ARCHY 105 A: The Human Past

Autumn 2021
MWThF 9:30am - 10:20am / JHN 102
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Link to Lecture Slides page

Olduwan Chopper, Olduvai Gorge, East AfricaJade Mask, Teotihuacan, Mexico. Dumbarton Oaks collection.Itsukushima "Floating" Torii Gate. Miyajima Island, Japan. 2018

Twitter users, follow @UWArchy105 to see a sample of breaking news stories about archaeology and paleoanthropology (here are some of the most recent)

Archy 105: Archaeology of the Human Past

Lectures: M,W,TH,F;  Johnson Hall rm 102, 9:30-10:20am,  

Lab Sections: Tuesdays; Denny Hall rm 113, 

   Section AA: 8:30-9:20am
   Section AC: 9:30-10:20am
   Section AD: 10:30-11:20am

Instructor:  Professor Ben Fitzhugh      (206) 543-5240

Office hours:   M, TH 11am-12pm, and by email appointment.
Regular office hours will be held by Zoom HERE. Email for an in-person appointment.

Teaching Assistant:     Mr. Jiun-yu Liu      

Office hours:    T, W 1-2pm, and by email appointment.
Regular office hours will be held by Zoom HERE. Email for an in-person appointment.


The University of Washington requires students and personnel to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Learn more HERE. Even fully vaccinated individuals are required to wear an approved and well-fitting face mask at all times while inside UW buildings, including our classroom. See the UW COVID-19 Face Covering Policy.

For the everyone's safety, ARCHY 105 instructors will remind students as needed to put on a mask. Refusal to comply (having to be asked more than twice in a class session) will lead to removal from that class session. "Wearing a mask" includes covering both mouth and nose.  Students who are unable to comply with the masking requirement should not return to the classroom and should consult with UW's Environmental Health and Safety Response team at for options.

Even with these measures, if you develop even mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (fever >100.3, cough, difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, chills, sore throat, runny nose, headache, muscle ache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) OR have been in contact with someone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, you must stay home and follow the UW EHS Quarantine and Isolation Guidance on testing and on when you may return to the classroom. 

Please contact your Instructor/TA for instructions on how best to keep up with course material during any absence.

Finally, because we do not want to incentivize people to come to campus when at risk of exposing others, we are setting up the class (to our best ability) to ensure that students can keep up with the work remotely during absences. While this is NOT structured as an online or hybrid class, we will live stream and record lectures on Panopto. We will also *attempt* to stream Quiz Section sessions live on Zoom (not recorded) so that students can listen to and participate in the discussions remotely. Please understand that there are limits to our capacity to provide these work-arounds. We ask for everyone's patience as we do our best to ensure safety and enable everyone to participate fully in the course.

If you are anxious about this return to in-person activities, check out Prof. Jane Simoni's tips on how to manage your psychological health as we return to not-quite-normal university life.



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 the start of urbanism, 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 discussions as well as occasional films 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 paleoanthropological and archaeological interpretations by both professional and avocational archaeologists, physical anthropologists and enthusiasts.


Class time will be devoted to lecture, open discussion, small group discussion, activities and occasional movies or video clips.  We intend to provide plenty of opportunity for, and indeed to encourage, student interaction in the course.

Lecture slides will be provided after each lecture (as soon as possible) and can be used to study for quizzes and tests. Every class opens with an outline of topics to be covered in the session and questions you should be able to answer afterwards. At the start of each class, you will have opportunities to ask questions about previous lectures or other aspects of the course. We will stream and record class lectures using the Panopto software. Given the altered circumstances of the pandemic and because we *want* you to stay home if you feel sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID, these recordings will be available to everyone in the class as soon as they have been processed. Nevertheless, we expect students to attend class when healthy to be able to participate more actively in the interactive elements of the class (and because lecturing to an empty room is discouraging!). Importantly, the Panopto system sometimes, in which case, those missing the session will need to rely on lecture slides and notes from friends.

