AR1TS2-Bones, Bodies and Burials: the archaeology of death

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring / Summer term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Mary Lewis


Type of module:

Summary module description:
This module will outline, through a series of case studies, the archaeological methods employed in study of the dead, from the earliest deliberate burials of the Neanderthals, the preservation of the corpse by the ancient Egyptians, body decompostion, the examination of Victorian crypt burials and modern attitudes towards death and reburial. There is no one key textbook for this module, but in preparation, students may wish to read the relevant sections in Renfrew and Bahn (2004) Archaeology. Thames and Hudson: London and Grant et al. (2005) The Archaeology Coursebook. Routledge: London.

This module aims, through a series of case studies, to outline the archaeological methods and theories employed in the examination of the ancient dead. This module will also provide a foundation for the issues and methods explored in Parts 2 and 3 modules, especially Archaeological Thought, Introduction to Human Osteoarchaeology, Palaeopathology and the Archaeology of Food and Nutrition.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of this module it is expected that students will be able to: *describe the main methods and theories in the study of ancient burial sites *discuss critically the importance of the study of human remains to our understanding of the past *outline the types of information gathered from the analysis of human remains from different periods *locate published and IT sources and extract relevant information from them *organise their material to present a written argument in essays

Additional outcomes:
This module also aims to enhance the written and oral communications skills of the students, as well as an awareness of problem-solving through written assignments and in seminars. Group work and IT skills will also be developed through seminars. The human bone practical session in the Summer term will allow students to begin their recognition of remains from archaeological sites and to learn how to apply numerical skills.

Outline content:
People have always had a fascination with death and the dead. From the trade of relics in the 4th century AD to the display of preserved bodies and skeletons of our ancient dead in modern museums, the study of our mortal remains has always been political, religious and scientific. This module will outline the themes and issues raised in the scientific study of human remains by using famous case studies from the Middle Palaeolithic to the modern day including: the Neanderthals, Neolithic monuments, preserved bodies from Egypt and the European Iron Age, Roman burial customs, medieval cemetery studies, post-medieval crypt excavations, ethics and repatriation.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
A series of well-illustrated lectures with three follow-up seminars (ethics, media and archaeology, and cemetery analysis), with a optional practical session and cemetery survey. Students are expect to read the key paper indicated in the module handout before attending each lecture.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 3
Tutorials 1
Practicals classes and workshops 2 2
Fieldwork 6
Guided independent study 166
Total hours by term 198.00 2.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Written assignment including essay 40
Set exercise 10

Summative assessment- Examinations:

A 90 minute exam to be sat in the summer term (50% of the module mark)

There will be an exam revision and preparation session in Week 2 of the summer term (see timetable for details). Mock exam questions for you to practise on will be made available on Blackboard at around the same time.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

You will be required to submit one 2000-word essay relating to the scientific study of human remains or burial sites. There are two seminars (Ethics and Repatriation; Cemetery Analysis) the second of which is asessed (10%) via a Blackboard quiz. An exam follows in the Summer Term. These assignments are set to test your ability to draw evidence from a wide variety of sources and to articulate them both orally and in writing.

Formative assessment methods:

This is a 20-credit module, which means that it is intended to occupy students for 200 hours of work: seminar preparation, background reading, essay research and writing, and in revision and sitting the examination. With that in mind, the kind of workload students should expect might be as follows:

22 hours: contact in formal teaching sessions

15 hours: engaged in reading and note taking from 'key texts' 

15 hours: semiar preparation (c. 7 hours each)

30 hours: engaged in reading ad preparation for writing your essay

80 hours: background reading and follow-up for lectures (c. 9 hours per topic) based on key texts and additonal reading

36 hours: revision

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:
    An overall mark of 40%

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Reassessment of coursework and/or re-examination in August/September

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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