ARMTAA-Theoretical Approaches in Archaeology

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

Module Convenor: Dr Duncan Garrow


Summary module description:
This module is focused on different approaches to archaeological theory, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they are relevant to the interpretation of archaeological evidence. As well as presenting and discussing these approaches, we also examine the kinds of inferences about human behaviour in the past that archaeologists make on the basis of this material evidence. These inferences extend from basic productive activities to social organisation and practices, larger scale social and political structures and symbolism, cognition and ideology.

This module aims to provide students with a comprehensive knowledge of the main approaches to archaeological thought and a critical awareness of the construction and evaluation of inferences about past societies based on material remains.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able:
• to identify and describe the main traditions of archaeological thought;
• to appraise critically the similarities between these traditions and the extent to which they are mutually exclusive;
• to evaluate critically the extent to which archaeological thought is linked to the empirical record in chosen case studies;
• to understand and evaluate critically the extent to which inferences can be made about different aspects of past societies from their preserved material remains;
• to extend via self-directed study their knowledge and understanding of issues covered in class discussions;
• to articulate complex arguments effectively in writing in assessed essays and orally in seminar discussions and presentations.

Additional outcomes:
This module promotes the development of advanced problem-solving skills in dealing with diverse bodies of thought and complex and incomplete data. Seminar presentations and the development of individual essay topics encourage independent learning and the exercise of initiative, as well as developing communication skills and personal responsibility in the context of teamwork.

Outline content:
This module takes an historical, cross-cultural and comparative approach to the teaching of archaeological thought. We begin by introducing the major traditions of archaeological thought, as well as their origins in the natural and social sciences. Students are introduced to the diversity of approaches to theory that are practised in world archaeology today, as well as the perceived strengths and weaknesses of these approaches. Then we focus on themes relating to the construction of inferences about past societies from the material remains in the archaeological record. These themes include material culture and symbolism, agency, cognition, ideology and power, models of society and social change, mortuary practices and trade and exchange. Reference will be made to case studies in archaeological thought throughout the module

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Illustrated lectures, seminars and structured group discussions requiring preparatory reading. Students will each write one assessed essay, which will be returned in an individual tutorial, give an oral presentation of a selected and relevant case study and contribute to class discussion in seminars. The essay topic will develop out of the oral presentation

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 13
Seminars 15
External visits 2
Guided independent study 70
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:
One essay of 3,000 words (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:

Length of examination:

Requirements for a pass:

Reassessment arrangements:
Resubmission of coursework by the end of 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: 31 March 2017

Things to do now