Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module focuses on how and why archaeologists have excavated and interpreted the material remains of past societies over time (from some of the earliest interpretations of the past in the ancient Near East and Classical Greece and Rome to the modern day). It also looks at the evolution of ideas through time, investigating how wider society has changed archaeology, and how heritage has the capacity to transform the world in different ways. The module is global in outlook and international in scope. As well as outlining the history of archaeology, the module also explores many of the key theoretical approaches that archaeologists are currently using to interpret the past, including anthropology. The module also looks at a series of case studies, focusing on work currently being carried out in the Department which demonstrates how archaeology and heritage can impact upon wider society in different ways. One of the central aims of the module is also to consider where the discipline’s ideas might go in future. The kinds of issue the module will cover include: the development of the discipline from 18th century Antiquarian treasure-hunting to 21st century post-modern ideas; theories of evolution; the relationship between archaeology and anthropology; sex, gender and identity; ethnicity; materiality; the power of objects; the ethical implications of doing archaeology; and heritage management.


  • To provide students with an overview of the history of archaeology and archaeological ideas.

  • To outline the major developments in archaeological thinking over the past 200 years.

  • To discuss some of the key theoretical ideas which have arisen within archaeology in recent decades, and to assess their impact on our understanding of archaeological sites.

  • To investigate how archaeology has been influenced by wider society, and in turn how heritage can influence people’s broader understandings of the world.

  • To consider the future of archaeology and heritage across the globe.

Assessable learning outcomes:

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of key aspects of the history of archaeology 

2. Discuss key theoretical concepts in archaeology developed over the past 30 years

3. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different archaeological ideas

4. Discuss the relationship between archaeological ‘theories’ and the interpretations of the material record those theories are used to interpret

5. Appreciate the varied ways in which heritage can impact upon wider society.

6. Demonstrate a clear understanding of how global archaeology and heritage might develop in future.

Additional outcomes:

Participation in seminars will enable students to develop and apply their communication and presentation skills through structured discussion sessions. Research and analytical skills will be developed through participation in seminars and completion of the written coursework components. Contributions to the module’s  group blog will enable students to appreciate and enhance the academic value of online resources. Production of the group presentations will enable students to develop their ability to present archaeological information and complex ideas to an audience, and to enhance their teamworking skills.

Outline content:

This module focuses on the history of archaeology, and especially archaeological ideas, in the long-term. It also considers many of the key concepts that have underlain much recent archaeological interpretation and the ways in which heritage can impact upon the world and wider society. The main issues the module will cover include the development of the discipline from 18th Century Antiquarian treasure-hunting to 21st century post-modern ideas. The kinds of subject that will be covered includ e: theories of evolution; sex, gender and identity; ethnicity; materiality and the power of objects; and the ethical implications of doing archaeology.

Global context:

This module focuses on the global development of archaeology and the impact that heritage can have around the world.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

This course is taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, group discussions and debates (in class and online), student presentations, directed reading, assignments and a museum trip.

There will be 10 core teaching sessions; each of these sessions will last two hours and will usually include lecture content and wider class discussions. There will also be five additional seminars throughout the course of the module looking at individual case studies illustrating the impact that archaeology and heritage can have on wider society.

As a 20 credit module, the module should involve 200 hours of study time: attending lectures and seminars, general background reading, preparing for seminars, reading for, and writing, your written coursework, preparing for the final presentation and contributing to the ‘wiki’

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 5
External visits 5
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (directed) 20
    Preparation for presentations 20
    Preparation for seminars 30
    Group study tasks 10
    Essay preparation 90
Total hours by term 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 70
Oral assessment and presentation 15
Set exercise 15

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

One essay, 2500 words (70%)

One group blog (15%)

One group seminar presentation (15%)

Formative assessment methods:

Group discussions within the wiki enable students to obtain direct feedback from peers and also to work up ideas prior to the final group presentation.

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:

A mark of 40% overall

Reassessment arrangements:

Re-submission of coursework in August

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 4 April 2020


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