Program in Early Cultures

Relevant Courses (2021-2022)

The following courses have been suggested by Early Cultures faculty as especially relevant to interested students. Courses marked with an asterisk have also received PEC funding for additional programming. Many of our Affiliated Departments also include course listings for the current year, as well as past or future years, on their websites. To view all courses being offered at Brown University in the current academic year, visit the university's online listings, Courses@Brown.

ANTH 1031: Classic Mayan Civilization

Examines the history, culture, and society of the Classic Maya, with special emphasis on Preclassic precursors, dynasties, environmental adaptation, imagery, architecture, urban form, and the Maya Collapse.

Stephen Houston



ANTH 1236: Urban Life: Anthropology in and of the City

This course examines how anthropologists have worked in the city -- to understand dwelling and lived experience from the center to the margins of society; as well as how anthropologists have contributed to the study of the city -- conceptualizing the city itself in relation to its inhabitants, and working to understand how cities develop, decline, or are sustained. Anchored in key theory, classic texts, and contemporary ethnography, the course traces also the history, present, and possible futures of the discipline. Students learn the methods of urban ethnography, and gain hands-on experience through local field exercises and related writing assignments. 



ANTH 1622: Archaeology of Settler Colonialism

The course uses settler colonialism as a framework for understanding how European colonists attempted to displace and eliminate Indigenous peoples beginning in the 15th century and its historical implications for structural inequalities of race and gender. We will look at how settler colonialism is different from colonialism, and more importantly, at resistances challenging its ambitions. Case studies from North America mostly, but also Australia, South Africa, and other settler colonial societies will focus on historical archaeology’s contributions to illuminating settler colonialist strategies for establishing and maintaining settler sovereignty in light of concerns for decolonizing archaeological practices. We will give special attention to the insights gained about the experiences of dispossessed, enslaved, and marginalized peoples and their descendants, and the many ways their actions critiqued settler colonialism and imagined different futures.

Patricia Rubertone



ANTH 1820: Lost Languages: The Decipherment and Study of Ancient Writing Systems

Humans make many marks, but it is writing that records, in tangible form, the sounds and meanings of language. Creating scripts is momentous; writing facilitates complex society and is a crucial means of cultural expression. This course addresses the nature of writing in past times. Topics include: the technology of script; its precursors and parallel notations; its emergence, use, and "death"; its change over time, especially in moments of cultural contact and colonialism; writing as a physical object or thing; code-breaking and decipherment, including scripts not yet deciphered; and the nature of non-writing or pseudo- or crypto-scripts.

Stephen Houston



ARCH 1621/EGYT1430: History of Egypt I

A survey of the history and society of ancient Egypt from prehistoric times to the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty (ca. 5000-1300 BC). Readings include translations from the original documents that serve as primary sources for the reconstruction of ancient Egyptian history.

Laurel Bestock



ASYR 1700: Astronomy, Divination and Politics in the Ancient World

This course will explore the relationship between astronomy, divination and politics in the ancient world. The sky provided ancient cultures with many possibilities for observing occurrences that could be interpreted as omens. In many cultures, celestial omens were directed towards the king and his government. As a result, interpreting and controlling celestial omens became an important political activity. In this course, we will explore how and why astronomical events were used politically in ancient Mesopotamia, the Greco-Roman world, and ancient and medieval China. No prior knowledge of astronomy is necessary for this course.

John Steele



ASYR 2120: Historiography of Exact Sciences

Introduces graduate students to the sources, problems, and methodologies of the history of astronomy and mathematics from Babylon to Kepler. Prerequisite: AWAS 0200. Open to graduate students only.

John Steele



ASYR 2800: Archaeologies of Text

An interdisciplinary seminar that examines the interplay between ancient texts and archaeology in the study of the ancient world. Emphasis will be placed on articulating and analyzing the research methods and assumptions found in case studies set in the ancient Near East, Mediterranean, East Asia, and the Americas. Topics will include: canons of literature as/versus ancient inscriptions; materiality of text; texts on display, in deposits, in archives, in libraries, as refuse; literacy and education; practices of documentation and analysis; writing, language, and ethnicity; historical geography; fakes and forgeries; ancient texts and archaeological ethics. No prerequisites. Intended primarily for graduate students.

