Exploring Our Past
Archaeology is the study of humans and their cultural and natural environment across time; from the Palaeolithic to modern forensic studies. It explores human activities in time and space and at a variety of resolutions, ranging from human migration over millennia through to dramatic events, as at Pompeii, where a single event is captured, instantly and forever. The range of information that supports this exciting study is diverse, encompassing historical sources, material culture, buildings, landscapes, past environments and climate. This foundation course introduces the concept and practice of archaeology and how the discipline relates to associated themes of study (e.g. Ancient History, History, Anthropology, Geology, Classics). It outlines the range of approaches to studying the past and how these can be integrated to become more than the sum of the parts. Hence this course if of benefit to all disciplines that study the past.
Project - Archaeology as Anthropology: cultural lives in the past
Archaeology explores the lives of people in the past through their material culture and the social, cultural and material conditions of their existence. This is not a dry ‘artefacts and bones’ encounter with the dead, but rather an encounter with the social actions of living people who created the material worlds – artefacts, bodies, structures, landscapes – we see archaeologically. This kind of archaeological enquiry draws on an anthropological understanding of social behaviour and of the cultural rationales and beliefs that give meaning to people’s lives.
This project focuses on major interpretative themes in current anthropological archaeology, such as violence, death ritual, architecture, technology, social identities, journeying, gift-giving and consumption, and will examine the relationships between social practices, meanings and material culture. Case studies are drawn from ethnography and archaeology, including topics such as tombs, mines, houses, animals and environments, rich graves, boats, chiefly symbolism, exotic artefacts and mind-altering substances.
Project – Bog Bodies
In the Bog Bodies course we will be exploring some of the exceptionally well preserved human remains that have come from peat bogs, trying to understand who these people were and how they died. In addition to learning about some of the best examples of bog bodies, we’ll also be looking into the ways in which they have been interpreted using a variety of different archaeological and historical sources.
The survival of these bodies can include hair, skin and even the contents of their stomachs telling us what they ate for their last meal! We’ll therefore also be looking into why they are so well preserved compared with human remains buried in other environments.
The subject matter of the course will be used as a focus for developing and embedding core skills that will help you throughout your time in higher education. This will include sources of information, critical assessment of these sources and their correct documentation.
Project - Mycenae.
Mycenae is one of the best known sites of Greek Myth, the home of Agamemnon leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War, fabled as Rich in Gold and Well Built. With its astonishing golden grave goods found over a century ago in the Shaft Graves by Heinrich Schliemann and massive fortifications with blocks reputedly too large for human hands to shift, Mycenae is a complex archaeological site and the focal point of a civilization whose influence stretched from Egypt to Italy.
In this project you will explore the real achievements of the Mycenaeans over a 700 year time span and compare these with the accounts of the Heroic Age given in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey; you join in compiling a referenced account of an aspect of Mycenae and its civilization and publish this to the internet.