ARMICM-Coastal and Maritime Geoarchaeology

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 geomorphological and sedimentary contexts in which coastal sites are preserved and the techniques used to study them are introduced. Topics covered include: fishing, middens, saltmarsh exploitation, reclamation, 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 develop an understanding of the distinctive nature of coastal archaeology and its contribution to our understanding of the past. This includes the main types of site and evidence, the geomorphological and sedimentary 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 dry ground 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 with particular reference to geoarchaeological and environmental aspects.
• To enhance communication skills through a weekly oral presentation and seminars.
• To organise material and critically 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 briefly 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:
At masters level the formal programme of 10 lecture sessions will be accompanied by 10 weekly seminars which will provide the opportunity for in-depth discussion and critique. The seminars will mainly involve the critical examination of key recent projects particularly those with a geoarchaeological and environmental archaeological emphasis. At each seminar each student will give a PowerPoint presentation critiquing an aspect of the project and will also be expected to contribute to wider discussion of the topic. A coastal or maritime survey or monograph will be selected as the subject of a critical review. An essay topic identified in discussion between course leader and each student will provide the opportunity for a more detailed review of another topic within the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 16
Seminars 10
Tutorials 2
Fieldwork 8
Guided independent study 164
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 3,000 words (60%), PowerPoint seminar presentations (10%) critical review of a coastal or maritime survey or monograph (2000 words, 30%)
Relative percentage of coursework: 100%

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information:

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:

Reassessment arrangements:
Resubmission of coursework by 22nd August, but it cannot carry forward more than a pass mark.

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

Things to do now