ANTH 5317
The Archæology of Exploration, Travel and Trade

Fall Semester 2006

     This course considers the archaeological and ancient written evidence bearing upon early travel and its implications. The focus of the course will be on the technology of travel (e.g., wheeled vehicles, use of ass, horse and camel, tracks and roads, boats, maps, navigation) and the cultural ramifications of these inventions and adaptations and their evolution. Select related topics (knowledge of exotic places, development and formalization of trade routes, treatment of foreigners, and the nature and motives for exploration, settlement and colonization in antiquity) will be considered. Case studies will be drawn from archaeological cultures primarily of the Old World, ranging chronologically from the Stone Age through classical antiquity.

Prof. Karl Petruso
University Hall 416
Office hours
By appointment only
Department mailbox
University Hall 430


     This course is something of an experiment. It will roam widely in place and time, exploring many topics not typically covered systematically under the umbrella of a single university course. All the topics to be investigated are intrinsically interesting, however, and it is hoped that the readings and discussions will inspire participants to look anew at material from periods and regions on which they are focusing for their theses or dissertations. Moreover, it is hoped that the course will serve as an incidental introduction to method and theory of archaeology for participants who are coming to the discipline for the first time from history or other academic niches.
     The course will consider several related fundamental human phenomena which archaeology is, at a basic level, very well suited to illuminate. Documentation of human movement over long distances in early times is a relatively straightforward and common archaeological exercise. For the long prehistoric period, however (that is, the period before contemporary writing can provide reasons for movement), archaeologists must make inferences regarding motivation. Excavation and ethnography have provided ample data which have inspired us to think about interconnections among past cultures, most notably perhaps within the economic realm (particularly the large and complex body of behaviors to which we refer using the general descriptor "trade"). This phenomenon has manifold ramifications for the evolution of human social and political--not merely economic--organization.
      With the advent of complex societies especially, acquisition of necessary and desired raw materials and finished goods is increasingly evident in the archaeological record. Materials analysis, historical testimonia, economic anthropology and ethnography are of great value in documenting the spread of raw materials and finished goods and suggesting motivations. It should be kept in mind, however, that economic connections among widely separated peoples present us with but a single window into the nature of their relationships, and not necessarily the most important one at that. As we consider the archaeologically most visible evidence for trade, we should never lose sight of the many non-commercial--indeed, non-material--consequences of personal contact over distance. Formal trading relationships among polities can contribute to what ecologists and systems theorists have called the multiplier effect, accelerating the development of a great many social and political institutions and inspiring opportunistic activities that can have far-reaching consequences (as one archaeologist has put it, "the flag follows trade"). An eminent Annales historian in quite a different context admonished scholars half a century ago not to focus on mundane economic data to the exclusion of the extremely rich social and cultural fabric of which they were a part:

Do you expect really to know the great merchants of Renaissance Europe, vendors of cloth or spices, monopolists in copper, mercury, or alum, bankers of kings and the Emperor, by knowing their merchandise alone? Bear in mind that they were painted by Holbein, that they read Erasmus or Luther.

Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft (1953), p. 156

Although (as a result of the fragmentary nature of the material and written record) the cultural contexts we can generate for earlier peoples will necessarily be poorer than those Bloch sought for recent periods, they surely were no less rich.
     Each of the weekly class sessions will consider a single theme or a few related themes. Our research tools will be taken primarily from the discipline of archaeology, but we will draw upon anthropological theory more broadly (particularly ethnography and economic anthropology), as well as history. We will consult contemporary written evidence (ancient literature, bureaucratic tablets, inscriptions, maps) and art as pertinent to the topics at hand. In certain instances, the sum total of evidence available to us will be fragmentary, of questionable value, and equivocal with respect to its potential to answer the questions we put to it; thus our conclusions will thus necessarily be tentative. That's the nature of the beast. We will deal with it.


     The textbooks for this course are:

      • Casson, Lionel, Travel in the Ancient World
      • Cunliffe, Barry, The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek
      • Sandars, N.K. (tr.), The Epic of Gilgamesh

