Human Origins and Prehistory
Exercise 1: Drawing an Archaeologist
Regardless of whether or not you are an Anthropology major, you likely know something already about archaeologists from school, mass media, and, probably most of all, popular culture. There are a lot of different kinds of anthropologists who study a wide range of subjects broadly related to human experience in the past and present, and you likely know something about the archaeology and physical anthropology that we will be examining this semester. Most of the research that we will examine during the semester comes from a range of archaeologists who study hominid evolution and human culture over nearly four million years: some of these archaeologists focus on the physical and biological traces of the most distant human past, others examine complex societies that emerged over the past 9,000 years or so, and some study the period since European colonization.
To figure out what we know about archaeology and physical anthropology--even though it may be off the mark in some cases--, the semesterís first exercise is to draw an archaeologist and write an explanation for how you determined that your drawing was a fitting representation. Your completed exercise will include two elements: an illustration and a typed, double-spaced explanation of how you decided upon this particular representation. Here are some pointers for how to complete the exercise:
1. You are not being graded for your artistic skills: some of the most interesting explanations often accompany the most rudimentary drawings, while some budding artists produce stunning multimedia compositions that fail to adequately explain how they chose to represent their archaeologist in a particular way. Good exercises will clearly explain in their written statement how they decided that this is the appropriate way to represent an archaeologist.
2. There is no "right" answer: this exercise is intended to illuminate our popular misconceptions and sound understandings alike. We want to develop a sense of how society teaches us things about archaeology that involve both credible knowledge and utter misrepresentation. Simply say why you chose particular stylistic elements--e.g., certain clothes, accompanying devices, settings, hair styles, body type, and anything else you wanted to represent--and explain where you learned that this was necessary to illustrate the "typical" archaeologist.
3. There are no inflexible "rules" for how you should execute your drawing: you can use any two-dimensional representation that you believe is appropriate, which for most of us will be a line drawing of some sort. You can use any pen, pencil, markers, crayons, or other drawing mechanisms and render your illustration on virtually any type of paper that renders a legible representation; if you have an artist seeking to escape from within, you can use other sorts of materials or even a three-dimensional medium, but pushing the aesthetic envelope is not required.
4. Your written explanation should address why you determined that these particular aesthetic elements in your drawing were appropriate. This will require you to articulate where your preconceptions of archaeology and physical anthropology came from, which might include high school biology textbooks, popular movies, the Discovery Channel, your daily reading of physical anthropology journals, cave person comic books, attendance at "Land of the Lost" conventions, or whatever. Simply try to summarize what you already know about archaeology: it does not matter if it is "wrong," and in almost every case it will contain a fair amount of reliable insight. Instead, try to say what you already know about archaeology and the basic sources for this knowledge. There is no requirement for how lengthy this written explanation should be, but it is very unlikely you can capture the details of your drawing and your knowledge of archaeology in much less than a written page. Explanations cannot be too long, but they can be too short and fail to completely address the question.
Your completed exercise should include a drawing stapled to a written explanation of the drawing; be certain your name appears on all pages. Please execute your archaeologist drawing on a separate page from your typed, double-spaced explanation.
The completed exercise is due in class January 23. We will review the exercise in class, and the full exercise credit will be awarded to all students who attend that day and turn in a typed, completed exercise. We will discuss the exercise in class and determine our basic shared knowledge and influences. If you do not attend, you cannot receive any better than 60% on the exercise, which is 5% of the total semester grade.
If you have any questions about the exercise, please ask in class or email me.
If you have 3-D glasses, the photo at the top of this page is a three-dimensional picture that you can view in 3-D if your monitor has a 256-color display. The picture is at Chichen Itza and was taken about a century ago by Augustus Le Plongeon, who used the technique throughout the Mayan Yucatan.
Last updated July 31, 2012