Archaeology and Ancient History (VVC4): Selected Module Descriptions Year 1

First year

Compulsory modules 

Early Civilisations: Egypt (10 credits)

This course provides an introduction to the history and archaeology of ancient Egypt from the introduction of writing and the first unification of the country to the beginning of the Ptolemaic Period. Within the framework of a chronological outline, and incorporating a survey of Egyptian thought, it presents an overview of ancient Egypt’s rich artistic and architectural achievement. The distinctive features of each period will be identified and discussed, with a strong emphasis on visual appreciation and understanding of material culture. The course provides the necessary background for those pursuing Egyptian studies in their second year, and a general awareness of this fascinating civilisation for others. 

Early Civilisations of Western Asia (10)

An overview over the prehistoric cultures of Western Asia sets the scene. In the historic period covered (c3000-300 BC) the principal civilisations taught are the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Elamite, Hittite and Syrian Neo-Hittite (Luwian). Particular attention is given for each of these cultures, as appropriate, to social history, technological advances, architectural, artistic and literary achievements.

First Year Projects A+B (20)

A series of in-depth studies of key types of evidence (e.g. texts or other historical sources, archaeological sites and material culture) associated with problems of source analysis and interrogation. These will familiarise students with the centrality within the discipline of primary evidence and the existence of multiple ways of looking at that evidence. Each student will be allocated to a small group led by a member of staff (also his/her personal tutor) who will offer a set of topics drawn from his/her speciality appropriate to the degree programme.

Practical Archaeology (20)

This module provides an introduction to the theoretical, methodological and practical constitution of Archaeology, focussing on the unique set of field data collection techniques and related analytical and interpretative methods at the heart of the discipline. The module includes: a brief overview of the history of archaeological thought and methodological development; lectures on key fieldwork methods, analytical techniques; dating methods and chronology, practical classes on the identification, analysis and interpretation of material and environmental evidence; and a field training course in which students gain core practical skills, first-hand knowledge of archaeological fieldwork methodology and an understanding of reflexive on-site interpretation.

World Archaeology (20)

This module provides an introduction to human physical evolution, society and cultural life from the Palaeolithic to the Middle Ages. It combines a developmental evolutionary narrative with comparative cross-cultural analyses of past social systems, material culture, transformative technologies and forms of symbolic communication. Key themes include: the emergence and nature of modern humans; the origins and spread of farming technologies, complex societies and urbanism; state formation; the nature of 'civilization' and complex symbolic and artistic representation; imperialism and hegemony; and large-scale systems of trade and political and cultural interaction. A major theme throughout the module is the unique character of archaeological enquiry as the primary source of knowledge for understanding humanity at a global scale over the last three million years. 

Example optional modules may include: 

Barbarians and the Transformation of the Roman World (10)

The course surveys the history and archaeology of Western Europe between AD c400 and c800 - the period when the Roman Empire collapsed and the Early Medieval kingdoms started to emerge. In particular, it will examine the interaction of the Romans and non-Roman groups, the movements of the tribal groups, their impact on the areas they settled, and the way that new identities were forged. We will look at how post-Roman Europe was organised - how political and social structures were shaped and what religious beliefs began to take hold. We will examine the way that networks of contacts stretched across this 'new Europe', resulting in diverse trading patterns, episodes of violence and artistic development. Sources used in this course include literary material, settlement archaeology, artefact study and funerary evidence.

Byzantium and the Transformation of the Roman World (10)

A survey of the history of the East Mediterranean from ca 300 to ca 850 tracing the transformation of the Roman world, the emergence of the (Christian) Byzantine Empire, and the rise of Islam. Lectures focus on the lands, peoples, cultures (including material and visual cultures), beliefs and socio-political history of the Late Antique, Byzantine and, to a lesser extent, Islamic worlds. Critical reading of the secondary literature is encouraged in class discussion.

Greek Art and Archaeology (10)

This module focuses on the art and archaeology of the Greek world between the Bronze Age and Hellenistic period. It has a broadly diachronic approach intended to provide students with a chronological framework within which specific themes and bodies of evidence will be examined, together with relevant theoretical and methodological approaches appropriate to the study of Mediterranean cultures. 

Introduction to Greek Literature (10)

The module provides an introduction to key aspects of Greek Literature. Students will be introduced first to the Homeric epics and progress through archaic lyric poetry to the performance texts of democratic Athens.

Introduction to Roman Literature (10)

The module provides an introduction to key aspects of Roman Literature. Students will be introduced to key Roman texts and authors, including the Aeneid, speeches by Cicero, and some Roman elegy and satire.

Roman Art and Archaeology (10)

This module focuses on the art and archaeology of the Roman world. It has a broadly diachronic approach intended to provide students with a chronological framework within which specific themes and bodies of evidence will be examined, together with relevant theoretical and methodological approaches appropriate to the study of Mediterranean cultures, with particular emphasis on Rome itself but also incorporating case studies drawn from other areas of the Roman Empire (which may include Roman Britain).

Widening Horizons Module (20)

A Widening Horizon Module is a module that can be taken alongside your main degree programme, allowing you to explore a different discipline during your undergraduate studies. There were 27 different modules to choose from for 2016/17, and a range of languages modules, offered by Languages for All.