Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Anthropology 225 / Gender & Women's Studies 225: Women in Prehistory

Class guide of recommended resources and search tips for the ANTH225 writing assignment (created Fall 2015)

Key considerations for getting started

The Assignment:

(Note: description is summarized- refer to your syllabus for more detailed instructions)

Pick an artifact in the Spurlock Museum and write a 3-4 page fictitious narrative about the woman/women who made and/or used this artifact. In order to ensure your narrative is accurate, you will need to conduct background research on this artifact and the ancient culture that it came from. Cite at least 5 academic or scholarly sources, not websites (e.g. Wikipedia).

Important information you need to determine prior to searching:

  • What region/country is the artifact from?
    • Sometimes the names and spellings of the regions/countries change over time. You may need to search by both modern day and former names, or by the name which was in use at the time your artifact was created/used. Also consider whether you need to focus on a specific smaller region within a country (such as a province, city, or geographic region), or a larger regional grouping, to get the most accurate information about the artifact and the group who used it.
  • What is the name of the cultural/ethnic group who made or used the artifact?
    • Ethnic groups often have "ethnonyms," alternative names which have changed over time, or which were used by non-natives to refer to that culture. When you search the library catalog and databases, you may need to add these names as alternative search terms so that you don't miss any relevant results. For example: Hopi OR Moqui OR Tusayan.
    • Not sure whether the culture you are researching has ethnonyms? Check one of the two databases below:
  • What is the time period during which the artifact was made and/or used?
    • The time period may include a range of dates, and/or the name of a specific period of time or archaeological tradition (e.g. Hellenistic Period; Tang Dynasty) that places it in the context of both time period, geographic location and cultural tradition.
  • Other contextual information about your artifact (if known)
    • What kinds of activities was it used for, and how might they be described/ categorized?
    • How was it made and what is it made from?


Using key words from your answers to the above questions, you can begin to search for information about the woman who might have used your artifact, and her cultural context.