Legends and Archaeology of Early Complex Bronze Age Polities

(July 2021) This course explores the relationship between legends and myths and archaeological evidence through reviews of the core evidence and methods used in archaeological and historical studies used to link myths to archaeological data. It will cover the theoretical and methodological  from the 18th century and the influence of social context and cultural importance of archaeological discovery. The archaeological and historical evidence led to the conclusive identification of prehistoric archaeological cultures of China as the legendary Shang dynasty. In Greece, while the discoveries and promotion of Mycenae as the site of the legendary Homeric king Agamemnon and the suit of identification of sites and artifacts with those described by Homer showed, at the very least, that a healthy skepticism and distance over the factual accuracy of myth needs to be maintained. However, as over a century of scholarship and discoveries showed, stretching throughout the Mycenaean world and including Hittite and Egyptian accounts, militant skepticism can be as unscientific as blind beliefs. Yet, how much of this is useful to archaeology? Is myth-hunting a worthwhile endeavor?

Alexander Westra
Course Code: 
ARCH 305