Fall 2015, Monday 6:00-8:40
Cavanaugh 411
Dr. Paul Mullins
Office Hours: Mon 4:00-6:00, Tue 2:00-3:00 and by appt.
Office: Cavanaugh 413E (274-9847)

Course Links

Course Outline

This course examines the intellectual foundations of archaeological research and studies how material culture is archaeologically theorized, investigated, and evaluated. The course focuses on the theoretical foundations of archaeological research and examines the subjects archaeologists typically study, the methods and techniques used to analyze material culture, and archaeological discourse. We will study the diversity of archaeological thought, examine interdisciplinary approaches to material culture research, and probe the breadth of material culture scholarship. The class stresses archaeology's broad intellectual foundation, encourages creative thinking about objects, and examines how anthropologists can develop and conduct rigorous and innovative material culture research.


Course grading will be derived from a self-reflection paper on archaeology (15%), an Ebay artifact analysis (30%), a class presentation and reading response paper on a course reading (15%),  attendance (10%), and a collection analysis (30%).  

A self-reflection paper worth 10% of the course grade is due on September 14th.  The brief questions should begin to help us individually and collectively think about what we know about archaeology and archaeologists and how we define the significance of material culture and archaeology in the contemporary world.

A vast amount of archaeological material culture is today sold on the internet, especially on EBay, and this EBay analysis examines the ethical dimensions of exchanging antiquities and archaeological material culture online.  The ethical dimensions of EBay and online marketing are complicated:  Some of the objects traded on Ebay may well be hawked by somebody who recovered those things illegally; however, many archaeological artifacts reach the internet with their actual acquisition completely unknown to their sellers, and some are excavated legally, depending on the maze of international, state, and local preservation ordinances attempting to protect particular goods.  In this project you will choose three artifacts now being sold on EBay and examine the ethical dimensions of these objects' sale.  For instance, is the sale of these goods clearly illegal?; is it potentially breaking laws?; even if it is legal, is it "right"?; whose culture is being bought and sold with certain objects, and is this simply the reality of modern marketing?; and what are the implications of having objects such as these for sale in an open market?  The paper is worth 30% of the course grade and due September 28th.

Batman Robot

The class presentation and reading response (15%) will summarize one week's course readings in class. Because we are a small group, this assignment has more points total than normal and require s a bit more preparation than simply doing one reading, but I removed another assignment from the normal workload.  You must prepare a Powerpoint on the reading to present in class.  You should expect to direct the class' discussion of both the week's readings:  your review should minimally be about 20 minutes or so total.  You absolutely must pose at least three questions for the class at the end of each presentation.  Anybody whose presentation is too short, fails to include questions for discussion, or is otherwise disorganized or unprepared will not receive the full credit for the assignment.  You can volunteer to present any reading of your choosing on a first-come, first-serve basis; any students who do not sign up by the second class will be assigned a reading.  Anybody who does not attend on the night of their reading will receive no credit unless they have a substantial excuse.

The semester's term project (30%) will be an analysis of a material collection.  The paper should demonstrate your understanding and application of systematic material analysis methods as well as your ability to interpret the concrete social and political purposes served by various collections of material things.  You can choose to analyze almost any reasonably coherent assemblage of material things:  It may be a  serialized assemblage of objects from a single material universe--vintage Pee Wee Herman toys, shot glasses from every bar your neighbor has visited, an art museum's showing of its impressionist collection--or it could be an assemblage of similar things that somehow ended up as a collective--like all the stuff stuck to your neighbor's refrigerator door.  A proposal is due October 5th that briefly identifies the subject and the collector(s) you plan to work with; I will not accept any papers whose subjects have not already been approved.  The final project is due November 30th. Graduate students will be expected to complete a collections analysis that is a minimum of 20 pages in length.  I will require that you meet with me or electronically submit a draft at least three weeks prior to the deadline.  Graduate students will be required to complete all other course requirements as outlined in the syllabus.

