AR3S9-Coastal and Maritime Archaeology

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Prof Martin Bell


Summary module description:
The distinctive nature of past human activity in coastal (including intertidal) and maritime environments will be examined. We will look at the resources the sea offers and more theoretical dimensions such as perception, liminality and cross-cultural contacts. The contexts in which coastal sites are preserved and the techniques used to study them are introduced. Topics covered include: fishing, middens, saltmarsh exploitation, reclaimation, prehistoric boats. Seacraft of the Classical and medieval world. Management of the coastal and maritime archaeological heritage is examined and how it relates to nature conservation.

To provide an understanding of the distinctive nature of coastal archaeology, the main types of site and evidence, the contexts in which that evidence occurs, the methods employed and how archaeology relates to other aspects of coastal zone management.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the course it is expected that the student will be able: *To identify the main sources of coastal and maritime archaeological evidence and the field techniques used in discovery and excavation. *To identify the main coastal processes relevant to the preservation and discovery of archaeological evidence and the environmental and sedimentary context in which that evidence occurs. *To identify ways in which coastal wetlands and submarine archaeology enhance our knowledge of the past. *To identify why boats and ships are an important heritage resource in terms of distinctive chronological and functional assemblages of artefacts and contacts between geographical areas. *To evaluate the relationships between coastal and dryland resources and patterns of human activity. *To evaluate coastal heritage resources in the wider context of nature conservation and the planning process. *To critically review coastal and maritime archaeological projects. *To enhance communication skills through an oral presentation and seminars. *To organise material and evaluate research questions effectively in writing a coursework essay.

Additional outcomes:
The course will enhance the students' ability to evaluate the management of heritage resources in relation to environmental management, impact assessment and nature conservation. Key current issues such as sea-level rise, sea-defence upgrading and managed retreat will be introduced. Seminars will enhance critical and presentational skills and the ability to work as members of a team tackling the challenges of the ever changing coastal zone.

Outline content:
The course investigates why the coastal zone is distinctive in terms of the diversity of resources, rhythmical tidal cycles and issues of liminality, cultural contact and the allure of the exotic. Coastal processes and landforms which provide the context for the preservation of sites will be introduced, including conditions of exceptional organic preservation from nets and wood artefacts to ships. The techniques of survey and excavation used in these contexts will be introduced. Middens and fishing practice will be considered. We will consider the role of log boats in prehistory and sewn boats of the Bronze and Iron Age. The role of the coastal zone as an agricultural resource will be examined, both pastoralism, crops, manuring and later reclaimed landscapes. In the Classical and Medieval world the significance of ships as a microcosm will be considered providing artefacts of a defined chronological horizon and evidence of patterns of trade and cultural interaction. The role of coastal and maritime heritage in coastal zone management will be considered including its relationship to nature conservation. Fieldtrip A one day fieldtrip to the Severn Estuary (or other appropriate area) provides a field introduction to coastal sediment sequences, the distinctive forms of archaeological evidence preserved within them and current heritage management issues.

Global context:
Global warming results in sea-level rise and the erosion of coastal archaeological sites and habitats. There is much current concern about the sustainable use of coastal environments, including issues such as sea defence upgrading, managed realignment and nature conservation. Also the subject of global concern is the protection of wrecks, how submerged sites can be evaluated and whether it is justified to exploit wrecks and the seabed more generally for commercial gain.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Lectures and linked seminars, each student will give an oral presentation and contribute to each seminar. There is a one day field trip to gain experience of studying and recording sites and sequences in the field. There are two seminar sessions in university museums (MERL and Ure Museums). An essay topic, selected from a list, will provide the opportunity for a more detailed review of a topic within the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 13
Seminars 7
Fieldwork 10
External visits 2
Guided independent study 168
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 60
Report 30
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Other information on summative assessment:
One essay 3000 words (60%), oral seminar presentations (10%) critical review of a coastal or maritime survey or monograph (2000 words, 30%).

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:
    Re-submission of coursework in August/September

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 21 December 2016

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