ARMTTA-Theoretical Approaches in Archaeology

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 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 investigate current approaches subjects such as gender, identity and the human the life-course in the past.


This module provides 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 aspects 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 an assessed essay and an article critique, 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 inferences 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 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 (on a topic selected in consultation with the module lecturers) and an article critique (on a subject of their choice). The module also includes an optional field trip to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 13
Seminars 11
External visits 4
Guided independent study 172
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 60
Set exercise 40

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

One Essay of 2500 words (60%) 

One Article Critique of 2000 words (40%)


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:

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):

Last updated: 14 June 2018


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