Archaeology and Anthropology (LV64): Selected Module Descriptions Year 2

Second Year 

Compulsory modules 

Artefacts and Material Culture (20 credits)

Artefacts and materials provide us with insights into other ways of life, art, cognition, technology and the materiality of human existence - practically and in terms of symbolic expression and sensory experience. Artefacts are also the primary media for representing the past in museums - a key point of contact for public engagement with cultural heritage. Archaeology is at the cutting edge of material culture studies, heavily influencing – and being influenced by – new approaches in anthropology, art history, heritage conservation and museology.

The module is divided into two sections. The first part explores the collection, curation, interpretation and presentation of material culture in museum displays and repositories. This will include discussion of display methods (including digital media), and the values, meanings and aesthetics of artefact presentation. The second part of the module examines current approaches to the interpretation of material culture, focusing on social life in the material world, relationships between beliefs, knowledge, action and artefacts, and fundamental aspects of human existence such as technology, ritual, gender, age, cult, ethnicity and power.

Seminar II (choice of seminar topics) (20)

A range of topics (circa 15 each year) will be offered across the disciplinary scope of Department.  The topics will vary according to the current research interests of each member of staff but will normally focus on a well defined body of primary literary, visual, historical or archaeological data. Staff will publish a 300 word account of the topic offered and its research potential together with a brief introductory bibliography before course registration each year to enable students to select from themes related to their own period, area or subject interests.

Anthropology: Theory, Ethnography and Research (40)

Ethnography, Theory, and Research covers essential elements of social theory for Anthropology, and anthropological theory for the Social Sciences and Humanities.  It provides training in theories and theorists who have influenced anthropological thought and ethnographic research (e.g. Marx, Durkheim, Weber, etc.); and in the historical development of anthropological schools of thought in Britain, the US, and France, from the nineteenth century to the present day. It constitutes a fundamental component of degree programmes with an anthropological focus.  The module includes an assessed practical research project in which students put into practice what they have learned: students behave like anthropologists, making systematic observations of the social behaviour that takes place around them, and they analyse this behaviour using theoretical frameworks studied in the first half of the module.  During this project work, students will receive training and support through additional contact hours.

Example optional modules may include:

Cities and Monuments of the Mediterranean (20)

Most people in the ancient and medieval worlds could not read and did not have access to books.  Instead, they relied on visual communication, from monuments and their decoration down through the ornament on objects of daily use such as combs.  The module teaches students how to look at the past, and how to see the past in a new way. For example, the Parthenon in Athens, and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul are major monuments of the Mediterranean world, but in both cases their original meaning(s) have changed, sometimes dramatically, over time.  Cities of the Ancient & Medieval Mediterranean looks at what these major sites – and cities such as Jerusalem (successively Jewish, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, and now split between Israel and Palestine), Palermo and other major urban centres – tell us about the creation of the past.  

Field Archaeology (20)

This module reviews current archaeological project design and fieldwork method and their importance for understanding archaeological interpretation. The first part consists of lectures on the methodological basis of field archaeology, and seminars and classes involving coursework exercises on project design, organisation, field practice and investigative methods. The second part involves practical experience and learning in a fieldwork environment, including training and participation in project organisation, data gathering and recording tasks. Students will be tasked with responsible fieldwork roles and will take part in on-site project reviews. 

From Mummification to Burial (20)

For the ancient Egyptians the most crucial part of life was their posthumous travel to the beyond without dying a second death. Each dead individual had to pass several stages before s/he could become an Osiris and lead his/her life as a circumpolar star in the beyond, “sitting and standing up with the gods”. In this option course we will be looking into the mechanics necessary to guarantee a positive outcome of this rite of passage in order to successfully socialise the deceased into the world of the dead. Textual as well as archaeological sources will help to unfold a detailed picture of the various processes and concepts involved. Among many other topics, we will look into several cemeteries in detail, discuss child burials, listen to recitations performed by priests in the embalming chambers and learn to understand how the Book of the Dead worked. The focus of this option course will be on funerary belief offering a complete picture of how a burial procession leading from the embalming chamber to the tomb was organised, including all rituals and personnel involved. It will enable you to understand ancient Egyptian funerary rituals and religion and will give you an integral picture of the complexity of ancient Egyptian ritual practice.

Human Remains (20)

This module will focus on the archaeology of human remains, from forensic analysis through to the display of human remains within museums. It will introduce students to how human remains are encountered in archaeology, how they can be examined forensically, and what types of information can be discovered. The course will also explore the storage and presentation of human remains, such as within museums, addressing questions relating to the ethics and practice of exhibiting them and how this varies in different countries. The course is taught through a combination of lectures, hands-on practical sessions and museums visits.

