Archaeology postgraduate modules

Indicative module descriptions

Archaeological Theory, Method and Interpretation

This module delivers a generic disciplinary introduction to how archaeologists investigate and interpret past cultural worlds and social life. It focuses on key areas of theory, method and interpretation, embracing a range of cultural archaeology, landscape archaeology, heritage and environmental archaeology themes. It is also designed to develop and enhance key practical and research skills, especially in oral presentation, teamwork and essay-writing.}

Assessment: Written assignment and presentation

Archaeology of Greece

This module presents a critical review of theoretical approaches and interpretative themes in contemporary funerary archaeology, and examines the central significance of this field of study in current debates in world archaeology. The extraordinarily rich and diverse character of mortuary evidence is highlighted, with particular focus on how this kind of evidence is used to explore the relationships between cultural ideals, values, social agency and symbolic representation. Key interpretative themes that are considered from several perspectives include social interpretation, cultural identity and personhood, ritual practice, and past belief systems. The module draws widely on cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary case studies in archaeology and cognate disciplines such as anthropology and history.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture

The module surveys the history of archaeological practice as it concerns the post-Roman East, and explores key aspects of the Late Roman and Transitional (‘Dark-Age’) archaeological record, different archaeological strategies, and how archaeological literature can be used to understand some of the major long-term changes that characterise the period AD 300-800. It focuses in particular on interpretative themes such as Christianisation, invasions, demographic changes, the transformation of urban culture, and changes in rural settlement, agriculture and artisanal production.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Creating Europe: Complex Societies 1000 BC – AD 1000

This module explores the nature of complex societies in Europe from the Iron Age to the early medieval period, and their interactions with the state-organised societies of the Mediterranean. It is organised thematically and chronologically, focusing on interpretations of complex societies, large-scale economic and political systems, ethnicity, elite culture, chiefdoms, state formation, empire, urbanism, coinage, and long-term change. Case studies are drawn from a wide range of cultural contexts in north-west and central Europe, using both archaeological and historical evidence. A key theme addressed throughout the module is the extent to which social forms and transformations in Europe can be explained in terms of indigenous cultural, economic and political processes or in terms of inter-regional Mediterranean/temperate European influences and dependencies.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Empire and Identity

This module considers the impact of the Roman Empire on peoples’ perceptions of themselves and how this was represented through their material culture. The lectures are arranged thematically, covering the period from c. 250 BCE to 300 CE. Based on primary archaeological evidence and on the critical evaluation of previous scholarship, the module aims at analysing the specific quality of Rome’s rule over the Mediterranean and Central and North-western Europe and the various forms of cultural (and violent) interaction this hegemony entailed. Lectures will focus on a broad range of topics, such as the changing perceptions on the concept of ‘Romanisation’, the army as an incubator of Roman identity, religion and identity in the empire, bathing and Roman identity, urbanism and empire, violence and cultural transformation, Roman art and society, imperial modes of production, and the creation of Roman provincial landscapes.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Field Survey

This module introduces you to the theory and practice of recording the archaeological and environmental elements of ancient landscapes, from a scale of individual structures and monuments to integrated surveys of past cultural and natural landscapes. The module includes an introduction to the fundamentals of geodetic survey and students will receive practical training in basic measured survey using a variety of equipment and learn to work with survey data in both conventional and digital formats. The module will also explore the potential of survey data for analysis through assessment by a group project using data through work generated through the course Field School. The Field School will take place at an appropriate site or landscape selected by the staff.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Funerary Archaeology

This module presents a critical review of theoretical approaches and interpretative themes in contemporary funerary archaeology, and examines the central significance of this field of study in current debates in world archaeology. The extraordinarily rich and diverse character of mortuary evidence is highlighted, with particular focus on how this kind of evidence is used to explore the relationships between cultural ideals, values, social agency and symbolic representation. Key interpretative themes that are considered from several perspectives include social interpretation, cultural identity and personhood, ritual practice, and past belief systems. The module draws widely on cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary case studies in archaeology and cognate disciplines such as anthropology and history.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

GIS and Spatial Analysis

This module aims to develop knowledge and understanding of the theory and practice of landscape analysis using Geographical Information Systems (GIS). It introduces you to advanced concepts of GIS and spatial analysis and the application of GIS to landscape studies, covering concepts such as the development of data models for landscape archaeology, airborne/satellite remote sensing, GIS as a research tool, and issues relating to the deployment of GIS for both research and curatorial purposes.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Landscape Archaeology

This module surveys contemporary landscape archaeology and themes in the analysis and interpretation of past landscapes. It provides an introduction to theoretical approaches in landscape archaeology, and how different kinds of landscapes and extensive forms of landscape organisation, social practice and perception have been recognised, investigated and interpreted archaeologically.

Methodologies of landscape-scale study will be reviewed and evaluated in the light of theoretical frameworks, research agendas, and the impacts of investigative techniques, including remote sensing and geophysical survey.

The module is delivered in both class contexts and through a field study visit to explore the design and application of fieldwork methodologies in a specific landscape setting, interpretations of the past cultural landscapes revealed, and their modern representation and construction.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Material Culture

This module provides an introduction to material culture studies and artefact analysis in Archaeology, drawing on wider perspectives on materiality in related disciplines such as Anthropology. It serves to create a foundation in material culture theory, analysis and interpretation, focusing on current archaeological approaches to the study of artefacts and the materiality of cultural life. Key themes include classification and typology, technology, functionalism, symbolism, contextual analysis, agency theory and signification, aesthetics, and the material analysis and representation of artefacts in both research and popular media.

The module comprises lectures, seminar classes, and analysis of material culture in class exercises and other contexts.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Please note that the optional module information listed here is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year and depending on your programme of study. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.