ARAA 320: Archaeological Discoveries: A Passion for Classical Antiquity

Instructor: Giampiero Bevagna - Laurea
Credits: 3
Course/Lab Fee: TBA for museum visits and travel (course reader fee announced by the Print Shop)
Prerequisite: None
Cross-Listing: Archaeology, Classical Studies, Courses with Service Learning Components, History, Museum Studies

Course Description
This course tries to provide answers to two fundamental questions that confront the modern observer of archaeological artifacts:

  1. why are these relics important and what importance have they had through the ages in order to have been preserved for us today?
  2. how does one “read” artifacts in a careful manner and what can be learned from them about a society?

In the first part of the course, the focus will be on Western culture’s debt to the Ancient Greek classical conceptions of aesthetics – an idea of style born in Athens around 500 BCE that went on to condition visual arts in the rest of Greek and Roman antiquity as well as successive eras. Students will explore in depth the “meaning” Greek art had for the Romans, and examine the enormous significance given to the classical archaeological heritage in Italy during later periods: during the Renaissance,  Romanticism, the Risorgimento, Fascism, and in modern times.



The second part of the course will focus on a detailed examination of specific items of archaeological remains (monuments, sculptures, paintings, graves) in order to gain a sophisticated understanding of what these artifacts can tell us about a society’s values and habits. Thematic elements confronted will include: war, theater, sexuality, sports, and food/drink. In keeping with the first part of the course, the question of what “uncomfortable” elements of classical society later periods chose to ignore, while exalting other elements, will remain at the forefront of discussion.


Course Objectives

  • Acquire a sophisticated and in-depth understanding of the importance of
    archaeological  discoveries in Italy through the ages
  • Develop critical reasoning, formal visual analysis and comprehension of archaeological experience.
  • Gain knowledge of the principal elements of ancient culture and tradition
  • Acquire familiarity with and be able to analyze different kinds of archaeological remains

Service Learning Project Description

The archaeology class works with the Museo Archeologico Nazionale dell’Umbria and San Lorenzo Cathedral Museum to better communicate the context of historic and modern Perugia to international visitors. You will research the museums’ artifacts, prepare and edit the student-created English-language website, as well as archive items and promote museum events. The projects will conclude with a presentation of your research to the Umbra community.


Course Materials

Sophocles, Oedipus the King (trans. David Grene) [ISBN 978-0226307923]

Mandatory course readers


Field Trip

Students will take an overnight trip to Rome where they will tour the Vatican Museums, visit the Capitolini building, and tour Villa Giulia.