ANTH 4020 Explorations in Anthropology: Archaeology Material Culture

Instructor Contact:

Timothy Webmoor, PhD


About the Course:

This course is designed to foster a better understanding of our material world. It introduces students to material cultures studies and its understanding of how our ever-increasing dependence on things (for better and worse) makes us human. From stone tools to smartphones, cave art to computer circuitry, we live through our things – and they through us. This non-anthropocentric, alternative account of human “evolution” suggests that we are in a feedback cycle that means ever-accumulating stuff. We are headed for a “heavy future.”

Course Prerequisites: none


By the end of the course you should be able to:

  • Discuss the Western concepts of subject and object and their limitations in describing humanity’s intimate relationship to “stuff”
  • Identify how archaeology’s long-term perspective offers robust insights into the role of materials in becoming and being human
  • Understand the role of ethnoarchaeology and analogy in archaeological arguments
  • Conceptualize how objects are not passive but have agency and “act back” on our world
  • Analyze the concepts of actor-network, affordances, agency, animacy, assemblage, chaînes opératoires, commodity, dialectics, fetish, gift, materialism, relationality and symmetry

Required Texts:

Hodder, Ian. 2018. Where Are We Heading? The evolution of humans and things. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Grading (out of 100 points):

Percentage Activity Points
25% Online discussion participation (comprised of an ‘initial post’ and a ‘response post’ for each of  Discussion Threads, so 2 points possible each week plus another 1 point awarded for consistent participation (2X12=24, plus 1 for consistency=25) 25
30% Artifact Presentation (30) 30
20% Discussion Overviews (2X10=20) 20
25% Midterm Exam (25) 25
100% Total Possible Points for the Course 100

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Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado