A Trip Down Memory Lane

a trip down memory lane

Some of the earliest evidence of our ancestors is a set of footprints preserved in volcanic ash 3.7 million years ago. Since then, very large volcanic eruptions have sometimes greatly impacted local populations (e.g., Pompeii) or may even have participated to the decline of whole civilizations (e.g., Santorini and the Minoans). As writing was invented only about 4,500 years ago, the story of these cataclysmic events and other problems posed by the natural environment faced by hunter-gatherers came to us in the form of legends and stories. In a complimentary way, Earth Sciences enable us to read the story of our past by reconstructing volcanic and seismic events that shaped the habitats colonized by our species. In this FIG we will travel back in time through stones and see how scientific and literary study can be combined to investigate what we can learn about past natural disasters from the traces they leave buried both in the ground and in cultural memory.

We will, for example, analyze how the graphical description of a volcanic eruption by a layman made about 2,000 years ago in plain terms is still used as an accurate description of a type of major volcanic eruption that could affect one of our Cascade volcanoes. We will also discuss how official reports about large waves destroying coastal cities in Japan in 1700 helped modern scientists put a date on the latest major Cascadia earthquake. Altogether, we will use what you learn in courses "Volcanoes & Earthquake" and " Origins of Storytelling" to create and tell a story about a major natural hazard that we will make up but based on scientific facts. We will try to take advantage of some of your potential hobbies (e.g., dance, music, sculpture, painting, writing, drama?) to tell the story and pass some notions in a non-traditional manner.

Deep-Dive FIG: Please note this FIG contains an intermediate course at the 300-level. This course has been vetted by First Year Programs to ensure first-term students can achieve success. The instructor will be available to assist students along the way.


Students explore the intersection of topics by taking the following course package*:

*Courses in the FIG package may be subject to change

ERTH 199 College Connections - FIG Seminar, 1-credit

This College Connections seminar is scheduled as remote, but will likely have in-person components in fall.

ERTH 306 Volcanoes and Earthquake - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

After a brief introduction to plate tectonics, this class will address how the Earth melts rock & makes volcanoes, why there is such a variety of volcanic types, and how volcanoes behave. This is followed by examining how faults make earthquakes and mountains, and how earthquake waves shake the ground and allow us to imagine the interior of the Earth. Many examples are taken from the Pacific Northwest, where all the different types of faults are active and where some of the largest earthquakes on Earth occur.

ANTH 163 Origins of Storytelling - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

Why do humans tell stories? This course addresses this question by exploring the hunter-gatherer context in which storytelling emerged. Drawing on evolutionary theory and related disciplines, this course explores the origins of literature in terms of the information demands of ancestral human environment


FIG Theme:

Science and Society

Flight Path Themes:

Scientific Discovery and SustainabilityGlobal Connections