The class meets 14 times, and all students who miss one or no class meetings will receive the full 10% attendance score.  Students missing two or more classes will be penalized two points for each class they meet.  For instance, if a student missed two classes, they would receive eight of the ten points, if they missed three they would receive six of the ten points, and so on.  I will not count excused absences against your attendance grade.  An excused absence is an illness for which you have written documentation from a physician; any other requests to excuse an absence--flat tires, sleeping late, karmic convergences--must be made to me in writing to me (email is fine) and must be acknowledged as excused in writing from me.  I am sympathetic to the things in life that you cannot control--work schedules, sick family, a broken-down car, everyday malaise--but I reserve the right to excuse absences on a case-by-case basis.  I will not consider excusing you for an absence if you do not provide me an email documenting the reason for an absence Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class meeting on a course roster that circulates through class.  If you come in late, you must ensure that you sign this roster at the end of class; at the end of the semester I will not negotiate over the days you actually attended but forgot to sign the attendance roster. I will not allow students to sign the roster if they arrive halfway through the class meeting; please email me an explanation of late arrivals that are outside your control with me (e.g., caught in traffic jam, but not an errant alarm clock).  Please do not plan to leave at the break or I reserve the right to record you as absent.  I will be reasonably forgiving about things over which you have no control, like weather and sick children.  I will negotiate these things on a case-by-case basis and do not make any promises that any particular absence--boss requiring you to show up for work, dog needing a trip to the vet, no parking spaces-- will be excused.  

Unavoidable Realities

If you cannot complete an assignment on time for any reason, you must contact me. I can always be contacted after class, you can schedule an appointment, and I check my email virtually everyday. Even if it is embarrassing to acknowledge that you simply forgot an assignment due date or your boss unexpectedly demanded a long shift when you planned to do the assignment, please come see me and I will do my very best to resolve it in some way that doesn't mean you receive no credit at all.  Do NOT wait until after a deadline to talk to me, and do NOT postpone talking to me if you are having any difficulty completing an assignment for any reason. Late assignments will be penalized significantly if you do not negotiate an extension with me beforehand. To miss any of the exercises is, at best, mathematically ill-advised. 

Please submit assignments in Word format and send them to my IUPUI email address electronically, which also saves you the printing expenses.  Be absolutely certain to keep a copy of any emailed assignments you send to me should the email disappear or not arrive at my end, and save every single assignment in two places:  Don't just save it on your laptop or a thumb drive, since they can crash, get lost, or be purloined by somebody who undervalues your commitment to education.  Even if you miss a due date, contact me so that you can complete a partial credit makeup: to miss any assignments is, at best, mathematically ill-advised.  Even if it is embarrassing to acknowledge that you simply forgot an assignment due date or your boss unexpectedly demanded a long shift when you planned to do the assignment, please come see me and I will do my very best to resolve in some way that doesn't mean you receive no credit at all.

Be absolutely certain to keep a copy of any emailed assignments you send to me should the email disappear or not arrive at my end, and save every single assignment until grades have been assigned:  Don't just save it on your laptop or one thumb drive, since they can crash, get lost, or be purloined by somebody who undervalues your commitment to education, and do not delete assignments instantly after their due date until their grades have been posted to Oncourse.  If you email me an assignment and do not turn it in during class, you absolutely must keep the sent mail confirmation should the assignment not reach me for whatever reason. 

This final syllabus posted at the beginning of the semester will include deadlines for all assignments and test dates: it is your responsibility to know when assignments are due and tests are scheduled. There will not be any extra credit material. If you do not complete course work by semester's end you will receive no credit for unfinished work unless you have negotiated a legitimate reason for an extension with either me or the Dean of Student Affairs.   You can monitor your grades over the semester on Oncourse.

