AR2F12-Archaeology Fieldschool Single Honours

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

Module Convenor: Ms Amanda Clarke


Summary module description:

This module offers a practical hands-on introduction to the field techniques and site recording methods used on a rural excavation. Through the excavation and recording of the monuments and sites within a prehistoric, roman and medieval landscape, students will learn about the physical and spatial organisation of prehistoric and later activity in the Vale of Pewsey. The Vale of Pewsey is located in central Wiltshire between the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Sites, at a distance of c.45 miles from Reading.  Students will spend 4 weeks on this excavation, and during this time will be able to participate in all aspects of site work, including excavation, finds and sample processing, geophysics, survey, coring and test-pitting. There will be dedicated training sessions and the opportunity for students to focus on particular fieldwork and transferable skills. Students will be assessed by a combination of formative continuous assessment (regular feedback on practical and transferable skills), an on-site exam taken after 2 weeks on the excavation, a classroom-based database quiz, and an assessed reflective Skills Report.



The training excavation aims to provide the student with an experience of field archaeology in which a basic knowledge of field techniques (both intrusive and non-intrusive) and site recording methods will be acquired. An introduction to finds management and the scientific techniques used on an excavation will be given, as a well as the opportunity to work with visitors to the excavation. The physical and spatial organisation of prehistoric and later activity in the Vale of Pewsey, from the sources of the River Avon in the west to the village of Upavon in the east, will be examined by a number of different means, and used to elucidate the relationships and connectivity between these sites. Knowledge of the associated material culture, and the biological and environmental evidence will be gained, which will provide an insight into the lives of the people living at this time. Working on an internationally renowned archaeological area will provide students with both the practical background and the research context to develop their understanding of the global significance of the site as well as strengthening their practical and theoretical skills. Additionally, insight will be gained into the setting up and running of a large archaeological field project, including Health and Safety awareness. Introductory Reading: Wainwright, G. 1971. The Excavation of a Late Neolithic Enclosure at Marden, Wiltshire. Antiquaries Journal LI, 177–239. Richards C 1996. Henges and water: towards an elemental understanding of monumentality and landscape in late Neolithic Britain. Journal of Material Culture 1(3), 313–36. Bradley, R. 2007. The prehistory of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Parker Pearson, M. 2012. Stonehenge: Exploring the greatest Stone Age mystery. London, Simon & Schuster. Leary, J. and Field, D. 2012. Journeys and juxtapositions. Marden henge and the view from the Vale. In A. Gibson (ed.) Enclosing the Neolithic. Recent studies in Britain and Europe, 55–65. Oxford: BAR (International Series 2440).

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the Field School it is expected that the student will be able:

  • to identify and excavate archaeological stratigraphy

  • to define and survey archaeological features

  • to identify and record archaeological deposits and to recognise the characteristics of soil texture, colour etc

  • to recover and process environmental samples

  • to carry out basic geoarchaeological techniques (coring, auguring etc) to interpret soils and sediments in order to understand past landscapes and environments

  • to excavate, process and identify artefacts on site

  • to work with and understand the uses of an archaeological database

  • to demonstrate a basic technical proficiency in the acquisition of geophysical data (from a range of different geophysical instrumentation)

  • to survey and set out grids using tapes and Global National Satellite Systems (GNSS)

  • to process and analyse geophysical data

  • to understand the contribution material culture and biological and environmental evidence can make to our understanding of prehistoric monuments

  • to apply techniques and knowledge gained in the first 2 weeks to project research questions

  • to demonstrate an understanding of the international context of the site

  • to demonstrate skills useful on research projects all over the world

  • to be aware of key Health and Safety procedures for fieldwork;

  • to work as part of a team

  • to evaluate their own practical performance and understanding

  • to communicate and interact with the visiting public

  • to demonstrate an awareness of their own skills and employability

Additional outcomes:

Students will have the opportunity to engage with themes of prehistory such as mobility and interconnectivity, which will help elucidate understanding of life in the Late Neolithic period. Students will also develop their IT skills by observing the creation and development of the on-site archaeological database and by learning to make basic queries (data-base quiz). The first 2 weeks of the Field School will provide the students with a theoretical basis to build on and consolidate during the second half of their time on site, allowing the opportunity to develop their analytical and problem-solving skills. The module also aims to teach the student to communicate effectively within their teams and to members of the public. The experience gained on the training excavation will provide skills and foster attitudes which will be of value on any other archaeological fieldwork project. Working within their teams on the digital presence of the project via social media etc will introduce students to technology and its place in the work environment.

