Digging up the past

Intro to Archaeology class offers a look into history

By Maren Giordano
Staff Writer

TOTE23

Photo by Margeret Shaw.

Different thoughts come to mind when thinking of the study of archaeology. Indiana Jones rescuing gold statues from tombs infused with curses? Lara Croft’s character from the “Tomb Raider” franchise retrieving an ancient relic that holds the secrets of time? Such examples have some legitimacy, but popular culture tends to play up the more thrilling side of archaeology, such as the mystery in discovery and the potential threats that may occur in the processes. Archaeology is still an exciting subject, as it is the study of the past through the systematic recovery and analysis of material remains, but what many do not realize is that there is much more than what the media portrays it to be.

It may be a surprise to some that Schoolcraft has its very own Introduction to Archaeology class that is offered every fall semester, allowing students to delve into the archaeology world and its many wonders.

This year, the class is structured in a way unlike past offerings in which students are engaged through both lecture and hands-on activities. Taught by Professor Cynthia Jenzen, this class (ANTH 117) meets every Monday from 6:30-9:24 p.m. and is a part of the anthropology and sociology department course elective. Archaeology can be taken to satisfy possible credit hour requirements in the social sciences, depending on one’s current education plan or career path.

When asked why she decided to take this course, student Courtney Morris said, “To get exposed to the basics of archaeology.”

She explained she had been thinking about minoring in the subject, but also thought it would help her improve her desired field, theology. Another student enrolled in the class, Sloane Alexander, said she is mostly interested in anthropology, but wanted to look at the concepts of the subject from another perspective, and archaeology seemed like the perfect fit.

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Photo by Margeret Shaw.

“What I want people and the students in the class to understand is exactly what goes in to being an archaeologist and how the information they find can be translated into understanding cultures that came before us. It is our history: be it in Europe, Asia or here. It is all a part of us and those who do not know about the past and mistakes made in the past are doomed to repeat them,” said Jenzen.

Jenzen also said that there is group and individual projects done, like cave painting with real ochre, which is what pre-historic individuals used. Students are also required to examine and document individual dig-boxes, which are explained by Jenzen as miniature archaeological sites designed to enhance learning and understanding of concepts.

“Archaeology has always been a tough one to fill up or even get past ten, but I think we are going to try to remedy that problem,” said Jenzen. “I think that a change in [class] time might make a difference.”

The five students currently enrolled in class agree that the study of archaeology is extremely interesting, but understand why the time frame this semester may make it undesirable to some. Jenzen hopes the course will be earlier in the day and more will decide to join in on the fun of digging up the past next fall.