All work in the course is conducted in accordance with the University’s academic misconduct policy.  Cheating includes dishonesty of any kind with respect to exams or assignments. Plagiarism is the offering of someone else’s work as your own: this includes taking un-cited material from books, web pages, or other students, turning in the same or substantially similar work as other students, sneaking a peek at the neighbor's exam, or failing to properly cite other research.  If you are suspected of any form of academic misconduct you will be called in for a meeting at which you will be informed of the accusation and given adequate opportunity to respond.  A report will be submitted to the Dean of Students, who will decide on further disciplinary action.  Please consult the University Bulletin’s academic misconduct policy or me if you have any questions.

The Office of Adaptive Educational Services (AES) ensures that students with disabilities receive appropriate accommodations from the University and their professors.  Students must register with the AES office in order to receive such services.

Portable electronic devices such as cell phones and laptop computers must have their sound turned off before the start of class.  You can use a laptop in class for note-taking but should silence it; I know it is nearly impossible to ignore a Facebook message or email notifications popping up on your laptop or phone, but please do not answer your emails, watch Twitter, answer texts, and monitor Candy Crush during class.  Please let me know if you expect to need to respond to your phone for specific reasons (e.g., pregnancy monitoring, disabled family, or contact with kids--not to stay in touch with a significant other who just likes to hear your voice, buddies planning the evening pub crawl, and so on).  Anyone whose clever Family Guy ringtone disturbs class will be given a verbal warning on first offense and will be asked to meet with me after class if you can't remember to turn off your phone before class.

The classroom is a safe speech situation in which it is your responsibility to treat other classmates fairly and with mutual respect, even if they have the audacity to disagree with you, champion an opinion that is inconsistent with your worldview, or simply bore you.  Anyone who talks when someone else is talking, is hostile, or otherwise violates classroom etiquette will be considered to be in violation of this policy and will need to meet with me. 

All work in this course is intended to fulfill the University's Principles of Undergraduate Learning.  The class focuses on critical, self-reflective thinking, integrates knowledge from a variety of disciplinary and sociocultural perspectives, examines social and cultural complexity, and probes the impact of knowledge on our everyday decision-making.  Do let me know if the course does not satisfy any of the missions included in the Principles.

There are a number of campus-wide policies governing the conduct of courses at IUPUI. These can be found at the Registrar's Course Policies page.

A basic requirement of this course is that you will participate in class and conscientiously complete writing and reading assignments.  If you miss more than half our class meetings within the first four weeks of the semester without contacting me, you will be administratively withdrawn from this section. If you miss more than four classes in the first four weeks, you may be withdrawn. Administrative withdrawal may have academic, financial, and financial aid implications. Administrative withdrawal will take place after the full refund period, and if you are administratively withdrawn from the course you will not be eligible for a tuition refund. If you have questions about the administrative withdrawal policy at any point during the semester, please contact me.

Photograph of a display of survival supplies for the well-stocked fallout shelter, ca.1961.

Grade Scale
A 92-100 (95)
A- 89-91 (90)
B+ 86-88 (87)
B 82-85 (84)
B- 79-81 (80)
C+ 76-78 (77)
C 70-75 (73)
D 60-69 (65)
F 0-60

An artist's rendition of a temporary basement fallout shelter, ca.1957

Course Schedule

Readings will be discussed on the weeks indicated on the syllabus.  Readings are available electronically on Oncourse in the Resources tab or as a direct link from this syllabus.  Linked readings require that you log into the IUPUI University Library page with an IUPUI Network ID (i.e., a username and password) when accessing University Library's electronic resources from off-campus.  Try the E-Resource Troubleshooting page if you're having problems gaining access to any readings.

Reading banner

Aug. 24

Course Introduction

Aug. 31

NO CLASS Sept. 7 Labor Day


Sept. 14

Sept. 21


Sept. 28


Oct. 5

Oct. 12


Oct. 26

Nov. 2

Nov. 9

Nov. 16

Nov. 23


Nov. 30

Dec. 7

Digging Ourselves 

Dec. 14 

Course Wrap-up

Last updated August 31, 2015