Outline content:

Students will spend 4 weeks on the training excavation, and by the end of this time they will have gained skills and knowledge of excavation and recording systems which can be translated to excavation projects all over the world. At the start of the Field School, all students will take part in an on-site training session offering short talks on site Health and Safety, the use of archaeological tools, finds recording methods and systems, and environmental sieving and sorting. Each student is then assigned to a site supervisor, and during the course of their 4 weeks on site, will learn to take responsibility for the excavation and recording of archaeological features under their guidance. It is expected that each student will participate in every aspect of site work during their time on the Field School, with the possibility of concentrating on particular aspects of fieldwork during the second half of their 4 weeks on site. Students will also help organise events held on site Open Days. They will be kept up-to-date with site progress by means of a weekly site tour, and by regular reports from their individual supervisors.

Global context:
On completion of this module the student will have gained an exemplary grounding in archaeological fieldwork, and a broad range of skills, which can be put to good use on any other excavation project, anywhere in the world. Working with the project database (the Integrated Archaeological DataBase - IADB) allows students to consider the implications of a universal recording system and how it can be translated to excavations of any location or period.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

All students will be assigned to a team at the outset, and this team will form the basis of their teaching and learning experience on site. Each student will be given a copy of the Field School Handbook at the start of the excavation, outlining aims and results of the excavation, methods and details of recording, Health and Safety regulations and the processes of assessment. Subsequently students will receive instruction and guidance throughout the working day. There will be dedicated training sessions each week on individual aspects of the excavation. During the excavation students will be expected to reflect on their learning experience by constant reference to a skills checklist. This will allow students the opportunity not only to monitor the different archaeological skills gained whilst on site, but also to assess critically their own site performance. Each student will be given an Archaeology Skills Passport at the start of the Field School, and they will map the skills gained throughout the Field School, with the help of feedback from their Supervisors.

The working week will be complemented by formal lectures delivered to large groups, and smaller interactive, and hands-on sessions to enrich the learning experience. After 2 weeks the students will have an informal feedback session in order to monitor their progress.

As this is a residential, hands-on module run over 4 weeks, the number of contact hours is more than for a standard 20 credit module:

42 hours: Contact hours in formal teaching sessions (on-site lectures, seminars, tutorials, hands-on practical demonstrations)

144 hours: Contact hours in supervised fieldwork on site

14 hours: Independent study (using the Integrated Archaeological Database IADB, taking the IADB online Quiz, writing a reflective Skills Report, reading the Handbook, background reading, exam revision, taking the on-site exam, formative exercises on site, filling in the Before and After Fieldwork Skills Assessment Questionnaires, filling in the Archaeology Skills Passport).

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 4
Tutorials 4
Project Supervision 4
Demonstration 4
Practicals classes and workshops 6
Fieldwork 144
Guided independent study 14
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 40
Written assignment including essay 40
Set exercise 20

Other information on summative assessment:

At the beginning of the summer term all students will attend a number of pre-Field School compulsory sessions/workshops on campus. During these workshops students will submit an online quiz on the Integrated Archaeological DataBase. This Quiz will form 20% of the module mark. After 2 weeks on site students will sit an on-site exam which will test them on techniques and processes used on site. This exam will form 40% of the module mark. Students will submit a Skills Report (incorporating the Before and After Skills Questionnaires), reflecting on skills gained during the Field School, at the start of the Autumn Term. This will form 40% of the final module mark.

Formative assessment methods:

During the course of the Field School the student will take part in a variety of on-site activities and they will gain a number of skills, as described in the Field School Handbook. Each student will be expected to keep a daily Skills diary, using the Archaeology Skills Passport, and to refer to the skills checklist in their Handbook. The diary and skills’ checklists will contribute to the student’s Continuing Professional Development, and will act as a CPD log. Throughout their time on site students will be provided with feedback on their site skills, and this continuous on-site practical assessment will form the basis of regular feedback sessions about skills gained. Each student will be assigned to a team for the duration of the Field School, and within this team they will take part in a number of team-based formative learning experiences, which will allow them to apply the knowledge gained throughout the Field School.

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:
    1.5 hours

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-assessment by exam and submission of coursework on dates set by the Department. Depending on circumstances, completion o retake of the whole module in the following Summer vacation may be required.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear: Students will need boots, gloves and hard wearing clothing. They must provide a tent, mattress and bedding. Other items such as a head torch are recommended.
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence: Students are required to make their own arrangements to get to the Field School and back.

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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