This seminar explores how humans apply and modify technologies in contexts as diverse as everyday life, major politico-economic undertakings, or scholarly research. We investigate this through a comparison of technologies of the past with technologies of the present used to study the past. We will dig into the details of topics like building pyramids and tombs, the function of ancient astronomical devices, pre-telegraph long-distance communication, tools for cutting and carving stone, and kilns for firing pottery. Archaeologists study these issues by examining the material remains of past societies: the cut-marks on stone blocks, extant tomb structures, the debris of manufacturing activities, and much more. Today's technologies enable the detailed scientific examination of the evidence, improving our understanding of the past. Thus, in parallel with our investigation of past technologies, we will also study the history of the application of present technologies to research on the archaeological record. We will dig into topics like the first uses of computers and databases, the development of statistical methods, early digital 3d modeling of objects and architecture, the adoption of geophysical prospection and geographic information systems, and the emerging uses of machine learning. In some cases, we can even compare old and new technologies directly, such as with land measurement and surveying techniques. Throughout the class we will engage in readings and discussions on the theory of humans and technology, to gain a better understanding of how processes such as innovation function in all time periods.
T 0430PM-0730PM