Matthew Rutz



EGYT 2521: Problems in Amarna History

The Amarna Period of ancient Egypt (ca. 1350-1300 BC) is one of the most debated, and variously interpreted, in ancient Egyptian history, in terms of people, events, and intellectual movements. In this course, students will research both the evidence and interpretations, and discuss their findings in class, to try to reach a consensus about the most likely scenarios. The instructor will act as a resource for the problems and sources of evidence, and as moderator in class discussions. Grades will be based on the depth of a student’s research and on a student’s contribution to class discussions.

James Allen



CLAS 1310: Roman History I: The Rise and Fall of an Imperial Republic

The social and political history of Ancient Rome from its origins to the death of Augustus in 14 CE. Focuses on the social conflicts of the early Republic; the conquest of the Mediterranean and its repercussions; the breakdown of the Republic and the establishment of monarchy. Readings emphasize ancient sources in translation.

Amy Russell



CLAS 1120G: The Idea of Self

Literature gestures us toward a certain kind of knowledge not quite psychological, not quite philosophical. We read widely in the classical and medieval traditions in order to gauge the peculiar nature of what this knowledge tells us about experience and the ways in which expressions of selfhood abide or are changed over time. Authors include but are not limited to Sappho, Pindar, Catullus, Horace, Augustine, and Fortunatus.

Joseph Pucci



CLAS 1175: High Crimes and Misdemeanors: Impeachment trials and their Rhetoric

This course explores the history of impeachment trials in Athens, Britain, and the USA. We study some of the early deployments of impeachment (eisangelia in Greek) at Athens, its brief flourish in fourteenth century Britain, and its flowering in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Subsequently we turn to the impeachment of Warren Hastings in 1788-1795 and then to the earliest impeachments in the US. We keep in mind the different time periods and governmental structures (direct democracy, monarchy with parliament, representative democracy) and investigate how legal processes--and their rhetoric--function in each of them.

Adele Scafuro



CLAS 1750H: Heroes and Heroism in Graeco - Roman Antiquity and Beyond

Examines the concept of hero, an ancient Greek word, which had a wide variety of meanings and was employed to designate a series of diverse characters of myth. We will trace the evolution of this idea through a detailed analysis of its uses in Greek and Roman texts, and also contrast its ancient sense with present day conceptions of the hero and heroism. All readings will be in English. The course is open to all undergraduates, but preference will be given to juniors and seniors.

Pura Nieto Hernandez



CLAS 2110K: Vision and Visualization in Literature: The Rhetoric of Enargeia

How does writing make us see? We will study rhetorical concepts of “vivid description” (enargeia, phantasia, evidentia) from ancient Greek and Roman theory and literary practice and follow their reception in later periods and literary traditions, including modern evaluations of their significance (all readings in English). Taking texts from poetry, historiography, philosophy, and elsewhere, we will explore “vividness” particularly in terms of tropes of persona-fashioning (prosōpopoeia) and subject-positioning, with attention to the ethical and ideological implications that that may entail, and explore its relations with such topics as ecphrasis, narratology, and spectacularity.

Joseph Reed



COLT 1430B: Art and Exemplarity in Medieval and Early Modern Literature

In this course we will cover a selection of Classical, Medieval and Early Modern works from various linguistic traditions (English, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish), which feature literary representations of art, especially via scenes that are ekphrastic in nature (the description of Achilles’s shield in Homer’s Iliad, for instance), and via textual moments that use exemplary ekphrastic scenes as a point of departure for larger commentaries on: the nature of art, the role of the artist, and the reception of works of art along with their attendant sociocultural impact. Taking moments of renegotiation, critique, and resistance towards dominant hierarchies as a helpful framework, along with texts that explicitly situate themselves against the exemplary model from which they are drawing, we will give special attention to race and gender by examining the artistic representation of marginalized bodies that are explicitly gendered or racialized in the literary texts in which they appear. We will also look at race and gender in select works from Medieval and Early Modern artists.

Alani Hicks-Bartlett



COLT 2830B: Frameworks of Antiquity: Disciplines, Discourses, Politics

At least since decolonization, the study of antiquity has been a battleground for conflicting projects (imperial, colonial, national, indigenous, religious, feminist and queer, etc.). This seminar explores disciplinary formations that have supplied rival groups with cognitive maps, narratives of identity formation and transformation, and assets for real and symbolic capital. We will explore key disciplinary sites of debate—in archaeology, philology, philosophy, Scriptural and Classical studies, and history—concerning the distribution of groups (of people, languages, races), the establishment of spatial and temporal boundaries, and the limits of what can be argued, shown, possessed, and claimed to be true.

Tamara Chin

Adi Ophir



HIAA 1307: Politics and Spectacle in the Arts of Ancient Rome

This seminar investigates the intersection of politics and spectacles in the artistic production of ancient Rome. We will explore a variety of public monuments to reveal how they codify essential aspects of Roman culture. Topics include the architecture of entertainment spaces such as theaters, amphitheaters, and circuses, as well as the social functions of spectacles such as gladiatorial games and triumphal processions. We will look at expressions of imperial propaganda in monuments such as tombs and honorific arches. The class also considers how these ideas entered the private realm in the form of domestic wall paintings, mosaics, and sculpture gardens.

Gretel Rodriguez



HIAA 1401: Objects of Devotion in the Middle Ages

How did people in the medieval world ‘do’ devotion? What role did objects and architectural spaces have in engaging with the divine? This seminar explores the liminal role objects and spaces had as mediators, as foci, and even the metaphysical embodiment of saints in the Middle Ages. We will study the legacy of attitudes toward icons, relics, and martyrdom in Late Antiquity in the early and high European Middle Ages. We examine the medieval approach to materials and the meditative and performative use of devotional art. Topics to be explored include relics and bodily remains, architecture, pilgrimage, gendered devotion art, iconoclasm, and modern museum practices exhibiting devotional art. Students will have the opportunity to engage in-depth with devotional from the Hay Library and the RISD Museum.

Erica Kinias  



HIAA 2301: Finding the Viewer: The Reception of Ancient Art and Architecture

This graduate seminar will explore the role of viewers in the creation of meanings for ancient art and architecture. We will be looking at a wide variety of artistic forms including architecture, sculpture, wall painting, and mosaics, asking, who were the viewers who encountered these works in ancient settings and how did they respond to their messages? In order to contextualize our case studies, we will engage with primary sources, archaeological data, and theories of ancient viewership and reception.

Gretel Rodriguez



HIAA 2880: Race and Architecture

This graduate seminar will explore race--- a concept of human difference that established hierarchies of power and domination between Europe and Europe's 'others--and architecture from its earliest appearance to the present. Architecture has long reinforced the hierarchies embedded in western epistemology and present narrow visions of the world, reproducing cultural assumptions about space, place, city, comfort, etc., while assimilating race without acknowledging its impact. For its part, architectural history has largely uncritically conveyed the culture, norms, and values of architecture.

Itohan Osayimwese  



HIST 1202: Formation of the Classical Heritage: Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, and Muslims

Explores essential social, cultural, and religious foundation blocks of Western Civilization, 200 BCE to 800 CE. The main theme is the eternal struggle between universalism and particularism, including: Greek elitism vs. humanism; Roman imperialism vs. inclusion; Jewish assimilation vs. orthodoxy; Christian fellowship vs. exclusion, and Islamic transcendence vs. imminence. We will study how ancient Western individuals and societies confronted oppression and/or dramatic change and developed intellectual and spiritual strategies still in use today. Students should be prepared to examine religious thought from a secular point of view. There is no prerequisite or assumed knowledge of the period.  

Kenneth Sacks



HIST 1205: The Long Fall of the Roman Empire

Once thought of as the "Dark Ages," this period of western European history should instead be seen as a fascinating time in which late Roman culture fused with that of the Germanic tribes, a mixture tempered by a new religion, Christianity. Issues of particular concern include the symbolic construction of political authority, the role of religion, the nature of social loyalties, and gender roles.

Jonathan Conant



HIST 1211A: From Imperial Diadem to Papal Tiara: Analyzing the Sources for the History of Europe, 476 to 1215

How do we know what happened in the past? Sure, you can flip open a book or read a Wikipedia page, but how, in this age of fake news, do you know who to trust? What makes a source of information reliable or unreliable, useless or useful? Looking at the history of western Europe from the aftermath of the fall of Rome, this course tackles these questions head-on though a deep, analytical engagement with a variety of different primary sources. From the spectacular miracles of saints to everyday lists of dry goods and property boundaries, true history resides in the text, if only one is clever enough to see it.

Leland Grigoli  



HIST 1512: First Nations: The People and Cultures of Native North America to 1800

This course explores the history of North America through the eyes of the original inhabitants from pre-contact times up through 1800. Far from a simplistic story of European conquest, the histories of Euroamericans and Natives were and continue to be intertwined in surprising ways. Although disease, conquest, and death are all part of this history, this course also tell another story: the big and small ways in which these First Nations shaped their own destiny, controlled resources, utilized local court systems, and drew on millennia-old rituals and practices to sustain their communities despite the crushing weight of colonialism.

Linford Fisher



HIST 1961N: Colonization and Ethnicity in East Asian History

East Asia is among the most culturally and linguistically homogeneous regions of the earth, the result of over two millennia of conquest and colonization. This course explores how the wide diversity of cultures, languages, and ecosystems that once existed across East Asia were transformed into a few dominant cultural groups. We will cover two main topics. One is the process whereby the people now known as the Chinese (or Han) were formed through imperial conquest and cultural mixing. The second focuses on the Ainu people of Northeast Asia and how they were forcibly incorporated into the Japanese nation. This course will teach students to think comparatively about processes of colonialism and ideas of ethnicity. While the colonial practices of Western Europeans have been studied in great depth, those of other civilizations have not received as much attention.

Brian Lander



HIST 1969A: Israel-Palestine: Lands and Peoples 

This advanced undergraduate seminar seeks to provide a deeper understanding of the links between the region now known as Israel and Palestine and the peoples that have inhabited it or have made it into part of their mental, mythical. and religious landscape throughout history. The course will be interdisciplinary at its very core, engaging the perspectives of historians, geologists, geographers, sociologists, scholars of religion and the arts, politics and media. At the very heart of the seminar is the question: What makes for the bond between groups and place - real or imagined, tangible or ephemeral. No prerequisites required.

Omer Bartov



HIST 1981L: Status, Power and Identity in Mid-Imperial China (EAST 1305)

This course explores the intersections of social status, political power, and ethnic identities in China from 220-1368. We examine what we mean by “China” when that region was ruled by multiple, often “non-Chinese” regimes; how foreign influences such as Buddhism changed indigenous Chinese thought and institutions; how economic prosperity undercut aristocratic power structures and created new social and moral ideals; and how foreign invasion affected the economy, institutions, and cultural identity of the region. Throughout the course, we consider how social and political change, as well as class and gender position, conditioned individuals’ views of themselves and their world.

Beverly Bossler



RELS 1050C: Prophets and Priests in Exile: Biblical Literature of the 6th Century BCE (JUDS 1690)

The exile of Judah's elite to Babylon elicited profound and conflicting literary responses. We will undertake a literary and historical analysis of a number of the most important works produced in response to the crisis of exile, including Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Second Isaiah, Lamentations, Psalm 137, the Priestly Writing, and the work of the exilic deuteronomists. Enrollment limited to 20.

Saul Olyan   



RELS 1325C:The Virgin Mary in Christian Tradition

Who was the Virgin Mary? How did she become important, when and to whom? What was inherited? What was new? How were Mary’s meanings demonstrated? A study in the developing theological and devotional traditions regarding Mary the Mother of Jesus, focused on the first thousand years of Christian history. Major theological positions; relationship to pre-existing religious practices and goddess traditions; the role of popular violence; Marian piety; Marian relics; Mary as cultural metaphor.

Susan Harvey

ANTH 1145: Barbarians and Bandits: Exploring Subaltern Resilience and State Power

In the imaginations of ancient Greeks and Romans, the urban centers of ‘civilization’ were surrounded by wild lands where barbarians roamed. Even now, mountains, marshes, forests, and deserts are the realms of bandits, primitive tribes, warlords, and terrorists. From ‘shepherdbandits’ in highland Sardinia and ‘red-faced Gauls’ in Roman France to ‘marginal tribes’ in the Kabyle mountains and the ‘wild people’ of the Ethiopian borderlands, this course explores peripheral lands through time and across the globe. We will critically examine such stereotypical representations, to understand how their inhabitants carved out their own spaces in the interstices of ancient and modern states. 

Peter Van Dommelen


ANTH 1623: Archaeology of Death

Examines death, burial, and memorials using comparative archaeological evidence from prehistory and historical periods. The course asks: What insight does burial give us about the human condition? How do human remains illuminate the lives of people in the past? What can mortuary artifacts tell us about personal identities and social relations? What do gravestones and monuments reveal about beliefs and emotions? Current cultural and legal challenges to the excavation and study of the dead are also considered.

