AR1TS3-Practising Archaeology: methods and approaches

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Summer term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Gundula M├╝ldner


Summary module description:
The module provides a comprehensive introduction to the main methods currently employed in modern archaeology, both in archaeological fieldwork and post-excavation analysis. It is taught through a mixture of well-illustrated lectures and seminars.

The module aims to provide students with essential knowledge of the variety of methods and techniques used in archaeological work, and with an understanding of the current practice of archaeology.
The module also aims to facilitate students' transition from secondary to higher education by a number of seminars focused on study skills.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module, it is expected that the student will be able:

  • to describe the main methods by which archaeologists acquire, date and analyse their primary evidence;
  • to interpret archaeological section drawings and matrices and give a basic interpretation of an archaeological site, combining multiple sources of evidence;
  • to locate published and IT sources identified by the teachers, as well as additional sources relevant to the course through independent literature searches, and to extract relevant information from them;
  • to independently gather and organise information and to present an argument in writing, while fulfilling the formal requirements for a university-level essay.

Additional outcomes:
The lectures on archaeological methods will give students an appreciation of aspects of numeracy, information handling and analysis. The seminars will encourage students to develop their problem-solving and oral communication skills in group situations.

Outline content:
The module provides an overview of methods and approaches employed in modern archaeology as well as an introduction to study skills in higher education. The major part of the module deals with methods of field archaeology (archaeological prospection and excavation), relative and absolute dating methods, environmental evidence (plant and animal remains, biomolecular archaeology) and artefact analysis (stone and metal objects, pottery and small finds). Seminars provide further training in study skills, archaeological stratigraphy and site interpretation.

Global context:
Although the majority of case-studies illustrating the lectures focus on British or European archaeology, the module provides and introduction to methods and approaches used in contemporary archaeological practice world-wide and are therefore relevant in a global context.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module is team-taught by members of the Archaeology department providing introductions into their respective areas of specialism. At the core of the module are illustrated lectures, which are linked to extensive preparatory and follow-up reading, thus providing a comprehensive introduction to each of the covered themes. Seminars, seminar assignments and optional Blackboard-based exercises allow for the small-group discussion of teaching and learning issues and will give students the opportunity to practically apply some of the methodological principles introduced in lectures to actual archaeological problems. An essay return seminar at the end of term will give students targeted and detailed feedback on their first university essay and provide opportunity for small-group or one-to-one discussions of any issues that have arisen during completion of the assignment. A week of lectures and finds handling sessions in the summer term provides an essential introduction to the Summer Fieldschool.

Introductory Reading

Greene, K. and Moore, T. (2010). Archaeology: an Introduction. 5th revised edition. London: Routledge (E)

Renfrew, C. & P. Bahn. 2012. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. 6th revised edition. London: Thames and Hudson (E)

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 19 4
Seminars 2
Tutorials 6
Practicals classes and workshops 3
External visits 6
Guided independent study 114 46
Total hours by term 150.00 50.00
Total hours for module 200.00

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

Other information on summative assessment:
One 2,000 word essay (40%)
One "Interpreting Stratigraphy" Worksheet on Blackboard (10%)
One unseen 90 minute exam paper (50%)

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:

34 hours: contact in formal teaching sessions
6 hours: Fieldtrip (Enhancement Week Fieldtrip)
20 hours: engaged in reading and note taking from 'key texts'
12 hours: seminar preparation
50 hours: engaged in reading and preparation for writing your essay
40 hours: background reading and follow-up for lectures (c. 9 hours per topic) based on key texts and additonal reading
40 hours: revision

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (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.

    Length of examination:
    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.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Resubmission of coursework on dates set by the department and/or reexamination in August/September.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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