AR2S4-Archaeological Science

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Gundula Müldner


Summary module description:
Modern archaeology would be unthinkable without the contribution from archaeological science, or from methods adapted from biology, physics, chemistry or environmental science. This module aims to provide a foundation of understanding of scientific archaeology, which is accessible to students with science and non-science backgrounds.

The module aims to provide the student from science and non-science backgrounds with an understanding of scientific method and practice and an overview of the range of scientific methods employed in modern archaeology.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that the students will be able:
- to situate archaeology within the science and humanities and to explain the scientific approach
- to describe the key methods used in modern archaeological science and identify archaeological research questions they may contribute to
- to describe the key methods used in modern archaeological science and identify archaeological research questions they may contribute to
- to identify the contexts in which the main sources of evidence are preserved
- to demonstrate awareness of the significance of formation processes, taphonomy and diagenesis to an understanding of the main sources of evidence
- to critically appraise publications in an area of archaeological science and set them within a wider research context
- to communicate scientific approaches in archaeology to a non-scientific audience

Additional outcomes:
Students will develop their critical thinking skills and gain transferable skills in the evaluation of written work.

Outline content:
Interactive, illustrated lectures and seminars will introduce key principles of scientific method and analysis as well as the main methods used in contemporary archaeological science. Key themes are: environmental, geo- and bioarchaeology; types of evidence and the preservation conditions under which they occur, questions of taphonomy, spatial scale and problems of interpretation; dating methods appropriate for a range of timescales of the human past, their accuracy, precision and comparison with historical dating methods; the reconstruction of past environments and human responses to environmental change; the main techniques employed in biomolecular archaeology, how they can be used to in terms of past subsistence, mobility and ancestry and which problems are encountered in analysis and data interpretation; the application of computing in archaeology; the integration of scientific and archaeological datasets in interpretation.

Global context:
Students will become familiar with applications of scientific methods to archaeological problems around the world.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module will be taught through a combination of interactive illustrated lectures, seminar discussions and practical demonstrations.

Introductory Reading List

Branch, N, Canti, M., Clark P, Turney, C. 2005. Environmental Archaeology: theoretical and practical approaches. London: Hodder Arnold (E)
Brothwell, D R and Pollard, A M (eds.) 2001. Handbook of Archaeological Sciences. Chichester: John Wiley.. (E)
Brown, T. & Brown K. 2011. Biomolecular Archaeology: an introduction. Chichester and Malden: Wiley-Blackwell (R)
Dincauze, D F 2000. Environmental Archaeology: principles and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (R)
Evans, J and O’Connor, T. 2005. Environmental Archaeology: principles and methods. 2nd rev. ed. Stroud: Sutton. (R)
Evans, J.G. 1999 Land and Archaeology. Stroud: Tempus (R)
Lowe, J J and Walker, M J C 2014. Reconstructing Quaternary Environments. 3rd rev. edition. London: Longman.
Malainey, M. 2010. A Consumer’s Guide to Archaeological Science: Analytical Techniques. New York and London: Springer (R)
Matisoo-Smith, E. and Horsburgh, K.A. 2012. DNA for Archaeologists. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press. (R)
Pollard, A.M., Batt, C.M., Stern, B., Young, S.M.M. 2007. Analytical Chemistry in Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Presss (R)
Rapp, G and Hill, C L 2006. Geoarchaeology: the earth-science approach to archaeological interpretation. 2nd rev edn. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Roberts, N 2014. The Holocene: An environmental history. 3rd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Wilkinson, K. and Stevens, C. 2003 Environmental Archaeology: approaches, techniques and applications. Stroud: Tempus

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 5
Practicals classes and workshops 3
Guided independent study 72
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Other information on summative assessment:

Students will write - One critique of a scientific journal article (c.1,500 words) (60%) - One additional piece of coursework (40%)

Formative assessment methods:

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:

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

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Resubmission of coursework on dates set by the department.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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