Patricia Rubertone


ANTH 1720: The Human Skeleton

More than simply a tissue within our bodies, the human skeleton is a gateway into narratives of the past--from the evolution of our species to the biography of individual past lives. Through lecture and hands-on laboratory, students will learn the complete anatomy of the human skeleton, with an emphasis on the human skeleton in functional and evolutionary perspective. We'll also explore forensic and bioarchaeological approaches to the skeleton. By the course conclusion, students will be able to conduct basic skeletal analysis and will be prepared for more advanced studies of the skeleton from medical, forensic, archaeological, and evolutionary perspectives.

Josh Schnell


ANTH 1830: The Pictured Text

Writing makes language visible, and thus concerns images. Language also delimits the legibility of imagery. Turning words into images and images into words occurs at great speed around us. This course explores the relation of text and image across world traditions—Chinese, Mayan, Egyptian, Islamic, Greco-Roman, and others, extending up to the present. Topics include: calligraphy, context, scribal practice, the form and shape of writing, including typography, hidden or pseudo-writing, graffiti, and contemporary art.

Stephen D. Houston


ANTH 2202: Advanced GIS and Spatial Analysis

This course develops students’ skills in geographic information systems and spatial analysis beyond those taught in Anthropology 1201 or other introductory GIS courses, with the goal of facilitating advanced, independent research. The course begins with a rapid review of data models, spatial data management, and thematic mapping, which is designed to quickly bring students with less formal GIS training up to speed. We then move on suitability modeling, network analysis, intermediate spatial statistics, and scripting, with a focus on developing competencies across multiple software platforms, including QGIS, ArcGIS Pro and R. Some topics can be further adjusted to meet student needs and interests. There are no formal prerequisites but an introductory course in GIS (such as Anthropology 1201) is highly recommended.

Parker VanValkenburgh


ARCH 1305: Myth and Narrative in Greek Art

From Homeric epics to Athenian tragedies, masterpieces of mythological narrative form the backbone of Greek literature. But myth and storytelling were also powerful forces in Greek art — from vase painting to monumental sculpture. This class asks how myth in art responded to social realities or political developments, and what was the role or agency of the artist as a creator of content? How did myths evolve over time or take on new meanings in different contexts? Our class will look at many mythological stories in art and learn to “read” Greek visual narrative within its artistic, social, economic, and political setting.

Cicek Beeby  


ARCH 1439/URBN 1870K: Jerusalem Divided: Politics and Cultural Heritage

The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim traditions, undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list.” These are the words of Irina Bokova, former Director-General of UNESCO, spoken in 2016. While the indivisible heritage referred to in this context reflects the reality of Jerusalem’s Old City’s intertwined historical, cultural, and religious legacies, it does not address the geopolitical conflict, in which ideological and territorial claims produce diverging heritage narratives. In this seminar, we will examine how competing heritage narratives have been shaped by Israeli, Palestinian, and international views and interests. We will explore the history of archaeological exploration, discovery, and interpretation in Jerusalem in the contexts of social, political, and religious debates from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, with an emphasis on its urban landscape. 

Katherina M. Galor 


ARCH 1765: Pandemics, Pathogens, and Plagues in the Greek and Roman Worlds

Terror of mass illness is nothing new; as long as there have been humans, there has been disease. These pandemics and plagues have had mortal impacts on past societies, much as contemporary plagues affect today’s economies, social and political structures, and populations. This class considers disease and society in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, beginning with the Plague of Athens in 430 BC and continuing to the outbreak of the ‘first pandemic’ of bubonic plague in AD 541. We will examine these case studies through archaeological material, written accounts, DNA analysis, palaeoclimate reconstruction, and palaeopathology.

Tyler V Franconi


ARCH 1830: Fake! History of the Inauthentic

What is a fake? Who gets to decide what is authentic? Greek statues, Chinese bronzes, Maya glyphs. Have fraudulent objects always existed? Galileo’s signature, a centaur’s skeleton, Buddhas bearing swastikas. Are all fakes the same? If not, how are they different? Why do people make forgeries? This course revolves around the history of the inauthentic through a diachronic exploration of objects. 

Felipe A. Rojas Silva


ARCH 2670: Between the Sahara and the Sea: North Africa in the Ancient World

The archaeology of ancient North Africa (here Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya) is a complex and fascinating record of the many ancient cultures, both indigenous and colonial, who lived between the Sahara and the Mediterranean. This course will explore the material record of Numidians, Garamantes, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans across diverse rural and urban landscapes as we contextualize the archaeology of North Africa not simply as a place built by foreign powers who controlled the Mediterranean, but one characterized by vibrant and lasting local traditions and multidirectional connections and influences.

