Fall 2021 - ARCH 323 D100

Special Topics in Biological Anthropology II (3)

Plagues and Epidemics

Class Number: 4408

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM
    SWH 9084, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    ARCH 131 or any lower division biology course.



Select topics relating to biological anthropology. Variable units: 3, 4, 5.


Plagues, epidemics and humans have co-existed since ancient times. They have caused and have often been caused by massive social, economic and political changes in the past. This course will introduce students to basic epidemiological concepts and apply them to the understanding of infectious disease dynamics in past human societies. Plagues and epidemics in the past will be examined under the lens of archaeology, using skeletal remains, burial practices, settlement patterns, material culture and other archaeological evidence to document the different types of epidemics occurring in different times and places. This course links evidence from skeletal remains and other archaeological evidence to answer larger questions such as why do pandemics start and why do they end, and how have they changed the demographics and social fabric of past societies, as well the impact on individuals. Specific epidemics will be examined such as childhood infections, the Black Death, leprosy, tuberculosis, syphilis, cholera, typhus, small-pox and malaria as well as modern plagues and pandemics. These will be examined alongside major changes in human prehistory and history, such as sedentism, agriculture, urbanism, colonization, industrialization and globalization.


  • Attendance 10%
  • Midterm 25%
  • Term Paper 35%
  • Term-end Assignment 30%



Sherman, I.R. 2006. The Power of Plagues. Washington: American Society for Microbiology. 
ISBN: 97815558135


Barnes, E. 2005. Diseases and Human Evolution. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

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 http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html 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. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.