Discussion sections (so-called “Quiz” sections) will be used for extended discussions about reading and other class material, review, and occasional “lab” activities (e.g., learning to identify tell-tale features of stone artifacts using teaching collections). We will *TRY* to stream Discussion Sections through Zoom (unrecorded) so that those needing to stay home can participate virtually in those sessions. We apologize in advance for any technical challenges in this process.


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 often to see a list of upcoming assignments, announcements, and other information. You can select 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 we 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. Having taught the class only once before, I am still trying out different core readings (and of course, will always substitute updated treatments to keep the information presented current). 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.

*Recommended Texts* : The following textbooks/books provide a good overview of many of the core issues discussed in the class and students may wish to purchase or borrow them from a library.

  • Scarre, Chris.  (2018)  The Human Past: World History & the Development of Human Societies (Fourth Edition). Thames & Hudson, London. (750 richly detailed pages... and expensive)
  • Feder, Kenneth L. (2017) The Past in Perspective: An Introduction to Human Prehistory (Eighth Edition). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K. (600 pages... and a bit more affordable)
  • McCorriston, Joy & Julie FIeld (2019)  World PRehistory and the Anthropocene: An Introduction to Human History. Thames & Hudson, London.

  • Wood, Bernard (2019) Human Evolution: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
  • Leakey, M., & Leakey, Samira. (2020). The sediments of time : My lifelong search for the past. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  • Lee, Sang-Hee & Yoon, Shin-Young. (2018). Close encounters with humankind : A paleoanthropologist investigates our evolving species. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Reich, David (2019)  Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past. Vintage Books, New York.
    • Reich is a controversial author in particular for his perceived insensitivity to the ethical concerns of Indigenous communities. But this is the most comprehensive and up-to-date account of the scientific revolution that is emerging through ancient DNA analyses. To understand the ethical controversy see: 
    •  Tallbear, Kim (2013)  Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. University of Minnesota Press.

  • Barker, Graeme.  (2006)   The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory: Why did Foragers become Farmers? (1st Edition). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

  • Newitz, Annalee.  (2021)  Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age.  Norton, New York.


Reading Reflections are responses you are required to post after completing assigned readings.  You will find prompts on each assignment to help you focus on what we 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 section and/or lecture session discussions, and they will always be useful review for exams. Reflections will be graded C/NC. To receive credit your entry need not be long, but it should be thoughtful, individual, and demonstrate honest engagement with the assigned reading. Unengaging or superficial posts will be marked NC!

We will often have in-class/ in-section readings discussions or exercises that build from readings.


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. The lowest quiz grade will be dropped from the final grade. **Starting with Quiz 2, Quizzes must be submitted by the deadline to receive credit unless there is an emergency.**


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 Nov 3, In Class, JHN 102 (Blue book exam)
  • Final: Wednesday, December 15, 8:30-10:20am in JHN 102 (Blue book exam)


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

  • Tuesday Discussion Section: 35%
    • Reading Reflections: 20%
    • Participation/Active Engagement: 15%
  • Weekly Quizzes (8 offered, drop lowest): 25% 
  • Midterm Exam: 20%
  • Final Exam: 20%

Late Policy: After Oct 8, Quizzes must be submitted by the due date. Other assignments will be accepted late with 5% drop in grade per day.

4.0 Grade Scale:

  • 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)

A Caution about Canvas Grade Reporting: Canvas presents grades in two ways, depending on whether or not you have checked the box to "Calculate based only on graded assignments" on your Grades page for the course.  Incomplete auto-graded components like quizzes don't automatically convert to "0" and have to be manually graded. We often don't convert such uncompleted components to "0" until the end of the quarter. While selecting the 'graded-only' option is useful for estimating your grade based on assignments completed, your grade may appear higher than it actually is if you have incomplete work. This is unfortunate when students make strategic choices later in the quarter based on inaccurate understanding of their true grades. Always uncheck that box when trying to see your grade in the context of all graded components of the class! That is most helpful late in the quarter when most assignments have come due and you can estimate what components remain ahead (like the final exam).


We 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 encouraged 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 Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”


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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 Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
April 19, 2024 - 8:20 pm