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ARC 47 W — The Archaeology of Human Diets: Ancient Origins, Modern Science

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Jul 19—Aug 27
Refund Deadline: Jul 22
Unit: 1
Tuition: $370
Instructor(s): Maureece J. Levin
Limit: 45
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Jul 19—Aug 27
6 weeks
Refund Date
Jul 22
1 Unit
Maureece J. Levin
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
In recent decades, the idea that modern humans should try to eat a “paleo” diet like our long-ago ancestors did has become prominent in popular culture. Much of this discussion focuses on health issues such as modern diet-linked diseases and physical fitness. However, the topic also raises these questions: What exactly did our ancestors eat? How do archaeologists and allied researchers figure this out? And to what extent do we actually understand the diet of our ancestors?

In this course, we will explore the archaeological side of human diets in the past. Taking a global perspective, we will look at the diversity of what our human ancestors across environments and cultures ate in the deep (and not-so-deep) past. We will take a special look at how archaeologists know what they do about past human food procurement and diet, exploring methods such as zooarchaeology, stable isotope analysis, archaeobotany, the study of dental calculus, and chemical residue analysis. Additionally, we will consider the ambiguities and the limits of the available data in understanding the diet of our ancestors. We will consider the things popular culture gets both right and wrong about understanding human diets of the past, and learn to critically evaluate popular media reporting on the archaeology of food and diets.

Archaeobotanist; Adjunct Faculty, Santa Rosa Junior College; Adjunct Assistant Professor, American River College

Maureece J. Levin's research focuses on human-environment relationships and food production strategies in Oceania and East Asia. She received a PhD in anthropology from the University of Oregon and has taught archaeobotany at Stanford. She has published in scholarly journals on the archaeology of food in Micronesia and in China.

Textbooks for this course:

There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.