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:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof Duncan Garrow

Type of module:

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. In addition to an exploration of the history of archaeological theory, we also investigate current approaches subjects such as gender, identity and the human the life-course in the past.

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 you will be able:

• to identify and describe the main traditions of archaeological thought

• to appraise critically the similarities between these traditions;

• 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 a spects of past societies from their preserved material remains;

• to extend via self-directed study your knowledge and understanding of issues covered in class discussions

• to articulate complex arguments effectively in writing in assessed essays and orally in seminar discussions 

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 discussions and the development of individual essay topics encourage independent learning and the exercise of initiative, as well as developing communication skills and personal responsibility. 

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 inference s about past societies from the material remains in the archaeological record. These themes include gender, identity, ethnicity, the human life-course, etc.. Reference will be made to case studies 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, on a topic selected in consultation with the module lecturers. The module also includes a field trip to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 13
Seminars 11
External visits 4
Guided independent study: 72
Total hours by term 100 0 0
Total hours for module 100

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
One essay of 3,000 words (100%)

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

The below information applies to students on taught programmes except those on Postgraduate Flexible programmes. Penalties for late submission, and the associated procedures, which apply to Postgraduate Flexible programmes are specified in the policy “Penalties for late submission for Postgraduate Flexible programmes”, which can be found here:
The Support Centres 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 (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:

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: 1 September 2021


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