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GEOSC 107N - Rocks, Minerals, and the History of Art

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


This online course investigates select rocks and minerals used in the production of art between the Prehistoric Era and the Early Modern period. Topics covered include chemical and physical properties, occurrence in nature, the processes by which natural materials are acquired and worked, and specific works of art in which they are found. Each material (ochre, garnet, lapis lazuli, rock crystal [quartz], igneous rocks [basalt, diorite, and porphyry], alabaster and marble) is addressed in a 2-week unit. The seven units are split equally between scientific analysis of the materials and case studies of key works of art. A final project integrates Geosciences and Art History topics to investigate the use of a chosen natural material in a specific work of art.


Upon completion of Geoscience / Art History 107, a student should be able to:

  • explain the difference between minerals, rocks, and anthropogenic materials;
  • identify selected minerals and rocks on the basis of their physical properties;
  • discuss how the materials in the course were acquired and worked, their economic and symbolic value, and the effect of these materials on the iconography and reception of works of art;
  • evaluate artistic monuments covered in this course in terms of their medium, composition, style, and iconography; and
  • apply artistic analysis methods to previously unseen works of art.

Required Materials

Typically, there are no required materials for this course. If this changes, students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


None. This course is designed to be an entry-level course for students in both Art History and Geosciences.


We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is dependent on your attitude, diligence, and willingness to ask for clarifications or help when you need them. We are here to help you succeed. Please keep up with the class schedule and take advantage of opportunities to communicate with us and with your fellow students. You can expect to spend an average of 8 - 10 hours per week on class work.

Major Assignments

This course will rely on a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning, including:

Discussions (20% of total course grade)

For each module, you will be asked to comment on a fundamental issue or question related to the content of this course. You are expected to post at least one 200-500 word discussion/answer/opinion and comment briefly (minimum 100 words) on at least two other posts.

Quizzes (30% of total course grade)

In each Quiz, you will answer questions worth 1, 2, and 3 points that will address the entire range of material in a given module.

Final Project (50% of total course grade)

You will produce a final project or paper on a geologically-derived art material of your choice (this must be a material that is not covered in the course). Completion of the final project will require you to integrate what you have learned about the scientific and artistic value of Earth Materials. You will be asked to turn in preliminary materials throughout the semester including:

  • Self-selection into project groups and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (10% of project grade)
  • Thesis statement/introduction, physical & chemical properties worksheet, preliminary bibliography (5 formatted references) (30% of project grade)
  • Case Study Example (10% of project grade)
  • Extended abstract/outline of project/formatted reference list (10% of project grade)
  • Final project (40% of overall project grade)

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
  • Discussion Board Introductions
  • Orientation Quiz
22, 3Ochre 
  • Self-selection into project groups 
  • Discussion Board
  • Module Quiz
34, 5Lapis Lazuli
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
  • Discussion Board
  • Module Quiz
46, 7Quartz (Rock Crystal)
  • Thesis statement/introduction, physical & chemical properties worksheet, preliminary bibliography
  • Discussion Board
  • Module Quiz
58, 9Garnet 
  • Case Study Example
  • Discussion Board
  • Module Quiz
610, 11Igneous Rocks (Basalt, Diorite, & Porphyry)
  • Discussion Board
  • Module Quiz
712, 13Alabaster
  • Extended abstract/outline of project/formatted reference list
  • Discussion Board
  • Module Quiz
814, 15Marble
  • Discussion Board
  • Module Quiz
Final Project