ARCHY 319 A Wi 19: Archaeology Of Australia

ARCHY 319 A Wi 19: Archaeology Of Australia

The promise of this course

Amongst the core aims of archaeology is using archaeological evidence to tell a convincing story about past human behaviour. This course will focus on the kinds of stories told about past human behavior in Australia from the arrival of the first hominins right up until recent times. At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Describe some of the archaeological evidence from Australia and construct a basic timeline of major social, economic and technological events across the continent.
  2. Understand the controversies current in Australian archaeology, especially those surrounding major events and processes.
  3. Apply scientific thinking to evaluate different sides of the current controversies, interpret archaeological evidence and evaluate the validity of different explanations

This course will develop skills that to help you excel in a wide variety of professions and careers. Although our topic is Australian archaeology, all of the activities of this course are designed to teach and cultivate critical thinking skills that are useful in many professional contexts, regardless of the specific topic you are dealing with.  

This is a 5 credit course that will satisfy the I&S requirement and the W credit. It is on the 'Strongly recommended' list for the UW Archaeological Science Option. It meets MW 10:30 am - 12:20 pm in MUE 154 (check available places).

Instructor contact details

Professor Ben Marwick
Contact details & office location

Office Hours: 12:30-1:30 pm Mondays in DEN 230 or by making an appointment 
Fastest way to get your question answered: You should start a new discussion on our class discussion board. I will respond to those faster than an email.


A calendar view of the assignments is online here (the UW calendar of term dates and holidays is here)

We are going to meet in lectures and sections and we will be reading, discussing, writing and presenting on the archaeology of Australia. We’ll have about five hours of class time per week, you should complement this with about 10-15 hours of private study and preparation, depending on how efficient you are (contact me if you’re finding that you need to spend a lot more than this!)

Here are the specific activities that we will engage in to fulfill the promise of this course:

Mondays. We meet for a lecture class where I will help you (1) get up-to-date information on current research an theories relevant to the topics we’re studying, (2) summarize material scattered over a variety of published sources and (3) adapt the material to a level and style that is easier to understand than how it appears in publication. In the lectures I also hope to stimulate your interest in the topic through by providing structure and expectations (and of course though our sheer enthusiasm for the topic). There will not be any readings assigned for the lectures, but you will be expected to directly engage with the material presented and we will be doing a variety of activities to ensure engagement, including in-class writings (see the schedule of assignments below).

Wednesdays. We will meet for the seminar class. Each week the discussion will start off with a brief informal review of how we are going with assignments. This is a time when we discuss, organize and prepare for the assignments. Then we will have a class discussion that explores the readings you did for the week. You will submit your seminar notes at the end of each Wed class (hard copy, in person). 

Here's the approximate schedule of topics that we will explore: 

Week 1. Introduction (slides, quiz)
Week 2. First human settlement of Sahul (slides)
Week 3. MLK Day & Physical form of Pleistocene Australians
Week 4. Pleistocene economy & Pleistocene technology (slides)
Week 5. The question of extinctions (slides)
Week 6. Tasmania isolated & Tasmania adapting (slides)
Week 7. Coastal Holocene economies & Arid Australia
Week 8. Inland economies in Holocene Australia & Technology in Holocene Australia (slides)
Week 9. Late Holocene intensification & Art in Holocene Australia
Week 10. European contact and settlement (slides)


You can measure your progress in achieving the learning goals for this course by doing the assignments and reviewing our feedback. We can divide the assignments for this class into two groups: small things and big things. You can see how these contribute to your final grade by looking at the assignments page. 

The small things are lecture quizzes and seminar notes. The motivation for these assignments is to show you the best practices for engaging with the topics of the course, and to give you recognition for your engagement. These activities will be focused on the describe, construct, evaluate, and interpret learning goals described above. The seminar notes require you to closely read one scholarly journal article per week, add your annotations to the article online and respond to annotations from other students. This activity is focused on the learning goals of evaluating and understanding, as noted above. The lecture quizzes are every Monday at the start of each lecture, and are focused on the learning goals of describing, constructing and evaluating. 

The big things are a short group-authored biography of an Australian archaeology, and a single-authored long scholarly essay. The biography is a publicly-visible Wikipedia article, this will be due at the middle of the quarter. This activity is focused on the learning goals of applying, describing, analysing, and interpreting. The long essay is a sustained argument about an unresolved question in Australian archaeology. It is due in the last week of classes. This is focused on the learning goals of describing, evaluated and constructing. Both of these big things have several smaller assignments to provide scaffolding for you. These smaller assignments have been carefully designed to give you the skills you need to succeed in the big project, at the time you need them. These smaller assignments will help you get a good grade on the final product. 

