Alpine Archaeology-Blog, e-learning and archaeological methods and techniques

From today the Alpine Archaeology-Blog is up and running. The Department of Pre- and Protohistory of the University of Zürich, Switzerland has got a long history in teaching and researching the archaeology of mountainous areas. There are e.g. the Leventina Project (Della Casa, in press, Hess et al., 2010) and the projects in the Andes by my collaegues M. Kolb-Godoy Allende and P. Fux (Fux, 2007) and colleagues. A current example is the “Rückwege” project in the Silvretta (Reitmaier, 2009, Reitmaier, 2010, Reitmaier and Walser, 2008).

During the 2010 autumn semester almost all taught courses will be solely devoted to Alpine Archaeology. As part of this alpine semester I will be teaching an e-learning course on the methods and techniques of archaeological research in alpine environments. To be able to enhance not only this course, but the learning and teaching experience throughout the department (for lecturers and students alike) we decided to start a blog. All students and teaching personal are encouraged to use this blog to exchange knowledge, document their work and have fun posting and reading the blog.

Both the blog and the e-learning course will be an experiment in how to integrate digital media into teaching. Of course, we are not the first to do this. C. Morgan is organising a session on blogs and archaeology in April 2011 at the SAA-meeting in Sacremanto. She has also written about using Tumblr in teaching on her blog. Interesting is also the study of the UC Berkeley about digital media in education she mentioned: Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication: An Exploration of Faculty Values and Needs in Seven Disciplines. One of the subjects looked at was archaeology. At Neuroanthropology they have also used the blog at a teaching-tool, albeit, it seems, in a different way. Students have been inviteds to use the blog as  a publishing/communicating tool, whereas our Alpinearcharchaeology-blog might turn out to be more of a mix between the serious science-writing and less formal posting. Mick Morrison writes about flexible delivery teaching and the use of the www. (Also have a look at the Flinders Archaeology Blog.) His suggestions are not far from what the OLAT-platform, that we use at the University of Zürich, does but this is not public and a little more structured. However, I do aim to use certain web-based media in the course.

The application of modern media and blogs in teaching should have some added value, by making the teaching more interactive and thus intensifying and diversifying the engagement of student and teacher with the material through new activities and visualisation and communication of the scientific material.

A course on archaeological methods and techniques should of course be partly hands-on. However, much of that already happens on teaching digs. Besides, sadly, we simply do not have enough resources to do much more there.


Drying cereals, Blenia Valley, Switzerland

From Peter Ammon, 2007, Schweizer Bergleben um 1950. Drying cereals, Blenio Valley, Switzerland. Prehistoric processing of cereals can be detected e.g. through charred cereals (e.g from fire-places; on-site) or pollen (e.g. pollenprofiles from nearby bogs; off-site.)


On the other hand, many of these methods and techniques are really other sciences that we archaeologists use, on which we depend for our own research: archaeobotany, dendrochronology, anthracology, geology, archaeozoology, ethnology, GIS-systems, and many more.

As Quentin Mackie writes in a post on the end of the Clovis Culture on his Northwest Coast Archaeology-blog, we are jack-of-all-trades. His post also gives a good example of the importance of other sciences in archaeological research and debate. I believe it is important for archaeologists to understand these other sciences and know something of their possibilities and limitations, that we know how we can use these and also what archaeological research can mean for their research. I believe and hope that e-learning can be a useful way of teaching this. So keep an eye on this blog and of course on the AlpineArchaeology-Blog if you are interested in archaeology, “The Alpine”, or the use of digital media in teaching.


DELLA CASA, P. In Press. Recherche interdisciplinaire en archéologie et écologie humain dans la vallée centre-alpine de la Léventine, Tessin, Suisse. In: Actes de la table ronde : Archéologie de l’espace mantagnard – confrontation d’expérience européennes, in press Gap.

FUX, P. 2007. Das Petroglyphen-Projekt «Chichictara» in Palpa, Peru. Feldarbeiten im Jahr 2006 und Ausblick. . Jahresbericht der Schweizerisch-Liechtensteinischen Stiftung für Archäologische Forschungen im Ausland, SLSA. Zürich.

HESS, T., REITMAIER, T., JOCHUM ZIMMERMANN, E., BALMER, A., DOBLER, I. & DELLA CASA, P. 2010. Leventina – prähistorische Siedlungslandschaft. Arcäologischer Survey im alpinen Tessintal und entlang der Gotthardpassroute 2007/2008: kommentierter Katalog. Jahresbuch der Archäologie Schweiz, 93, 173-193.

REITMAIER, T. 2009. Rückwege – Archäologie im Silvrettagebirge. In: HEBERT, B. & MANDL, F. (eds.) Almen in Visier. Dachsteingebirge, Totes Gebirge, Silvretta. Haus i. E.: ANISA.

REITMAIER, T. 2010. Auf der Hut – Methodische Überlegungen zur prähistorischen Alpwirtschaft in der Schweiz. In: MANDL, F. & STADLER, H. (eds.) Archäologie in den Alpen. Alltag und Kult. Haus i. E.: ANISA.

REITMAIER, T. & WALSER, C. 2008. Archäologie an der Grenze – Zum neuen Forschungsprojekt „Rückwege“ in der Silvretta. Montfort, Vierteljahresschrift für Geschichte und Gegenwart Vorarlbergs, 60, 7-15.

2 responses to “Alpine Archaeology-Blog, e-learning and archaeological methods and techniques

  1. Pingback: Wednesday Round Up #122 | Neuroanthropology

  2. Pingback: Blogging Archaeology 1 to 5 and VIARCH – when an archaeologist temporarily ceases to be an archaeologist |

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