Summer 2017 - ARCH 322 D100

Special Topics in Biological Anthropology (3)

Plagues and People

Class Number: 5028

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, Th 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    SWH 9152, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Deborah Merrett
    Office: EDB 9626
    Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:00-2:00PM or by appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    ARCH 131.



Select topics relating to biological anthropology.


Infectious diseases can exert powerful influences on the development and experience of human populations. This course explores the origins, antiquity and impact of plagues on human societies from archaeological and anthropological perspectives. This approach emphasizes the complex interrelationships among human health, culture and the environment. The course provides the archaeological, biomedical, and anthropological frameworks within which infectious diseases in the past are studied including host-pathogen relationships and the dynamics of disease transmission. It examines how large-scale social transformations such as sedentism, animal and plant domestication, urbanism, and industrialization influence the types of diseases encountered, modes of disease transmission and cultural perceptions of disease. This course will examine specific plagues, the cultural contexts within which plagues arise, the cultural responses of societies to infectious disease epidemics and the role of archaeology in the study of past plagues.   Possible topics include demographic transitions, infectious disease transmission, virgin soil epidemics, biocultural model of health, and specific diseases such as the bubonic plague, influenza, smallpox, tuberculosis, cholera, typhus and a selection of new emerging diseases.


  • Midterm 30%
  • Plague Essay 30%
  • Final Exam 40%


Prerequisite: ARCH 131 or any lower division Biology course or permission of instructor. Minimum 30 units.

DATE: June 22
TIME: 2:30-5:20PM
ROOM: EDB 9643



Sherman, I.R. 2006. The Power of Plagues. Washington: American Society for Microbiology.
ISBN: 978-1-5558-1356-7

Weekly journal articles.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Students with Disabilities (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.

Deferred grades will be given only on the basis of authenticated medical disability.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.