Honors | The Archaeology of Sex (COLL)
S104 | 23612 | Susan Alt

MWF 10:10-11:00am

Course Description: How people lived, and related to each other is
an important part of archaeological inquiry. Sex, is an important
part of human experience. In the present, we tend to view sex as a
private and natural part of human interaction. Sex is often
presented as a biological function, necessary, and enjoyable. But
did/do people always see things this way?  We may all recognize that
people have different ideas about sex and sexuality, and that such
things are often culturally motivated, but to what extent can sex
and sexuality be affected by culture and tradition?   What evidence
is there for sexual practices and beliefs in the past?

In this class we will review how we can approach such questions
through material remains, as well as artwork and texts from past
peoples. We will interrogate the role of sex in the societies we
examine, across time and space. We will be looking at how sex was
constructed to be either private or public, a matter of political or
religious concern, or of little public concern at all.  Was sex
always about sex?  When are depictions of sex actually
representative of other things, such as life and death, renewal, or
crop fertility?  Can sex be more about community, status or politics
than about individuals?

The goal then, is to explore a part of being human that is often
assumed to be unchanging and simply biological in nature, and
investigate to what degree, culture can construct conceptions of not
only sex and sexuality, but also our sense of what is natural, or
simply biological.

Course Structure: We will mix lectures, electronic media and
discussion to explore our topic. This class will utilize research
publications as primary sources of information. Core readings must
be completed before each class. In order to best utilize this type
of material we will form small discussion groups and work though
terminology, as well as anthropological and archaeological modes of
discourse and analysis for each article. A student will be assigned
a role as discussion leader for each group, but all will be expected
to participate in the discussions and production of an article
summary for their group. By the end of the course students will be
able to more comfortably engage with, and evaluate research

WARNING: Course materials will on occasion be of a graphic nature.
Discussion will also at times require a frank appraisal of materials
of a sexual nature. If discomfort with such topics or sexual images
would inhibit learning or impede your ability to participate in
class discussion, this may not be the class for you.