Candace M. Rice


ASYR 2430: Akkadian Historical Texts

This course offers focused study of the most significant Akkadian historical and chronographic texts from the second and first millennia BCE. Readings in cuneiform will come for the major genres of Mesopotamian history-writing found at sites throughout the ancient Near East, including commemorative inscriptions, annals, chronicles, literary historical texts, and historical miscellanea. We will contend with the disjunctions between ancient and modern modes of historical thinking and work to contextualize the ancient texts. Knowledge of Akkadian cuneiform required. Reading knowledge of German and French will be useful but is not required. Intended primarily for graduate students.

Matthew T. Rutz


ASYR 2950: Scribal and Scholarly Practices in Babylonia and Assyria

This seminar will explore the development of written traditions among the cuneiform scribes of ancient Babylonia and Assyria. Topics covered include the mechanics of writing on clay tablets, the training of scribes and the school curriculum, the status of scribes in society, the development of literary and scholarly traditions, the creation of tablet archives, the circulation of scholarly knowledge, and the range of scholarship (e.g. science, medicine, ritual, literature) found in Babylonia and Assyria.

John M. Steele 


EGYT 1320: Introduction to Classical Hieroglyphic Egyptian Writing and Language (Middle Egyptian II)

Continuation of a two-semester sequence spent learning the signs, vocabulary, and grammar of one of the oldest languages known. By the end of this introductory year, students read authentic texts of biographical, historical, and literary significance. The cornerstone course in the Department of Egyptology - essential for any serious work in this field and particularly recommended for students in archaeology, history, classics, and religious studies. Prerequisite: EGYT 1310.


EGYT 1410: Ancient Egyptian Literature

A survey of one of the most intriguing aspects of ancient Egyptian culture. Readings (in translation) of many of the most significant literary documents that survive from Egypt. Presentation of a reasonable amount of historical perspective. Class discussions concerning the nature, purpose, quality, and effectiveness of the works read. Two term papers. No prerequisites. Offered in alternate years.

James P. Allen


EGYT 1485: Magic, Mummies, and Drugs: Medicine and Physicians in Ancient Egypt

Did you know the ancient Egyptians would rub crocodile fat on their heads to treat baldness? Or that an eel warmed in oil would supposedly combat the smell of sweaty feet? If you would like to know more about the practice of medicine in ancient Egypt (including treatments that actually worked), then welcome to Magic, Mummies, and Drugs! In this course, we will read through medical papyri (in translation) and examine ancient mummies to learn how the Egyptians understood and treated the diseases that afflicted them. We will also look at how physicians were trained, which instruments they used, and how much they knew about human anatomy. Lastly, we will explore such specialized branches of medicine as gynecology, dentistry, ophthalmology, surgery, and veterinary medicine.

Silvia Nigrelli  


EGYT 1490: Calendars and Chronology in Ancient Egypt and the Ancient World

Time is the dimension of history. Chronology studies how we know when events happened. Chronology is much more important to "BC history" than to "AD history." History books state that the great Ramses II ruled around the thirteenth century B.C.E. But how do we know this? The focus of this class is on the answers to such questions through the study of the foundations of the history of Egypt specifically and of the ancient world in general. Some prior knowledge of Egyptian language or civilization might be handy but is by no means required.

Leo Depuydt


EGYT 2300: Readings in Ancient Egyptian

Advanced readings in ancient Egyptian texts in the original script and language. Readings will be selected from a particular genre, historical period, or site. This course is intended primarily for graduate students and may be repeated for credit. A reading knowledge of ancient Egyptian is required. A reading knowledge of both German and French is strongly recommended but not required.

Leo Depuydt


CLAS 1120W: Aristotle

A close study of Aristotle's major works: his method, natural philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, with main emphasis on his ethics. Readings from original sources (in translation) and some contemporary secondary material. The class will combine lectures and discussion and is a writing course.

Mary Louise Gill


CLAS 1220: The Fall of Empires and Rise of Kings: Greek History 478 to 323 BC

The Greek world was transformed in less than 200 years. The rise and fall of Empires (Athens and Persia) and metamorphosis of Macedon into a supreme power under Philip II and Alexander the Great provide the headlines. The course covers an iconic period of history, and explores lifechanging events that affected the people of the eastern Mediterranean and the topics that allow us to understand aspects of life and culture of the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean. and through these transformations, offers insights into the common pressures that communities confronted. No prior knowledge of ancient history is required.

