Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module examines the nature of technological knowledge in the Classical world and the practical applications of technology which affected everyday life. Topics covered in the module include, but are not limited to, mining technology, pottery production, engineering, food transformation, and modes of transmission of technical knowledge. The primary material that will be examined is predominantly archeological, alongside relevant ancient literary and documentary sources.


This module aims to introduce students to the technology available in the Greek and Roman world and what kind of evidence we have for it. The module will not only address the type of discoveries, technological developments, and the extent of their practical applications found in the Classical world, but also engage with the question of what place people with specific technical knowledge, such as architects and engineers, occupied in society. The topic will be addressed from a variety of perspectives: discussion of the available sources, of the major theoretical topics, analysis of archaeological data and, where relevant, of comparative ethnographic material.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:

Display familiarity with the range of available evidence and historical issues related to the topic;

Understand how these changed over time, and under the influence of what factors;

Appraise critically primary sources and modern scholarly approaches;

Recognize a variety of evidential types, their potentials and limitations;

Understand how the to pics addressed in the module relate to broader ancient historical questions;

Locate and assemble material on the subjects of study;

Organize their materials and articulate arguments effectively in writing.

Additional outcomes:

The module encourages and supports independent student learning, communication skills, and discussion with other members of a group. Students will also develop their IT skills by use of relevant web resources.

Outline content:

This module will examine the nature of technological knowledge in the Classical world and the practical applications of technology which affected everyday life. Examples span from technology used in food production and transformation, to ensuring an effective water delivery system for Roman baths. The module will have a broad thematic organization and will move chronologically from the Greek classical period to the Roman period. Discussion of the Hellenistic period and the studies carried out at the Mouseion of Alexandria will be important, although not all the discoveries (such as steam power) found practical applications. One of the challenges of this topic is that it requires the combination of literary sources (which do not cover this topic in any systematic fashion) with the study of archaeological finds and the results of the analysis of the archaeological sciences. Topics covered in the module will include mining technology, pottery production, engineering, food transformatio n, and modes of transmission of technical knowledge.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This module will be taught by lectures and seminars.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 16
Seminars 4
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 24
    Wider reading (directed) 70
    Advance preparation for classes 10
    Preparation for seminars 6
    Essay preparation 70
Total hours by term 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

(1) One essay of about 1,500 words, due in by 12 noon at the end of week 7 (35%)

(2) One essay of about 3,000 words on a topic devised by the student and approved by the convenor, due in by 12 noon on the first Tuesday of the following Term (65%)

Formative assessment methods:

Students will have a 1:1 meeting with the convenor to discuss their choice of topic for the long essay. Students are encouraged to submit a draft or outline of their essay for formative feedback by the end of Week 9.

Penalties for late submission:

The Module Convenor 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[1] (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: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
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:
40% overall

Reassessment arrangements:

Resubmission of work

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: 4 April 2020


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