From time to time we will request your feedback and responses using an online quiz or similar. The will be infrequent and easy. They are not graded and will not form part of your final grade for the class. The purpose of these is to encourage you to participate and find meaning in your experience of this class in ways that are not focussed on getting a grade. We do this because it will help you to prepare to participate effectively in civil society, where we often do things because we believe in their essential worth, rather than to get a higher salary or improve our status in material ways. 

There are extra credit opportunities that can increase your final grade by a maximum of 10%. We will discuss these in class. If you have a medical emergency or other exceptional circumstance and want to discuss alternative assessment plans, please send me an email. 

Grading and late penalties

Keep an eye on your grades in the Canvas gradebook. We do make mistakes grading and are happy to correct them, but in order to make the process work smoothly we require requests for re-grading to be made in a courteous email. So if you feel that your work was incorrectly or unfairly graded, please write a detailed statement with the relevant details (including URLs to the assignment instructions so we know exactly which one you are referring to), and send it to us along with your original work. We'll all take a look, and as a caveat, please note that (1) we also have the option of re-examining your entire work for the course and (2) the outcome might be a lower grade rather than a higher one for the assignment you’re concerned about, or any other that we look at. For more details on how we grade: and 

The following grading scale will be used:

Percent = Grade
95 = 4.0 88 = 3.3 81 = 2.6 74 = 1.9 67 = 1.2
94 = 3.9 87 = 3.2 80 = 2.5 73 = 1.8 66 = 1.1
93 = 3.8 86 = 3.1 79 = 2.4 72 = 1.7 65 = 1.0
92 = 3.7 85 = 3.0 78 = 2.3 71 = 1.6 64 = 0.9
91 = 3.6 84 = 2.9 77 = 2.2 70 = 1.5 63 = 0.8
90 = 3.5 83 = 2.8 76 = 2.1 69 = 1.4 60-62 = 0.7
89 = 3.4 82 = 2.7 75 = 2.0 68 = 1.3 <60 = 0.0

Each student receives three free "late days", each of which allows you to submit an assignment up to 24 hours late without penalty. You will need to notify me by stating on your submitted work that you are using a late day (not by email). Once you have used up all late days, assignments will have 10% deducted from the grade per day (including weekends). Assignments will not be accepted more than seven days after the due date (which means you’ll get a zero score for that assignment). If you have circumstances that you suspect will influence your assignment scheduling (e.g. such as observance of regularly scheduled religious obligations, military duty or university-sponsored activities such as debating contests or athletic competition) then let us know in writing in advance and the late penalty may be waived if appropriate documentation is supplied. I review late requests and circumstances on a case by case basis and make decisions accordingly.

I generally am not sympathetic to technology problems (servers go down, transfers time out, files become corrupt, things get lost or stolen, the list goes on and on). These are not considered emergencies. They are part of the normal production process. An issue you may have with technology will not excuse late work. We expect you to protect yourself by managing your time sensibly and robustly backing up your work. Plan ahead, save your work frequently and use reliable services (eg. Google Drive and GitHub are ones I rely on) for backing up your work. The final decision about late penalties rests with the instructor, though you may appeal to the Chair of the Anthropology Department if you feel the instructor’s decision is unjust.

Text and required supplies

There is no textbook required for this course. All required readings will be posted to the course website as PDF files or you have to find using the UW Libraries. All readings will be available online (though you may have to search for them). If we were using a textbook, it would be Peter Hiscock's The Archaeology of Ancient Australia, which is an excellent resource to help you with your long paper (I'm not just saying that because he was my PhD adviser, it really is!). I've put a PDF of it here

Class and University policies, guidelines & support

Our rules of conduct are based on the responses you provided in our class discussion. Thank you for your thoughtful contributions to making this class a productive learning environment. Here is a summary of your responses:


Do not

  • Participate in class discussions, with the instructor and with other students
  • Ask questions in class, to the instructor and to other students  
  • Speak clearly when asking questions and in discussion
  • Limit your questions and comments to 3-4 per class
  • Be mindful other other students' time and space
  • Be inclusive in the discussions
  • Take the material seriously
  • Be friendly
  • Be a good listener
  • Reach out for help
  • Respect each other


  • Don’t talk while the professor or students are speaking
  • Don’t make distracting comments and noises
  • Don’t dominate the conversation or lecture with too many questions and comments

This list is our contract. You've now told us what you value, and we will honour that by upholding and enforcing those values in our classroom and online spaces. I have a low tolerance for uncivil behaviour, and you should too. If you experience any incivility in this class, please let me know, or you can go directly to the Chair of the Anthropology Department. If you need to make an anonymous report, contact the SafeCampus office. 

Here is the official Student Code of Conduct: 

Access and Accommodations: Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.


Academic honesty: 

General support

Course Summary:

Date Details Due