AR3S20-The Archaeology and Anthropology of Food

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Gundula Müldner


Type of module:

Summary module description:
Food is not only a biological necessity but also a highly social commodity which pervades all aspects of human experience. This module explores how archaeological investigations of past diets contribute to key questions about the human past, relating to human evolution, health, migration, economy and society in various settings and time periods.

This module aims to provide an understanding how investigations of human foodways and diet are contributing to wider archaeological research questions and how anthropology can inform current archaeological thinking. It aims to encourage students to critically appraise key debates in the field and to provide them with an advanced understanding of the relationship between archaeological evidence and interpretation.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module, it is expected that students will be able to:
• Demonstrate awareness of the multiple links of diet and foodways with health, development, economy and social identity in the past and present
• Explain how cultural anthropology informs key aspects of archaeology and archaeological theory
• Compare and evaluate the different types of evidence for diet in the past
• Summarise key academic debates concerning diet and foodways in the prehistoric and historical periods
• Research, select and present relevant information in the form of a well-formulated and structured argument
• Demonstrate understanding through written coursework and seminar presentations

Additional outcomes:
Seminar discussions and presentations will help students apply and enhance their communication skills in different settings. The emphasis on the relationship between archaeological evidence and interpretation encourages critical thinking and deduction. The requirement to search for and locate information independently will provide opportunities to develop their research skills and apply their IT skills. The evaluation of the role of food in their own lives aims to encourage students' reflection on themselves and their surroundings on an academic level.

Outline content:
This module will introduce the theoretical framework of the anthropology of food and its application to archaeology. We will discuss the methodology, strengths and drawbacks of various approaches to reconstructing past diets, including material culture, structural, ethnographic, osteological (human and animal bones) and biochemical evidence. In a series of seminars we will become acquainted with and discuss key issues and debates in palaeodietary analysis, including the role of diet in human evolution, the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, feasting and conspicuous consumption, cannibalism, migration and colonisation (Roman Britain), social status and social change (Middle Ages), gender and taboos.

Global context:
The module discusses case-studies and examples from a global setting and the emphasis on anthropology encourages cross-cultural comparisons and understanding.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
After an introductory lecture, weekly sessions take the form of guided seminar discussions based on prepared reading, directed and independent research. In the last session we will evaluate the significance of food in modern life referring to the themes discussed throughout the term through formal seminar presentations.

Essential Reading

Gumerman, G. (1997). "Food and Complex Societies". Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 4: 105-139.
Parker Pearson, M. (2003). Food, culture and identity: an introduction and overview. In M. Parker Pearson ed. Food, Culture and Identity in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. BAR International Series 1117. Oxford: Archaeopress: 1-30.

Recommended Reading.

Ashley B, Hollows J, Jones S, and Taylor B. 2004. Food and Cultural Studies. London and New York: Routledge.
Beardsworth, A. & T. Keil (1997). Sociology on the Menu: An invitation to the study of food and society. London & New York: Routledge.
Crowe, I. (2000). The Quest for Food: Its Role in Human Evolution and Migration. Stroud, Gloucs.:
Dietler, M. & B. Hayden, eds. (2001). Feasts: Archaeological and Ethnographic Perspectives on Food, Politics and Power. Washington & London: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Goodmann, A. H., D. L. Dufour & G. H. Pelto, eds. (2000). Nutritional Anthropology: Biocultural Perspectives on Food and Nutrition. Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing Company.
Goody, J. (1982). Cooking, Cuisine and Class. A Study in Comparative Sociology. Cambridge et al.: Cambridge University Press.
Harris, M. (1986). Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture. London, Boston & Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
Jones O'Day, S., W. Van Neer & A. Ervynck, eds. (2004). Behaviour Behind Bones. The zooarchaeology of ritual, religion, status and identity. Proceedings of the 9th ICAZ Conference, Durham 2002. Oxford: Oxbow Books.
Mennell, S. (1985). All Manners of Food: eating and taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the present. Oxford: Blackwell.
Mintz, S. W. & C. M. Du Bois (2002). "The Anthropology of Food and Eating". Annual Review of Anthropology 31: 99-119.
Miracle, P. & N. Milner, eds. (2002). Consuming passions and patterns of consumption. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
Murcott A, ed. 1998. The Nation's Diet: The Social Science of Food Choice. London & New York: Longman.
Scholliers, P. (2001). Food, Drink and Identity. Oxford: Berg.
Simoons, F. J. (1994). Eat Not This Flesh. Food Avoidances from Prehistory to the Present. (2nd revised and enlarged edition.). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Wiessner, P. & W. Schiefenhövel (1997). Food and the Status Quest: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Providence & Oxford: Berghahn.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 2
Seminars 28
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 90
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
One 3,000 word essay (60%)
One 2,000 word reflective analysis of personal food consumption (30%)
Seminar participation and formal oral presentation (10%)

Formative assessment methods:
All students actively contribute to seminars each week, and, if necessary, are helped by guided questions to better understand their own set reading, encouraging to improve their performance and their strategies of seminar preparation.

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:
    Resubmission of coursework on dates set by the Department.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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