Human Survival – Learning from the past

This is a First Year Investigations Course at USC’s Dornsife College. 

Short course description: 

Have you ever wanted to learn how to make your own stone tools? Brew beer? Make cheese? Smelt copper? 

If you had lived 6,000 years ago, you were part of a culture that taught you how to do these things, in order to survive. You would have fished, hunted, used stone and metal tools to cut up and skin animals, plants and many other things. You would have learned how to create sickles to harvest grain and other plants. Grain went into bread and beer – and we’ll make both in this class. If you wanted to warm or protect your naked body, you would have spun wool or plant fibers into cloth or tanned skins. Some cheese could be stored for more than a year – a ready, portable food source that we will make ourselves.  And you would have needed to know how to transform bits of rock into molten metal that would harden into wonderful things. 

This is an active learning course that enables you –through weekly hands-on activities and field trips– to acquire and experience skills that humans devised in order to survive in pre-modern times.  

This course is ideal for students in any major. You’ll learn how to survive 6,000 years ago while gaining skills of value in medicine, economics, business, psychology, politics, and history, too. 

If you want to get an insider view of the course, check out

This class was developed and taught by Lynn Dodd of the USC Archaeology Research Center

Week 1  

Introduction, What do you know about ancient ways? Games People Play

Week 2  

Warmth, Visions and Graffiti: making fire and making paint for rock art (paint reprise in week 11)

Week 3  

Building the world around us: mudbricks

(You will get wet, dirty and generally mucky. For those of you with manicures, kiss them goodbye)

Week 4  

Visiting lecture: Karen Koblitz, Chair, Ceramics, USC Roski School of Fine Arts, Ceramic artist extraordinaire; and Tim Linden (Archaeology and Fine Arts major)

Making pottery: grain toasting trays, jars for brewing, figurines, oil lamps

=========Reflection #1 DUE=============

Week 5  

Food for the Future: Cheese and other fun with milk

Week 6  

Bread (grain grinding, making, baking, eating)

Week 7 

Neolithic Food Preparation (meat, veggies, grains with “period-appropriate” tools)

This week involves competition. No tackles are allowed but you may steal resources from another team.

Week 8 

Where are my tools? Flint knapping

Week 9 

Smelting copper: will be scheduled at another location (to avoid burning the campus down)

========Reflection #2 DUE =========

Week 10  

Transformed foods: making a mash for beer

 Week 11  

Transformed foods: brewing. The long boil. (and redux paint for rock art)

Week 12  

No class

Week 13 

Clothing and Feeding our Bodies: Skinning Animals and other interesting things to do with animal skin

Week 14

Clothing our Bodies: Weaving and spinning

=========Reflection #3 DUE =============

 Week 15

Feeling Better: Herbal remedies and completion of brewing

Week 16

There is no final exam in this course. Hopefully, you will survive.


Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s