AR2F13-Archaeology Fieldschool Joint Honours

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 10 [5 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 2 weeks on the excavation and during this time will be able to participate in most 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 (feedback on practical and transferable skills), an on-site exam taken at the end of their time on the excavation, an assessed reflective Skills Report and a classroom-based database quiz.



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 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 Upavon in the east, will be examined by a number of different means, and used to elucidate the relationship 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. 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 understand the contribution material culture and biological and environmental evidence can make to our understanding of prehistoric monuments

  • 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 awareness by observing the creation and development of the on-site archaeological database and accessing the relevant web pages. The module also aims to teach the student to communicate effectively with members of the public. For those students enrolled in the Museums Studies course there will be opportunities to work with the artefacts recovered during the excavation, as well as a chance to develop their site presentation skills during the excavation Open Days. There may be opportunities for students to help in the acquisition of geophysical data (from a range of different geophysical instrumentation), and to process and analyse this data.

Outline content:
Students will spend 2 weeks on the training excavation. 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 the next 2 weeks, will learn to take responsibility for the excavation and recording of archaeological features under guidance. It is expected that even if each student does not have the opportunity to take part in every aspect of the Field School, they will have been able to observe others doing so. Students 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.

The working day will be divided between formal lectures delivered to large groups, and smaller interactive, and hands-on sessions. At the end of their first week the students will have an informal feedback session in order to monitor their progress.

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.

As this is a residential, hands-on module run over 2 weeks, the number of contact hours is more than for a standard 10 credit module:

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

70 hours: Contact hours in supervised fieldwork on site

4 hours: Independent study

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 12
Seminars 2
Tutorials 2
Project Supervision 1
Demonstration 3
Practicals classes and workshops 6
Fieldwork 70
Guided independent study 4
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

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. At the end of 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 reflective 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, 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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