Game of Stones: The Archaeology of Europe from Handaxes To Stonehenge

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

Buried beneath modern cities, Roman amphitheaters, and Medieval churches lie subtle traces of Europe’s earlier occupants: campsites littered stone tools and animal bones, human bodies preserved in bogs and frozen in ice, and cave walls decorated with extinct animals. This course will explore European prehistory from the first settlement of Europe by Homo erectus, around a million years ago, to the building of Stonehenge, c. 2000 B.C. We will cover some of those most exciting topics in archaeology today: How similar were Neanderthals to us and why did they go extinct?  When and why did groups subsisting on hunting and gathering take up farming? And finally, for what purpose were large stone monuments such as Stonehenge and Newgrange built?

Students in this course will not learn this material passively, rather, we will actively question how archaeologists acquire this information. The course textbook, Europe before Rome: A Site-by-Site Tour of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages by T. D. Price, presents European prehistory by describing individual archaeological sites and explaining how research at these sites contributed to our knowledge. Likewise, this course will present information only by demonstrating the archaeological (or multidisciplinary) research that led to its formation. We will critically assess how “facts” are established based on archaeological data and how the archaeological record is interpreted.