I am a fan of Revealing Archaeology. It provides an engaging and thoughtful introduction to the field and most importantly, gives students “hands on” experiences that have been difficult to incorporate into my introduction to archaeology course before.
To be honest, I’ve been skeptical about using software as a teaching aid; I liked the course I taught, the book I used, and the exercises I’d developed in the past 10 years of teaching. I didn’t think the available software introduced students to the range of challenges we encounter in archaeology and, given the added expense and hassle, I’ve relied on traditional aids–a textbook, films, handouts.
Well, after one term of using Revealing Archaeology, I see that this software does what a textbook-based course simply cannot do. The method and theory of archaeology is introduced in a series of chapter-like modules, illustrated with stunning photographs and line drawings from around the world and a variety of archaeological projects. This is impressive, but in format not materially different from what students could learn from a textbook. What is distinctive about the software (and the student’s learning experience) are the clever, well-designed exercises, simulations of activities that students carry out as they work through the modules. Using the mouse and keyboard, students actually seriate a set of ceramics assemblages, correlate stratigraphic beds across a valley, figure out which items make good index fossils, negotiate a land-use agreement, excavate a multi-component site, and graph results of an analysis. And these are just a few examples. Students get as close to doing archaeology as possible without actually getting in the field or taking a lab class.
In short, I strongly recommend Revealing Archaeology for use in introduction to principles (method and theory) in archaeology. It was a joy to teach from and I’m absolutely convinced that students have a deeper, richer understanding about how archaeology “works” than they obtained from the text-based approach I’ve used in previous years.
Virginia L. Butler
Professor of Anthropology
Portland State University