ARCH0785 Fall18 S01 Of Dice and Men: Games in Human Societies Past and Present

ARCH0785 Fall18 S01 Of Dice and Men: Games in Human Societies Past and Present

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Schedule: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 1:00-1:50

Location: Rhode Island Hall, Room 108

A course with Carl Walsh, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Archaeology, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World

Office Hours: Mondays 2-3 and Fridays 2-3
Office: Room 207, Second Floor, Rhode Island Hall



Teaching Assistant: Allie McCoskey, Graduate Student, Department of Egyptology and Assyriology

Office Hours: Tuesdays 10:30-11:30 by appointment

Office: TA Room, Basement, Rhode Island Hall


Full syllabus with weekly structure and readings (subject to change!) Of Dice and Men Games in Societies Past and Present.pdf

Course Description and Learning Outcomes

Almost every human society has played games, from dice and board games to hunting and sport. But why are games such a universal human phenomenon? What exactly do games accomplish and what are their roles in societies? This course explores the concept of ‘gaming culture’ and seeks to develop and expand ideas on the role of games as a distinct human cultural phenomenon. We will explore games through the lenses of multiple fields, from anthropology and archaeology to sociology, psychology, and philosophy. We will actually play games, ancient and modern, in order to take a hands on and experimental approach in exploring themes and topics. Through such approaches and reflections, this course will equip students to more readily question how games are important and essential parts of human lives, in ways that are not entirely obvious or expected. Start your turn and see where the dice land!


Class Structure and Accessibility

Classes will be run three times a week, with the Monday and Wednesday sessions usually being a hybrid lecture/seminar structure and Fridays being an activity class, often involving playing games and discussing readings and thematic topics. Please inform me if you have a disability or other condition that might require some modification of any of these course procedures, especially as some of the games involve physical activity.  You may speak with me after class or during office hours.  For more information, contact Students and Employee Accessibility Services at 401-863-9588 or



The Canvas course page will be the main tool for checking on announcements, view set weekly readings, view assignments, and post and respond to questions. Please make sure you have set yourself as receiving announcements for the course page and make sure you check it regularly for important information like rooms changes etc.  Blog post and podcast submission and management will also be through Canvas.


Course Requirements and Expectations

Over 14 weeks, students will spend 2 hours 30 mins per week in class (35 hours total). Required reading is expected to take up approximately 5 hours per week (75 hours total). In addition, research, writing, and recording for the blogs and podcast is estimated at total of approximately 40 hours over the course of the term.

Each student is expected to do the weekly readings thoroughly, participate in activities and discussions, and take extensive notes during class lectures and discussions. It is strongly recommended that you keep detailed notes as you do your weekly readings and during lectures and class discussions, as well as noting down your own thoughts and ideas on concepts. Remember that this course is meant to encourage you to contribute to scholarship! Throughout the semester, students will be asked and expected to act as discussants of selected articles and posing relevant discussion questions to the class during the Friday activities and discussions.



The breakdown of course assessment is as follows:

  • Attendance and participation (25%)
  • Weekly Blogs (5%x10 = 50%)
  • Final Project Group Podcast (25%)


Weekly Blogs

Students will keep weekly blog entries on the course blog site starting in Week 4 till the end of Week 14, regarding the weekly topic and activities. These blog entries are intended to help the student reflect and express opinions on topics and material covered in each week, and develop ideas and reflections in order to contribute toward their final project podcasts. These entries are vital in developing the student’s academic voice and experience of activities. Weekly entries should be between 400-500 words (though there is no maximum), include a picture which will be featured in the blog, reference any readings discussed, include the authors name, and be submitted through a URL link into the assignment on Canvas. Blog entries will be due by the end of Saturdays and read by Carl ready to comment and discuss at the start of class on Mondays. Students are encouraged to read each other’s blog entries and comment to stimulate discussion. A short introduction to writing and posting blog entries will be given on Wednesday’s class in Week 4.


URL for the Course Blog:



The final assessment will be based on the construction of a 20 minute podcast building on a topic of the student’s group choice. Students will work in groups of three to four, to develop a topic discussing wider questions, themes, and theories on the role of games in human societies, based on research covered throughout the semester and the student’s interests and reflections in the weekly blog. A transcript of the podcast will accompany the final submission along with a bibliography of works used in the discussion.

The structure of the podcasts should be a group discussion and conversation, in which each member of the group participates equally. Groups should choose a group chair, who can introduce the topic and discussants, and help keep timings, guide discussion through planted questions, and wrap up the podcast. Podcast topics can relate to any aspect of gaming culture in both past and present human societies, developing further on the topics and case studies in class. Students may want to discuss a broad thematic topic such as the role of power or identity in gaming, or may want to focus on a particular game case study in which to discuss larger questions or themes. Each group should come and discuss their topic ideas with Carl in the midterm period.  It is strongly advised that groups prepare and rehearse podcasts well in advance of recording so as to be comfortable in their discussion. Writing a script and notecards are useful to help focus and structure the discussion, but reading directly from a script should not be done, as it detracts from the flow of conversation. A written transcript of the podcast will be submitted through Canvas assignments which includes a bibliography of at least 10-15 primary works used in research for the podcast. Transcripts should reference primary works using the Harvard style in texts (see below), but detailed references do not need to be included in the podcast discussion.  In the podcast discussants should refer to scholar’s work by their name but do not need to mention full details of works. Podcasts will be posted on the blog for the class to listen to.

After submission, podcasts will be constructively peer reviewed by other student groups, who will come together in a series of roundtable discussion on the podcasts at the end of the semester. Options to exhibit students work through an online medium, probably as a podcast series, will be explored in order to allow students the chance to contribute their research to wider scholarship and audiences.

Podcasts can be constructed using Adobe Audition, freely available through Adobe Cloud at Brown. A workshop on how to use this software in constructing and editing podcasts will be organized with the Brown Multi-media labs after shopping period in order to give students enough time and practice in using the software and being able to craft their podcasts. The multimedia labs have recording equipment that can be booked out to record your podcasts, so no equipment needs to be purchased. While creating a podcast may seem complex, it is a relatively simple process that will not require a great deal of effort and time to pick up. The multimedia labs also encourage you to get in touch with them directly for any additional questions or support, and have a walk in hours every week for you to be able to work through any issues with someone.


Referencing, Research Resources, and Recommended Textbook

The preferred referencing style for the blogs and podcast transcripts are Harvard, which is the most common style used in Archaeology and Anthropology. These consist of in text citation (author, date, page numbers) followed by a detailed citation of the publication in the bibliography. Footnotes can be used in transcripts of the podcasts.

Students are also reminded that using libraries is essential. While readings will be made available online, it is also important you expand your reading into other works and scholars. A useful tip is to use the bibliographies of the provided readings, but be aware of the dates of publications. Students are also warned that older publications, roughly pre 1975, may be quite out of date and to use caution when using the opinions and interpretations of scholars who are the product of their times!

In addition, online resources like and researchgate are important repositories of scholarly research. Students are encouraged to use these sites to broaden their reading and familiarize themselves with looking up scholars and their research.

Particularly relevant journals relating to this course are Games and Culture and Board Game Studies. No particular textbook covers all the topics and societies in this course. However, a book that is particularly covered in the reading is B. Voorhies (ed.) Prehistoric Games of North American Indians: Subartic to Mesoamerica. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.



Course Summary:

Date Details Due