ANT380H5F Special Topics in Biological Anthropology and Archaeology (SCI)

Topic Title: Engineering Paradise: Exploring Human-Environment Interactions from Prehistory to Present

  • four landscapes showing the Toronto skyline, a hill with snow and fields, a forested area, and a grass area with a wildfire burning
    Instructor: Monica Ramsey
  • Offered in the Fall 2023 "F" Term at UTM
  • Prerequisites: ANT101H5 and (ANT200H5 or ANT201H5 or permission of the department)


‘Engineering Eden’ (paradise) starts at the very beginning, when Homo erectus’ first use of fire profoundly and forever, changed our relationship with the environment. From here, we will explore the development and intensification of human-environment interactions through time, using the metaphor of Eden to frame our lectures and seminar discussions. The concept of Eden is fundamental to the way Western culture views the environment. Yet, Eden has always been an imagined place, a metaphor for an idealized place of plenty. Our learned views, expectations and ideals mould our relationships and interactions with the environment. This dynamic is the key to understanding how we have reached our current predicament; this tipping point, termed the ‘Anthropocene’ – the Age of Man.

This course will employ an archaeological perspective to explore many questions that remain about the nature of the Anthropocene, its origins, its relationship to sustainability, and the future of the planet in an age when humans alter, dominate or manipulate almost every ecological system on Earth. Employing paleoenvironmental, archaeological and historical records, we will take a multi-scalar approach, considering evidence from the microscopic to the macroscopic, from the site to the site catchment, from the local to the regional, to explore the sustainable and unsustainable ‘Edens’ of our ancestors.

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To enrol, please visit ACORN.