2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Ships of Wisdom: Ancient Trade Routes and the Diffusion of Ideas


Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 quarters

Joseph Tougas philosophy , Ulrike Krotscheck classics, archaeology
Fields of Study
classics, history, maritime studies and philosophy
Preparatory for studies or careers in
history, archaeology, philosophy, and the humanities.

In this full-time lower-division program, we will investigate how and why humans, throughout history, have taken to the sea to explore 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, the Polynesian islanders, and the Atlantic during the age of sail), and learn about some theories of economic and cultural exchange over long distances. Some of the questions 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 archaeologists and historians go about piecing together answers to questions like these? 

We will read texts on archaeology, ancient history and philosophy, anthropology, and marine studies. In addition to historical and scientific accounts, we’ll read works of literature, 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 also work on reading, writing, and critical thinking skills which will facilitate students' transition into advanced college-level work.  In order to test our theories in practice, we will have  opportunities to become familiar with the local coastal environment and its rich cultural history.  This will take the form of a three-day field trip to the Makah Museum and other sites of historical and archaeological interest on the Washington coast.

Academic Website
Online Learning
No Required Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
Fall $250/Winter $80 for field trips.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
January 6th, 2012 Winter fee added.
November 21st, 2011 This program will accept new enrollment without signature, but students will need to complete work over the winter break.
May 13th, 2011 This program is now offered to Sophomores in addition to Freshmen.
March 3rd, 2011 New program added.