Johanna M. Hanink


CLAS 1230: The Persian Empire and Achaemenid Culture

CLAS1230 explores the Persian Empire (6th to 4th centuries BCE), its beginnings, development, historiography. We will incorporate Achaemenid culture, and its reception, in a broad spatial and temporal context. The course approaches the ancient world from the perspective of 'the Other'. Taking a Perso-centric view, the course incorporates the multi-disciplinary fields associated with Achaemenid studies since the 1980s. Primary source documents, maps, and readings, will be assembled to provide students with visual, material, and written evidence from the regions of the Persian Empire. Central to this course will be our own engagement with difference/different cultures, and their presentation(s). The majority of the materials will be delivered via the Canvas site. No prior knowledge of antiquity is assumed.

Graham J. Oliver 


CLAS 1420: Death in the West

This course explores the history of western attitudes toward death from their origins in the ancient Near East and classical antiquity through the medieval and early modern periods to the modern era. The aim is to trace the evolution of western deathways against the backdrop of an anthropologically and sociologically informed understanding of this universal human experience. Among the issues to be considered are the needs of both individuals and society in proper treatment of the dead; in what ways funerary customs reflect broader cultural and historical developments; and what the implications are of recent and contemporary trends in western funerary practices.

John P. Bodel


CLAS 2080H: Topics in Roman Republican History

This seminar will examine some of the major controversies in Roman Republican history, with possible excurses to the archaic and triumviral periods. The focus will be on political and cultural history, and on questions of method and theory. Topics will be partially dictated by student interest. Assessment include student presentations and leading discussions, writing an abstract for a term paper, and a term paper. 

Amy Russell


COLT 1310E: A Classical Islamic Education: Readings in Arabic Literature

This seminar introduces students to the essential texts of a classical education in the ArabicIslamic world. What works of poetry, literary criticism, belletristic prose, biography, geography, history, and other disciplines were considered staples of a well-rounded education in medieval Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, or Fez? Emphasis will be placed on close and patient readings of primary sources. At least three years of Arabic required.

Elias I Muhanna


COLT 2821X: Approaches to the Han Dynasty

This graduate seminar aims to give students a grounding in both traditional and recent approaches to Han dynasty literature, culture, and history. We will look at both excavated and received traditions from a range of disciplinary perspectives (philology, archaeology, history, comparative literature). Reading knowledge of classical and modern Chinese required. 

Tamara Chin


HIAA 1101C: Water and Architecture

The seminar explores the varied ways in which water is manipulated in architecture and urban planning. It is organized in ‘archaeological’ order: from the most recent to the oldest. We will examine case studies, beginning with Tadao Ando’s Water Temple and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. We will examine the local examples of Slater Mill, the Blackstone River, and Barnaby Evans’ Waterfire. We will then look back at historical examples: the Hoover Dam, the creation of Venice and the Grand Canal of China, the fountains at Versailles, the Islamic gardens at Isfahan, the medieval hydraulic plan for Canterbury Cathedral, and the Roman aqueduct bridge of the Pont du Gard. One of the principal aims of the course is to place the discussion of design into historical, technological and environmental contexts, and to provide students with experience in the production of architectural projects.

Sheila Bonde


HIAA 1411: Illustrating Indigenous Knowledge

This seminar examines the transatlantic politics of publishing indigenous knowledge. In early modern Europe, pictorial prints codified paradigm shifts in geography, ecology, and medicine. Knowledge of newly conquered lands appeared in books illustrated by artists who, often, had never visited the places they pictured. Meanwhile in the Americas, indigenous and creole artists appealed to experienced printmakers and publishers in Europe while building resources and artisanal knowledge among local printmakers. How did the power dynamics of coloniality shape the way knowledge of indigenous peoples was codified? We will answer this question through study of illustrated books in special collections at Brown.

Emily K. Monty


HIAA 1440E: The Body and the Senses in Medieval Art

The seminar considers the contradictory aspects of embodiment in the visual and material culture of the Middle Ages. We will examine the veneration of holy bodies through living holy individuals, and through body parts (relics) and the Eucharist enshrined in sumptuous containers. We will look at the iconography of death and resurrection, the representation of the body in painting and sculpture, attitudes toward sexuality, the performance of identity through clothing, and the sumptuary laws that governed clothing and behavior. We will investigate funerary rituals and burial, and the movement of living bodies in dance and in civic and religious processions.

