INSIDE ARCHAEOLOGY:      Tracing our Complex Past



October 13:  The Birth of Humanity

What is the current thinking about our evolution?  This lecture explores where we stand in 2017 and what the latest discoveries tell us.  We’ll consider what defines being “human” and then go back about 14 million years ago to trace our complex past.

 October 20: Who Discovered the Americas?

The Americas were the last continent where people established permanent populations.  Just when that happened, and under what circumstances, is debatable.  We’ll explore sites from South America to Canada and consider where the native Americans came from and how and when they made this hemisphere their home.

 October 27:  Origins of Art

Symbolic art is a crucial aspect of what makes us human.  Archaeologists trace this talent to a creative explosion about 35,000 years ago.  Why at that time and what triggered this explosion?  What forms did our first art take and why?  We’ll explore what we know from sites in Africa through Europe.

November 3:  The Jomon of Japan:  The Most Successful Culture in History?

The Jomon culture began over 15,000 years ago and continued until about 1500 years ago.  Very few, if any, recent cultures can match this success.   We’ll explore the material culture of the  Jomon that includes the most fascinating pottery assemblages ever found.  They also domesticated plants such as soybean and adzuki bean yet Jomon people never became farmers.  What lies behind their success and why did they ultimately fail?

November 10:  Dawn of Farming in Ancient China

Some of the most important crops in the world are from China, and include rice and peaches.  Many cultures around the world turned to agriculture, an activity that American scientist Jared Diamond called “the worst mistake in the history of the human race.”  Using China as an example we’ll explore what he meant, and how humanity in China diverged from its hunting and gathering past to become early biotechnologists who gifted us with so many foods, medicines and beverages.

November 17: Origin of Maize Farming in Ontario

Until about AD 500, the native peoples of southern Ontario, like their earlier Chinese counterparts, were hunter-gatherers.  At that time, maize (corn) started to be grown here.  This triggered the development of Iroquoian culture (e.g. the Huron or Wendat).  We’ll explore the origins of maize in Mexico and trace its path to Ontario.  Then, we’ll examine the archaeology of the Grand River Valley where archaeologists (particularly Prof. Crawford and his team) have found the earliest evidence of the first farmers in the province.


GARY CRAWFORD, FRSC, is a Professor in the Dept. of Anthropology at U.of T., Mississauga.  His archaeological research has taken him throughout eastern North American, China and Japan.  He is co-author of Human Evolution and Prehistory, and he hosted and co-authored a TVO series: Archaeology from the Ground Up.