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Troy Lovata,

This course explores the artifacts and images people create as cultural expressions. Topics of study will include: prehistoric rock art; historic arborglyphs and culturally modified trees; and graffiti found around the world from prehistoric to modern times. 

We live in a material world. Our understanding of ourselves, the relationships between people, and the ways in which we interact with our environment and all its inhabitants are all expressed in material terms. At the same time the physical nature of the world around us affects how we behave and how we organize ourselves into cultures and societies. This course is an interdisciplinary study of the artifacts and images that comprise material culture. Students in this class will go into the field—in Albuquerque and across New Mexico—to examine material culture first-hand.

This course unfolds in both the classroom and the field because artifacts and images have contexts and are not merely abstract concepts. During class we will travel to numerous sites to view, record, and catalog artifacts and images. Field trips during regularly scheduled class time include excursions to Petroglyphs National Monument to study Native American rock art and tours of buildings on the UNM campus and the Albuquerque Railyard to examine modern graffiti. There are also required weekend field trips to the mountains to study arborglyphs (last weekend of September) and to El Morro National Monument to examine historic graffiti (second to last weekend of October). Field trip attendance is mandatory and a $70 course fee is charged to cover some, but not all, travel and field study costs. 


Understanding Graffiti: Multidisciplinary Studies From Prehistory to Present by Troy Lovata and Elizabeth Olton (Routledge, 2015)

A course reader with selections from texts and peer-reviewed research articles on rock art, arborglyphs, and graffiti from the fields of Archaeology, Geography, Art History, and Cultural Studies.      




As with all Honors courses, this class requires students to be active seminar participants and attend and fully participate in seminar discussions. Students will complete a series of field observation projects and written reports that link seminar readings and discussions to first-hand observations. Students are also required to participate in multiple field trips, including day-long excursions during the weekend over the course of the semester. Field tools and some transportation costs are included in a required $70 course fee. But, to keep this fee low, students will be responsible for their individual travel to some field sites as they are when traveling to campus for other classes. 

There are no specific prerequisites for this course, but because this course contains significant field components students must be physically able to travel to and walk across sites located outdoors. They also must be willing and able to spend significant amounts of time outside in a variety of weather conditions. Students are expected to provide proper clothing, based on instructor recommendations, for such excursions.  


Troy Lovata, Ph.D. is a tenured, Associate Professor in the Honors College. His courses explore our cultural relationship with the world around us and examine our connections to the past. Dr. Lovata holds a Doctorate in Anthropology, with a focus on Archaeology, from the University of Texas.