Sheila Bonde


HIAA 1882: Indigenous Art, Issues and Concepts

This seminar will map out the field of indigenous art with an emphasis on artworks from English-speaking settler colonial countries, concentrating on Native North American and Aboriginal Australian artists. We will approach indigenous art theoretically, outlining major issues and concepts of this global topic. Units will include defining indigeneity and indigenous art terms, anthropology in relation to art, and curatorial practice. We will begin by addressing the concept of indigeneity through legal and sociopolitical frameworks, continuing with museological display of indigenous art across time, and seeing how museums are working to better contextualize their anthropological collections.

Marina Tyquiengco                 


HIST 1700/ARCH 1781: Violence: A Brief History

Violence has long shaped human societies. This class considers violence as a social phenomenon across the globe from prehistory to today: how it has been conceptualized, practiced, and legitimated; its effects on societies and on individuals; and its role in creating, patterning, and perpetuating relations of power. Class meetings interweave lectures with student analysis of textual, archaeological, and visual evidence. Themes include the origins of violence, gender, warfare, state mobilization, rhetorics of dehumanization, religion, colonialism, imperialism, race and ethnicity, the coercion of labor, crime and punishment, trauma, reliance, and representations and constructions of violence.

Jonathan P. Conant


RELS 1325A: Educating Bodies in Ancient Christianity

How did ancient Christians learn to be Christian? Did Christian education look different from the ways that “Pagans” learned to be Pagan, Jews Jewish, or “heretics” heretics? This course explores the many ways that Christians learned to be Christian, paying particular attention to the role of the family, city, liturgy, and, of course, “schools.” We will adopt a comparative approach, looking at education among heretical “Gnostic” communities, on the one hand, and the rabbinic Jewish community, on the other. Some familiarity with the ancient Mediterranean world, through prior study of early Christianity, Judaism, Classics, or Ancient History, is recommended.

Jae Hee Han


RELS 1420: The Contemplative Foundations of Classical Daoism 

Introduction to classical Daoism, one of the two indigenous religions of China, through the history, philosophy, and contemplative practices found in its foundational works the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi. Through careful study of these texts, we will attempt to reconstruct the intellectual and experiential elements on which this tradition was based. 

Harold D. Roth


RELS 1445: Sinners and Seers in Japanese Literature

Exploration of Japanese Buddhist sensibilities as expressed in poetry, popular tales, drama, and fiction. Recurring themes include wrongdoing and its karmic consequences; renunciation; tension between aesthetic and religious commitments; pilgrimage as creative process; the role of nature in the quest for enlightenment. Reading and discussion in a seminar-style format. A previous course in Buddhism or East Asian culture is helpful but not required. \

Janine T. Anderson Sawada


RELS 1600A: Race, Religion, and Ethnicity in the Study of Antiquity

Critical theory presents new challenges and opportunities for the study of antiquity. What is critical theory and how might it be useful for understanding categories such as race, religion, and ethnicity in antiquity? How might critical theory help us to think about the ethical implications of contemporary study of the distant past? Graduate and advanced undergraduate students with interests in any premodern society are welcome.

Michael A. Satlow 


 RELS 1830D: Constructing the Human: Humanness and Animality in the Ancient World

What does it mean to be human? How do we define “Humanness” and what assumptions do we make about our own distinctions between “Humans” and “Animals” when we define humanness? This course will look at the process of constructing the human category in the ancient world and compare that process to our own modern conceptions of humanness. In what ways are they similar and in what ways are they different? How can ancient examples of the human category inform our own ethical understandings of what it means to be human?

Tanner Walker


RELS 2050: Religious Identities in Sasanian Persia

Sasanian Persia is rapidly emerging as a locus of study among scholars of Syriac Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism, and Ancient Iran. This course synthesizes recent advances in scholarship within these individual fields and experiments with alternative modes of contextualization. Primary sources include the Talmud, the Hekhalot corpus, Syriac martyrdom narratives, Manichaean literature, and Mandaean texts. We will also interrogate broader methodological questions, including comparative projects between “Roman” and “Persian” contexts, models of scholarly representation, and the limits of agonistic/assimilative frameworks. Reading knowledge of one of the following languages required: Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Greek, Coptic, Arabic, or Middle Persian.

Jae Hee Han