I’m a professor of sociology now, but before that I was an archaeologist, and before that I was a kid in Michigan with an after-school paper route and a fondness for historical fiction. At UVA, my teaching and research tie together sociology and archaeology in various ways. Broadly speaking, I study how human societies use archaeological artifacts to create myths and claims about their cultural and political identities. In 2021, I published a book about tomb robbers in Italy and the elite art police unit that pursues them. Joining the Engagements program is a unique and exciting opportunity to take my students to a period of humanity that we don’t hear much about in standard history or sociology courses: the dawn of human species, some 250,000 years ago. We’ll examine different types of archaeological and anthropological evidence to assess theories of early human social life (including prehistoric art, tools, food, ideas, and creativity). We’ll then put our assessments into conversation with theories of contemporary human social life to ask what patterns we see in our common deep history. My bet is that the ancient ancestors have a lot to teach us about who we are and where we’re headed.