Sift through noise with Archeological Studies

By MUHAMMAD ABIDI | February 6, 2020

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Popularized by the adventurous Indiana Jones, archaeology is a field that contributes critical information to the discovery of lost histories of the past. Discovery is often a word that connotes the future. Yet, in terms of archaeology, it applies to unraveling the mysteries of previous societies and prehistoric trends. 

This is indicative of the underlying philosophy of scholarship and research in the field, which follows the idea that understanding and interpreting the past will help guide future decisions for society and civilization.

These ideas were echoed by the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Archaeology major, Michael Harrower, in an interview with The News-Letter.

“The major can help students think about the long-term impacts of social and political changes, climate change and analyze how society has gone from nomadic hunting people to current day civilization,” he said.

Hopkins is unique in offering an Archaeology major at the undergraduate level. While there is not a distinct department of Archaeology, the major is offered through a conjunction of faculty in the Departments of Classics, Near Eastern Studies and History of Art. By approaching archaeology through these various avenues, students are able to directly observe and utilize the applications of archaeology in an interdisciplinary manner.

Harrower explained how the major is approached holistically at Hopkins. 

“There is significant overlap with several other fields, such as several humanities and even material sciences and environmental studies,” he said.

Harrower himself also teaches courses and conducts research utilizing computer mapping through satellite imagery as well as GPS mapping. The increasing focus on using computational modeling and advanced technology to rediscover the past highlights the various disciplines drawn upon within archaeology.

Students interested in the major have a variety of options to learn more about it through courses like Introduction to Archaeology and World Prehistory, or minoring in the unique Museums and Society program. Harrower noted that courses in this field are also beneficial to students pursuing degrees outside of Archaeology.

“Regardless of a student’s major, the introductory archeological courses are designed to help all individuals develop a broad understanding of world history that pertains to the long-term ancient past of different parts of the globe,” Harrower said.

Students in the major are also able to complete a course of study known as “archaeological field school.” This is where the student goes out into the real world to conduct research in various forms, such as excavations in the field, historical analyses in museums or even lab-based investigations into artifacts.

With this focus on developing an analytical approach to studying the histories of ancient societies, the major also hopes to instill the values of becoming a skeptical consumer of information in any discipline, Harrower explained. 

“Part of the challenge these days is to sift through all the noise and determine who is actually a credible voice on the subject,” he said.

With the increasingly critical need for this analytical approach to research and education, the Archaeology major once again represents the University’s values in scholarship and the pursuit of truth. In fact, Classics and Near Eastern Studies were two of the first departments when the University was established, highlighting the legacy of these programs at Hopkins and a commitment to quality humanities education and research.

For students who would like to learn more about the field outside of class, there is also the Archaeology and Ancient Civilizations Club at Hopkins. The organization holds various events, which can help prospective students reach out to current majors as well as simply explore an interest outside of typical coursework.

Harrower expressed that Archaeology is a fascinating course of study that is actively helping to demystify the secrets of history. 

“There are always new discoveries going on… The opportunity to continue to do fieldwork and learn new things about the past is what makes it so captivating,” he said. 

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