All are available at the UTA Bookstore. In addition, there will be a reader available for purchase on the basement floor of the Central Library, consisting of relevant articles and chapters. Both the textbooks and the reader are required. Finally, a number of works will be placed on reserve in the Central Library from which readings will be assigned. Readings are to be completed before their associated class sessions.
     Casson noted in the preface to the first edition (1974) of his book that when he wrote it there was nothing else like it in existence, in any language. He noted triumphantly--or perhaps disappointedly--in the preface to the slightly revised edition (1994) that there was still nothing like it.
     As is typical in works of classical scholarship, the title of Casson's book suggests that it covers the entire ancient world. It does not. It deals almost solely with the Greco-Roman world, with nods to prehellenic and medieval civilizations. Despite the fact that its coverage is limited geographically and chronologically (reflecting the author's special disciplinary interests), there is much of value in it, and participants should consider how the questions Casson asks--in the realms of behavior, economy and technology--might be asked of other cultures in other eras.
      This course is writing- and speaking-intensive. While an effort has been made to keep the common reading assignments reasonable in length and number, the pace of your prepared contributions will require sustained work. While this is not a lecture course, typically I will introduce and provide context for each week's topic (based on assigned common readings) during the first half hour or so of class, and will invite and moderate discussion for the remainder of that hour. The second and third hours of each session will be devoted to participant presentations. All students will prepare several short reports for oral presentation (number to be determined by the size of the class). Topics will be chosen within the first few meetings of the course, in order that students have ample time to prepare their reports. Each report will be written up in summary fashion (2-4 pages single-spaced) for posting to the course website, so that we may share the fruits of our labors with an expectant world, eager for illumination on this endlessly fascinating topic (all postings will of course carry proper authorial attribution). Each report should include a bibliography that is seminal, up to date, and briefly annotated. The bibliography (one page maximum, including books, monographs, articles and websites) will summarize the current state of our understanding of the topic.
     The length of each presentation will be determined by the number of presentations for a given week (two to four per class session), and time will always be allotted for discussion. We must keep to the syllabus, so you will be obliged to design and compose your presentations carefully (focusing on what is pertinent), and pace yourself; you are encouraged to practice your delivery beforehand.
Handouts for participants are welcome if they assist in explicating your topic. A slide projector, an overhead projector and a digital projector for PowerPoint will be available to you. You are expected to be the reigning expert on your topic when you make your presentation. You should assign a reasonable amount of reading to your classmates at least one week in advance of your presentation, and make readings available to them, also in advance, on a designated shelf in UH 418, the SOCI/ANTH seminar room. You may briefly remove materials for photocopying if you like, but please do not keep them out any longer than absolutely necessary, in order that they be available to all participants at all times.
     Since we will all be counting on your presence as scheduled, please make every effort not to miss class when you are to hold forth. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to reschedule presentations.


     All participants are expected to contribute to class discussions. The quality of the contributions will figure largely in the determination of final grades; more importantly, the quality of the contributions will figure largely in the overall success of the course.
     If you have had no formal introduction to the discipline of archaeology, there are a number of university-level textbooks available (by Brian Fagan, David Hurst Thomas, Mark Sutton and Robert Yohe, Wendy Ashmore and Robert Sharer, and T. Douglas Price, to name only a few). All are worthy systematic introductions to archaeology. Particularly recommended is Colin Renfrew and Paul Bahn, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (New York: Thames and Hudson, 4rd ed., 2004), which is impressive in its comprehensiveness. This book will serve you well as a reference should you contemplate doing any further work in archaeology, and you might consider purchasing it. The aforementioned works do not survey world archaeological cultures, however. A readable, single-volume chronological and cultural survey is Brian Fagan's People of the Earth (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 11th ed., 2007); a more scholarly and detailed survey is that of Chris Scarre, ed., The Human Past: World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies (London: Thames and Hudson, 2005).

     But for occasional reference to the Western Hemisphere this course will focus on selected cultures in what archaeologists refer to as the Old World (Africa, Asia and Europe), from the Stone Age to the end of classical antiquity. Participants knowledgable about other periods and cultures are encouraged to introduce relevant material into the discussions as pertinent.


• Attendance is expected, and roll will be taken. More than two unexcused (i.e., undocumented) absences will result in lowering of the student’s course grade by one letter.
• Cassette recorders and other recording devices may not be used in class except by special permission.
Cell phones and pagers are to be turned off during classtime.
• Embarrassing bomb threat policy and other important boilerplate from the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska, slightly edited to correct infelicities of syntax:

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): If you are a student who requires accommodations in compliance with the ADA, please consult with me at the beginning of the semester. As a faculty member, I am required by law to provide "reasonable accommodation" to students with disabilities, so as not to discriminate on the basis of that disability. Your responsibility is to inform me of the disability at the beginning of the semester and provide me with documentation authorizing the specific accommodation. Student services at UTA include the Office for Students with Disabilities (located in the lower level of the University Center) which is responsible for verifying and implementing accommodations to insure equal opportunity in all programs and activities.

Student Support Services: The University supports a variety of student success programs to help you connect with the University and achieve academic success. They include learning assistance, developmental education, advising and mentoring, admission and transition, and federally funded programs. Students requiring assistance academically, personally, or socially should contact the Office of Student Success Programs at 817-272-6107 for more information and appropriate referrals.

Academic Honesty: Academic dishonesty is a completely unacceptable mode of conduct and will not be tolerated in any form at The University of Texas at Arlington. All persons involved in academic dishonesty will be disciplined in accordance with University regulations and procedures. Discipline may include suspension or expulsion from the University.

"Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, collusion, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, taking an examination for another person, any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student or the attempt to commit such acts." (Regents' Rules and Regulations Part One, Chapter VI, Section 3, Subsection 3.2., Subdivision 3.22).

Bomb Threats: Anyone tempted to call in a bomb threat should be aware that UTA will attempt to trace the phone call and prosecute all responsible parties. Every effort will be made to avoid cancellation of presentations/tests caused by bomb threats. Unannounced alternate sites will be available for these classes. Your instructor will make you aware of alternate class sites in the event that your classroom is not available.

Drop Policy: If you decide not to complete this course, it is solely your responsibility to officially drop. The FINAL drop date for the Fall 2006 semester is Friday, November 3rd . Failure to do so will result in a grade of F.

Syllabus            Bibliography