Anthropology | Archaeology and the Movies
P240 | 0423 | Sievert


The popular cinema abounds with films depicting the actions of
swashbuckling characters such as Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, as well
as the actions of fictionalized prehistoric and ancient people. This
is a course for students who are drawn to films about gladiators, or
Egyptian mummies, but who question the interpretations of ancient
people and of archaeologists that the movies present. We will look at
how archaeologists are depicted (usually as glamorous adventurers) and
compare this with the work that archaeologists actually do. Modern
issues such as looting, ethics and antiquities trade will be
addressed. One theme that recurs in such films is the romance of
discovery as archaeologists retrieve ancient materials from
archaeological sites. Where does this impression derive from, and how
does it compare to the actual activities of real (not reel)
archaeologists?

In addition, film producers make movies that cater to our curiosity
about so-called forgotten cultures. How realistic are the
interpretations that film producers present? We will examine films
that depict ancient phenomena and people, focusing on Egypt and Rome,
among other places. Film genres include romantic comedy, epic tragedy,
and even Japanese animation. A series of e-reserve writings by and
about archaeologists augment the films and provide a basis for
discussion, which we will do both in class and via Oncourse discussion
forums and chat rooms. You will be reading a novel from which one film
was adapted.

Evaluation: Three essay tests and a final 7p project/paper in which
you will develop a concept for a feature film about archaeology or
ancient people.