Ships of Wisdom:
Ancient Trade Routes and the Diffusion of Ideas
Fall & Winter Quarters 2011/2012
Faculty: Joe Tougas, Ulrike Krotscheck
In this full-time lower-division program, we will investigate how and why humans, throughout history, have taken to the sea to explored the limits of their known world. What were the motives and the consequences of these, often dangerous, ventures? We will focus on some specific case studies (the ancient Mediterranean, the Pacific Northwest, the Chinese empire, and the Polynesian islanders, among others), and learn about some theories of economic and cultural exchange over long distances. Some of the question we’ll be addressing include: How did humans figure out the navigational and boatbuilding technologies needed for overseas exploration? What were the prime motivators for overseas exploration? What new kinds of knowledge were gained through this travel, and what is the relationship between the material goods and the ideas and ideologies that were traded? How do modern archeologists and historians go about piecing together answers to questions like these?
We will read texts on archeology, ancient history and philosophy, anthropology, and marine studies. In addition to historical and scientific accounts, we’ll read ancient epics and contemporary fiction, seeking an understanding of the age-old connections between human cultures and the sea. We will consider the religious, philosophical, and scientific practices that grew out of those connections—practices that are the common heritage of coast-dwelling peoples around the globe. We will have the opportunity to get out on the water ourselves, learning maritime skills while becoming familiar with the local coastal environment and its rich cultural history.
Typical weekly schedule:
Monday: 9-3; Lecture and workshops
Tuesday: No class meeting; student prep. day
Wednesday: 9-12; Seminar
Thursday: 9-3; Lecture, discussion, workshops, films, etc.
Friday: 9-12; Seminar, workgroups, etc.