AR2F12-Archaeology Fieldschool Single Honours

Module Provider: Archaeology
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Summer term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Ms Amanda Clarke


Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module offers a practical hands-on introduction to the field techniques and site recording methods used on both urban and rural  excavations. Through the excavation and recording of the monuments and sites within a prehistoric, roman, medieval and post-medieval landscape, students will learn about major archaeological monuments within their urban and rural contexts.  Students will spend  a minimum of 3 weeks on a departmental excavation, and during this time will be able to participate in  many aspects of site work, including excavation, finds and sample processing, geophysics, survey and coring. There will be dedicated training sessions and the opportunity for students to focus on particular fieldwork and transferable skills.  Students will be assessed by a combination of continuous assessment (including regular formative feedback on practical and transferable skills), a group project and an individual write-up of an aspect of the excavation.


The training excavation aims to provide the student with an experience of field archaeology in which a basic knowledge of field techniques (both intrusive and non-intrusive) and site recording methods will be acquired. An introduction to finds management and the scientific techniques used on an excavation will be given, as a well as the opportunity to work with visitors to the excavation. Knowledge of the associated material culture, and the biological and environmental evidence will be gained, which will provide an insight into the lives of the people living at  the time. Additionally, insight will be gained into the setting up and running of a large archaeological field project, including Health and Safety awareness.

Introductory Reading:

Dunyvaig, Islay:

Ritchie, G. 1997. The Archaeology of Argyll. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (especially chapters 1, 2, 7, 9, 10)

Caldwell, D. 2008. Islay. The land of the lordship. Edinburgh: Birlinn.

RCAHMS, 1984. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments. Vol.5, Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (Introductory chapters and the entries for Dunyvaig castle, Barr an t-Seann Duine fort and Cill Mhoire burial ground). , explore Projects and Sites and monuments pages

Silchester Roman Town:

Boon, G C, 1974. Silchester: the Roman Town of Calleva. Newton Abbott.

Fulford, M., and Timby, J. 2000: Late Iron Age and Roman Silchester: Excavations on the Site of the Forum-Basilica, 1977, 1980-86, Britannia Monograph 15, London

Fulford, M., Clarke, A. and H. Eckardt 2006: Life and Labour in Late Roman Silchester: Excavations in Insula IX since 1997. London: Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies Britannia Monograph 22, pp xviii + 404

Fulford, M. and Clarke, A. (2011) Silchester: city in transition. The mid-Roman occupation of Insula IX c. A.D. 125-250/300. A report on excavations undertaken since 1997.Britannia Monograph (25). Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, London, UK, pp544. ISBN 9780907764373

Fulford, M. Guidebook: Silchester Roman Town, 2016

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the Field School it is expected that the student will be able:

  • to identify and excavate archaeological stratigraphy

  • to define and survey archaeological features

  • to identify and record archaeological deposits and to recognise the characteristics of soil texture, colour etc

  • to recover and process environmental samples

  • to carry out basic geoarchaeological techniques (coring, auguring etc) to interpret soils and sediments in order to understand past landscapes and environments

  • to excavate, process and identify artefacts on site

  • to work with and understand the uses of an archaeological database

  • to demonstrate a basic technical proficiency in the acquisition of geophysical data (from a range of different geophysical instrumentation)

  • to understand the contribution material culture and biological and environmental evidence can make to our understanding of prehistoric monuments

  • to apply techniques and knowledge gained in the first 2 weeks to project research questions

  • to demonstrate an understanding of the international context of the site

  • to demonstrate skills useful on research projects all over the world

  • to be aware of key Health and Safety procedures for fieldwork;

  • to work as part of a team

  • to evaluate their own practical performance and understanding

  • to communicate and interact with the visiting public

  • to demonstrate an awareness of their own skills and employability

Additional outcomes:

Students will also develop their IT skills by observing the creation and development of the on-site archaeological database. The first 2 weeks of the Field School will provide the students with a theoretical basis to build on and consolidate during the second part of their time on site, allowing the opportunity to develop their analytical and problem-solving skills. The module also aims to teach the student to communicate effectively within their teams and to members of the public. The experience gained on the training excavation will provide skills and foster attitudes which will be of value on any other archaeological fieldwork project. Working within their teams on the digital presence of the project via social media etc will introduce students to technology and its place in the work environment.