Mediterranean and European Archaeology (20)

How and from where did Mycenae get its amber? What was the importance of salt from Austria? Why is there Classical Greek pottery and metalwork in central Europe? Why had Roman amphorae already overrun Gaul long before Caesar? The Mediterranean and Temperate Europe are often regarded as two separate worlds before they were forcibly united by Rome. But in fact there was always contact between the two regions and they impacted on each other in crucial ways. This module will look at the evidence (principally archaeological, some textual) for these interactions from the later Bronze Age through the Iron Age to the eve of the Roman expansion out of the Mediterranean. It will look at the evidence for how contact was driven by the needs for natural resources and for luxury items and how these were obtained and how control of access to these resources resulted in profound social changes visible in the evidence for activities such as trade, warfare, ritual and religion, feasting, coinage. The evidence will include fortifications, settlements, funerary practice and material culture, with an emphasis on the long-distance links.

Aid, NGOs and Development (20)

The module traces the emergence and changing nature as well as (development) significance of NGOs with reference to Africa.  It explores the challenges and opportunities associated with the role of these organisations in African development policy, planning, implementation and evaluation.  It also introduces students to the world of NGO work through invited seminar presentations by NGO workers and the requirement for students to undertake a project which involves designing an NGO.

South Africa in the 20th Century (20)

This module studies South Africa from the late nineteenth century to the end of political apartheid in 1994.  The emphasis falls equally on the consolidation of settler domination and on the varieties of African initiative and resistance that shaped and challenged white rule and accumulation.  Topics include the causes and consequences of the Anglo-Boer War and their relationship to the gold mining industry; the segregationist institutions and policies of the settler dominion from 1910-1939; the meaning and making of apartheid after 1948; black nationalism at home and in exile; and the insurrections, states of emergency and negotiations that produced the new South Africa.  

Caribbean Challenges to the Modern World (20)

Students will assess the limitations of the modern world by approaching ‘modernity’ from an alternate vantage point: the Caribbean. The legacy of slavery permeated Caribbean social, political, and economic culture throughout the 19th and 20th century. Colonial rule practiced forms of indentured labour, monoculture economies, patterns of internal and external migration, and struggled with waves of riot and revolt. At the same time, colonial education produced a literate population who began to explain their place in the modern world as both within and outside Europe. Through weekly study of primary texts, students will engage with the arguments of Caribbean intellectuals that the Caribbean represents a unique microcosm of modern history. Students will gain familiarity with ideas about the development of global capitalism, racism, and imperialism.

Kinship, Gender and Sexuality (20)

Students will engage with classic concerns in the anthropology of kinship, developing a chronological understanding of developments in the field since the mid-twentieth century.  They will study the parallel development of the anthropology of women in the 1970s and 1980s, and the subsequent emergence of the anthropology of gender and sexuality.  Topics covered will include: marriage and family forms, the reputed ‘crisis’ of masculinity, attitudes towards romantic love, and discourses of human, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights.  Emphasis will be placed on the theoretical contributions of feminist anthropologists as well as debates about the suitability of feminism as a framework for anthropological studies of non-Western societies.  Students will be encouraged to engage with the work of African and Asian scholars alongside texts produced by European and North American anthropologists. Case studies will be taken from across the world in an effort to make ‘the familiar strange and the strange familiar’, encouraging students to examine their own assumptions about family forms, gender relations and human sexuality. This module is particularly suitable for students seeking anthropological modules which are not focussed on Africa.

Rural Livelihoods and Development Interventions in West Africa (20)

Within the wider context of globalisation and modernity, and from a variety of conceptual and analytical perspectives, but particularly livelihoods, the module examines changing rural geographies of household, village and regional livelihood systems, and processes during the colonial and post-independence periods in the first semester; and assesses 'development' interventions aimed at transforming the rural sector through the agency of state and non-state actors in specific geographical contexts during the second semester.

Ethnographies of the Marginalised (20)

Ethnographies of the Marginalised explores anthropological interpretations and involvement with socially, economically and politically deprived groups.

In the 1980s, inspired by recent civil rights, feminist and student activism, and in reaction to the social science’s preoccupation with theories of totalising power, anthropologists became concerned with interpreting the actions of the less powerful.  Anthropologists asked two questions: How can we account for change?  How can we best represent the less powerful ‘other’?  The module begins with these two questions, using key theoretical readings to introduce the themes and concerns of early Subaltern Studies.  Covering four distinct topics (race, labour, youth and gender), the first half of term draws on key anthropological texts from the 1980s to explore how power differentials can both marginalise and lead to social innovation on the part of the subordinate.  The chosen texts have become seminal texts in anthropology because they provide rich ethnographic data about subordinate groups, but they also provide a powerful critique to anthropological method and practice, allowing students to interrogate the aims of the discipline.  The second half of the module transcends this focus on dominant/subordinate to examine how we can understand the identities and actions of marginality through the concepts of hope, fantasy, morality and ethics.  For these sessions, students are asked to think how groups living beyond the boundaries of power might operate, and how supposedly powerless groups can break through hierarchies of power by using the dominant to act in their interests.  The module concludes by considering whether marginalised groups are not just the subject of anthropology but use ethnography to fight their own causes. This module is particularly suitable for students seeking anthropological modules which are not focussed on Africa.