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:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Ms Amanda Clarke


Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module offers a practical hands-on introduction to the field techniques and site recording methods used on both urban and  rural excavations. Through the excavation and recording of the monuments and sites within a prehistoric, roman, medieval and post-medieval landscape, students will learn about major archaeological monuments within their urban and rural contexts. 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, and coring. 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), and an assessed reflective Skills Journal



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. Additionally, insight will be gained into the setting up and running of a large archaeological field project, including Health and Safety awareness.

Introductory Reading:

Dunyvaig, Islay:

Ritchie, G. 1997. The Archaeology of Argyll. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (especially chapters 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

Caldwell, D. 2008. Islay. The land of the lordship. Edinburgh: Birlinn.

RCAHMS, 1984. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments. Vol.5, Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (Introductory chapters and the entries for Dunyvaig castle, Barr an t-Seann Duine fort and Cill Mhoire burial ground). , explore Projects and Sites and monuments pages

Silchester Roman Town:


Boon, G C, 1974. Silchester: the Roman Town of Calleva. Newton Abbott.


Fulford, M., and Timby, J. 2000: Late Iron Age and Roman Silchester: Excavations on the Site of the Forum-Basilica, 1977, 1980-86, Britannia Monograph 15, London


Fulford, M., Clarke, A. and H. Eckardt 2006: Life and Labour in Late Roman Silchester: Excavations in Insula IX since 1997. London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies Britannia Monograph 22, pp xviii + 404

Fulford, M. and Clarke, A. (2011) Silchester: city in transition. The mid-Roman occupation of Insula IX c. A.D. 125-250/300. A report on excavations undertaken since 1997.Britannia Monograph (25). Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, London, UK, pp544. ISBN 9780907764373

Fulford, M. Guidebook: Silchester Roman Town, 2016

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 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 to visitors to the excavation. There may be opportunities for students to help in the acquisition of geophysical data (from a range of different geophysical instrumentation),.

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 indicated in the Summer term include contact hours that take place during the Summer vacation.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 4
Tutorials 2
Demonstration 3
Practicals classes and workshops 6
Fieldwork 70
Guided independent study 15
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Portfolio 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

At the beginning of the summer term all students will attend a number of pre-Field School compulsory sessions/workshops on campus. Students will submit a reflective Skills Journal (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 100% 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 Journal, 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 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:
    a mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-assessment by 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. For Silchester only students 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: For Silchester, students are required to make their own arrangements to get to the Field School and back. For Islay: the cost of travel from Reading to Islay will be subsidised.

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


    Things to do now