Review Comment

[ACLG 3002] Introduction to Archaeology

December 19, 2004

Smith, Joanna Silver_nugget
[ACLG 3002] Introduction to Archaeology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

If you're coming into this class with an interest in archaeology already, you'll appreciate Prof. Smith's in-depth studies of ancient sites around the world. If you've never thought about or had any interest in the subject, you may actually find some interesting tidbits in the course to spark your curiosity. The typical class each day consisted of a lecture with slides (which may or may not work) and note-taking.
Prof. Smith can sometimes rush when spelling hard or drawn-out names--try Yak' K'uk'Mo' and Shihuangdi on for size--so you may need to ask her to repeat herself, but she tries to make the subject fun for everyone in the class, not just future archaeology majors. On many days she brought in artifacts from the arch lab that we could touch and pass around, which helped a great deal in connecting what we were learning about to reality.

She's quick to answer questions, and clearly understands her field well. She tries actively engaging everyone in the class, so it doesn't seem like "just a lecture course". Her grading is fair, almost generous, so long as you show you put effort into your work. I would definitely recommend taking this class with her. A quick warning: if you're tired before the class starts, bring coffee--it's just too tempting to close your eyes even for a second in the dimly lit room, and not even an interesting lecture can fight that!

Workload:

Fairly standard: one midterm, one final, one paper with a five minute poster presentation, and a mandatory class field trip to a museum.

November 16, 2003

Smith, Joanna Silver_nugget
[ACLG 3002] Introduction to Archaeology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This class I think was brand-new in 2002, and was completely the creation of Prof. Smith, so it was really not like the other archaeology lectures at Columbia like Rise of Civ. The pace and material were confusing at times, but I think that it was mostly because we were the guinea-pigs in a new course experiment. There was a lot of information to process, and wierd names and theories, but the lectures laid those out pretty well. The big problem was the main textbook, by Ranfrew and Bahn, which was huge, dense, and incomprehensable. That book was the bane of my existance! The exams were long but pretty straight-forward, only the keywords were a little vague but there was plenty of choice of which ones to do. One cool thing was that we got taught how to read and decipher ancient writings like the cuneaform and maya and egyptian signs. Also instead of recitations we had some field trips with the TA, to places around the city that we wanted to see. Prof. Smith let us go into her lab next too the classroom and showed us how to work as an archaeologist, and she also brought us cool things to class. Her lecture style is pretty flat but you can usually follow along unless you are already tired, in which case you're asleep pretty quick. The TA was nice in helping to catch up, though. For the end of the class we were all supposed to do posters like we were at a real Archaeological conference thing, but some people did these third-grade loser posters which gave some of us a good laugh, even if we still had to listen to their bad presentations. Overall a good class, I would probably take it again.

Workload:

Lots of dense readings, no section, few optional fieldtrips, a long midterm and final, a paper that we then turned into posters

January 09, 2003

Smith, Joanna Silver_nugget
[ACLG 3002] Introduction to Archaeology

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor Smith was helpful and nice, but her lectures and class were boring and largely lacking in content. She had clearly intended the course to be a combination of history and theory with a little bit of technique thrown in. Unfortunately her lectures were mainly composed of handwaving and descriptions of specific artifacts. She didn't give the class enough credit. The important theories she laboriously described are incredibly obvious (for example, she thought it would be a revelation for us when she explained that no site is the same at it was originally when we dig it up in the present. Wow!) but she beat them into us anyway. The few times she did hint at anything more technical she seemed simply incapable of explaining them well.
Her idea of using specific sites to explain the development of archaeology could have been a good one, except that she spent far too much time describing each site instead of outlining its importance.
This made for difficult studying at exam time and mindnumbing lectures. Making this problem of lack of content even worse was that she cancelled 3 or 4 classes and threw away another 2 on student presentations, which were a total waste of time. We made posters. It was just like middle school. It was relatively easy to do well in the class, though it did require some studying. Beware her "term list" for the id section, however. She described the one for the final as a "stream of consciousness" list of everything we covered. Terms included Mexico, Bible, pottery, and other unhelpful words along with virtually every name she mentioned. Buy the main textbook (and only the main textbook) for this reason alone. All the books are just terribly written and painful to read, but you need at least the one to look up names and sites for the tests. Other than that, don't bother to read.

Workload:

midterm, final, paper, 3 min presentation and poster on the paper

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section
AHAR / ACLG AHAR ACLG W3002: Introduction to Archaeology Joanna Smith 2006 Fall TR / 9:10-10:25 AM 1
AHAR / ACLG AHAR ACLG W3002: Introduction to Archaeology Joanna Smith 2004 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1
AHAR / ACLG AHAR ACLG W3002: Introduction to Archaeology Joanna Smith 2002 Fall MW / 11:00-12:15 PM 1