Outline content:

Students will spend  a minimum of 3 weeks on the training excavation, and by the end of this time they will have gained skills and knowledge of excavation and recording systems which can be translated to excavation projects all over the world. At the start of the Field School, all students will take part in an on-site training session offering short talks on site Health and Safety, the use of archaeological tools, finds recording methods and systems, and environmental sieving and sorting. Each student is then assigned to a site supervisor, and during the course of their time on site, will learn to take responsibility for the excavation and recording of archaeological features under their guidance. It is expected that each student will participate in every aspect of site work during their time on the Field School, with the possibility of concentrating on particular aspects of fieldwork during their final week on site. Students will be kept up-to-date with site progress by means of a weekly site tour, and by regular reports from their individual supervisors.

Global context:

On completion of this module the student will have gained an exemplary grounding in archaeological fieldwork, and a broad range of skills, which can be put to good use on any other excavation project, anywhere in the world. Working with the project database (the Integrated Archaeological DataBase - IADB) allows students to consider the implications of a universal recording system and how it can be translated to excavations of any location or period.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

All students will be assigned to a team at the outset, and this team will form the basis of their teaching and learning experience on site. Each student will be given a copy of the Field School Handbook at the start of the excavation, outlining aims and results of the excavation, methods and details of recording, Health and Safety regulations and the processes of assessment. Subsequently students will receive instruction and guidance throughout the working day. There will be dedicated training sessions each week on individual aspects of the excavation. During the excavation students will be expected to reflect on their learning experience by constant reference to a skills checklist. This will allow students the opportunity not only to monitor the different archaeological skills gained whilst on site, but also to assess critically their own site performance. Each student will be given an Archaeology Skills Passport at the start of the Field School, and they will map the skills gained throughout the Field School, with the help of feedback from their Supervisors.

The working week will be complemented by formal lectures delivered to large groups, and smaller interactive, and hands-on sessions to enrich the learning experience. After 2 weeks the students will have an informal feedback session in order to monitor their progress.

 18 hours: Contact hours in formal teaching sessions (on-site lectures, seminars, tutorials, hands-on practical demonstrations)

144 hours: Contact hours in supervised fieldwork on site

 38 hours: Independent study (using the Integrated Archaeological Database IADB, writing a reflective Skills’ Journal, reading the Handbook, background reading, formative exercises on site, filling in the Before and After Fieldwork Skills Assessment Questionnaires, filling in the Archaeology Skills Passport).

Contact hours indicated in Summer term include hours during the summer vacation period. 

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 8
Tutorials 2
Demonstration 4
Practicals classes and workshops 4
Fieldwork 144
Guided independent study: 38
Total hours by term 176
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Report 50
Project output other than dissertation 30
Practical skills assessment 20

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

 At the beginning of the summer term all students will attend a number of pre-Field School compulsory sessions/workshops on campus. Students will work in groups at this time to prepare and deliver a screencast on the research aims and project designs of the research projects underpinning the Field School. This group project will be worth 30% of the module mark. During the Field School, students will write an individual  Field Report on one aspect of the Field School (e.g. a find, an archaeological feature, a sample, a visitors’ site tour), reflecting on the skills they have gained and used. This Field Report will form 50% of the module mark. Practical and transferable skills gained on the excavation will be assessed continuously via an online tick list with feedback. This continuous assessment will be worth 20 % of the module mark.

Formative assessment methods:

During the course of the Field School the student will take part in a variety of on-site activities and they will gain a number of skills, as described in the Field School Handbook. Each student will be expected to keep a daily Skills’ Journal, using the Archaeology Skills Passport, and to refer to the skills checklist in their Handbook. The diary and skills’ checklists will contribute to the student’s Continuing Professional Development, and will act as a CPD log. Throughout their time on site students will be provided with feedback on their site skills, and this continuous on-site practical assessment will form the basis of regular feedback sessions about skills gained. Each student will be assigned to a team for the duration of the Field School, and within this team they will take part in a number of team-based formative learning experiences, which will allow them to apply the knowledge gained throughout the Field School.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener 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:
    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:
    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-assessment by submission of coursework on dates set by the Department. Depending on circumstances, completion or retake of the whole module in the following Summer vacation may be required.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    1) Required text books:

    2) Specialist equipment or materials:

    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear: Students will need boots, gloves and hard wearing clothing. For Silchester only they must provide a tent, mattress and bedding. Other items such as a head torch are recommended.

    4) Printing and binding:

    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:

    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence: For Silchester: Students are required to make their own arrangements to get to the Field School and back. For Islay: the cost of travel from Reading to Islay will be subsidised.

    Last updated: 8 April 2019


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