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The University of Southampton
Lifelong Learning

The Past in Motion: An Exploration of Archaeology on Film

This twelve week course explores the long relationship between archaeology and film, including subjects as wide ranging as the representation of the ‘barbarian’ on film, to understanding the history of film through the physical remains of film making. Film has had a deep cultural impact since its creation in the late nineteenth century, enabling audiences to experience other cultures, lost times, and faraway places. It has also had a direct influence on our understanding and shaping of the past. Films such as Cleopatra (1963), The Mummy (1932), Ben-Hur (1959), and Gladiator (2000) have not only reflected a continued keen interest in the past, but reflect the politics and preoccupations of our own time as much as the historic period portrayed.

Archaeological interest is far ranging and lodged within popular culture; the continued success of the TV show Time Team (1994 - 2014) is demonstrative of this and so too shows such as Living in the Past (1978) and Tudor Monastery Farm (2013) which recreate life in different eras. Not only does film enable a connection to the past to be maintained in the popular imagination, but the two disciplines of Archaeology and Film Studies share common themes and theoretical concerns that have been little explored. Whether it be understanding private and public spaces of historically specific cultures, or marketing historical epics as genre pieces that convey well known archaeological stereotypes of past cultures, there is a shared interest that this course explores.

This course discusses both the common themes and shared theoretical approaches of the two disciplines, as well as looking at how the two have influenced one another, both in the past, and in recent research. With archaeologists using the latest special effects available to the film industry, it is time to consider how the two disciplines work together, and what our understanding of the past would be like without film.

This Life Long Learning course builds upon the interdisciplinary study day led by Film: ‘Viewing the Past / Framing the Future’ which takes place in May 2014.

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