Freshman Seminars

Manuelian freshman seminar

Digging Egypt's Past: Harvard and Egyptian Archaeology

Professor:  Peter Der Manuelian
Course Information: Freshman Seminar 30G • 4 credits (fall term) • Enrollment:  Limited to 12
Time: Wednesdays,3-5PM
Location: Barker 211

Please go here to register.

In 1905, Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), teamed up to conduct excavations in Egypt and Nubia (modern Sudan). No one knew then that the Harvard–MFA Expedition would run for forty-plus years, cover twenty-three different sites, and discover hundreds of thousands of artifacts, art masterpieces, and other treasures, as well as contribute fundamentally to our knowledge of ancient Egyptian history. Egyptologist, Harvard Professor, and MFA curator George Reisner (1867-1942) ran the Expedition from “Harvard Camp,” his mud-brick headquarters just behind the famous Giza Pyramids. Reisner was ahead of his time in revolutionizing the development of responsible archaeological methods. This course takes a chronological tour in the footsteps of this historic dig, focusing on topics such as early Harvard and MFA history, the development of archaeological method in the early 20th century, Western imperialism and colonialism and the role of archaeology, current attitudes toward repatriation of cultural patrimony, and new technologies for studying the Expedition’s legacy. Students will access unpublished archival documents at Harvard and elsewhere, and will research important expedition members and events. Field trips to the Peabody Museum, the MFA, Harvard’s Visualization Center (3D Giza Pyramids), Harvard Semitic Museum, and other locations will bring the Expedition to life.

Note: Course open to Freshman Students Only.


Ancient East Asia: Contested Archaeologies of China, Korea and Japan

Professor: Rowan Flad
Course Information: Freshman Seminar 70L • 4 credits (fall term) • Enrollment:  Limited to 12
Time: Friday, 9:00am - 11:30am
Location: Peabody Museum 560
Please go here to register.

How is our understanding of the past determined or framed by the concerns of the present? This course considers this problem with a focus on East Asia. In the process, we learn about the origins of the people, cultures, and civilizations of East Asia, but we don’t focus simply on the apparent facts of historic reconstruction, but instead consider how the varied and complicated histories and relationships among people and societies in the modern Nation‐States of China, Korea, Japan and other nearby countries are understood through archaeological practice in the present. This class explores those origins, and focuses on controversies that show the stakes of archaeological interpretation to political and social discourse in the modern world. We will discuss fundamental questions in the prehistory and early history of East Asia through the lens of archaeological discoveries, including human origins, the origins of agriculture, how stratified, complex societies emerged, early processes of globalization and connections across Eurasia, conflicts between centers and peripheries, connections between China, Korea and Japan in prehistory, Buddhist origins, and more. How are the “origins” in these modern countries similar or different? How are they related? Are they controversial? We will explore controversies that have emerged in recent East Asian archaeological research and discuss why archaeological topics are subject to controversial interpretation and what is at stake in the disagreements. These examples illustrate the significance of ancient cultural material in the modern world and what is at stake in debates over who owns the past. Why should we, situated at Harvard, care about the Asian past? How is this connected to modern Asian identity, and does this relate to Asian‐American identity? Course participants will produce a digital exhibit that will engage in the reflective production of knowledge about Ancient East Asia by examining some aspect of the archaeological record of the East Asian past.

Note: Course open to Freshman Students Only.