY 205.
        Department Requirements: 
        Archaeological Sciences Option
        GE Requirements: 
        Individuals and Societies (I&S)
        Last updated: 
        April 14, 2020 - 9:10pm