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

Final Year

Compulsory modules

Dissertation (40 credits)

The dissertation is an extended piece of independent research into an area of the student's own interest resulting in a report of 12,000 words. Students will build skills enabling them to identify and explore the appropriate secondary literature (and primary source material, where appropriate), and to interrogate these sources effectively. Students will receive tuition in collating, ordering and referencing their research. Students will complete a sustained piece of academic research drawing on primary and secondary source materials. This module enables students to develop the analytical elements of research and present their research findings professionally. The main focus of supervision will be on assisting the student to structure their core argument effectively, present convincing analysis of the evidence used to sustain their argument, and to prepare a clear introduction and conclusion to the dissertation.

Example optional modules may include: 

Death, burial and society (20)

This module explores the diversity and complexity of mortuary practices and funerary ritual and representation through archaeological evidence. It focuses on current approaches to the analysis of mortuary evidence and interpretative themes such as social reconstruction, identity and personhood, ritual, status, power and cosmology, monumentality, landscapes of death, and the life histories and deaths of individuals. These themes are examined using the wide range of anthropological, sociological and historical perspectives that underpin the inter-disciplinary character of the archaeology of death.

Egypt in the First Millennium BC (20)

This module will present an overview of the history of Egypt from the end of the New Kingdom to the creation of a Macedonian Greek dynasty in Egypt after Alexander’s conquest of the country. This is a fascinating era and one that has only really begun to be explored in recent decades. It saw the settlement of Libyans, invasions of Nubians, Assyrians and Persians, as well as the arrival of Greeks as traders and soldiers. In some respects, Egyptian culture may appear resolutely immutable, with its temples as bastions of cultural continuity. In reality it was constantly responding to new stimuli, and the archaeological and textual record shows both a strong interest in the country’s own past and a pragmatic engagement with the Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds. Many of the issues are encapsulated in Herodotus’ enthralling - and problematic - account of Egypt and its history.

History and Archaeology of Western Asia (20)

 This module explores the empires of the Near East (Babylonian, Hittite and Assyrian) from the 15th C BC until the emergence and expansion of the Persian empire in the 6th C BC. It applies a broad-spectrum approach to the two heartland areas of the Ancient Near East, Assyria and Babylonia. The political history will be traced, including the diplomatic relationship and military interplay between these two areas. Also playing a key role in the module will be cultural history, including literature, religion and mythology. A strand that will give the module a unique identity will be a new investigation of the king, in both regions, as an individual. 

Humans and Environments (20)

This course aims to review a range of key issues in world archaeology and how environmental evidence can be used effectively to address, explain or clarify our past. It explores a range of central archaeological questions and how environmental archaeology can help understand these. The module will also critically examine some popular theories concerning the past such as  a range of  ‘Catastrophe Theories’ such as volcanic eruptions, comet strike and disease based ‘mega deaths’ and the use of ‘long term climate’ change as an sole explanation for social change. 

Late Antiquity (20)

Late Antiquity is a crucial period in the Roman World (roughly the late third to the sixth centuries AD) encompassing the destruction of the Roman Empire in the West and its survival in the East. The module deals with the transformation of the ancient world addressing the social and political history of the period through literature, archaeology and material culture, including analysis of key emperors such as the reformer Diocletian who is alleged to have created a more autocratic imperial model, Constantine, the first Christian emperor, and Julian who abandoned his Christian heritage to return to paganism. The module will cover the relationship between Christianity and paganism including conversion, the creation of new holy space and religious violence; imperial capitals such as Rome and Constantinople; the evolution of the imperial court; Rome and barbarians; the Persian Empire; family and gender structures including eunuchs and the effect of Christianity on these structures.

Palace Societies (20)

The Palace Civilisations of Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece provide the only European examples of Bronze Age urban societies. Their achievements in architecture, administration and technology foreshadow those of Classical Greece by over 1000 years. In turn Crete and mainland Greece were leaders in a pattern of trade and exchange which extended from the Nile valley and the Black Sea to Sicily and Sardinia. Lectures will focus on the historical outline of the period from 1700-1200 BC, and examine a range of aspects of Minoan and Mycenaean civilisation in depth, including architecture, burial practices, linear B archives, mural art, metalworking, and trade.

Seminar III (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.

From Colony to Nation: Ghana 1874 - 1966 (20)

Students will engage with some of the most important questions in the field of modern African History, and find out how these questions might be answered in relation to a specific country, Ghana.  Students will establish a chronological framework through the sessions that deal with reasons for and responses to colonisation, the changing nature of the colonial state, the emergence and achievements of anti-colonial nationalist movements, and attempts to strengthen the new nation against neo-colonial interventions by positioning it within a wider project of pan-African unity.  However, whilst the termination of colonial rule in 1957 is often seen as a dramatic break in Ghana’s political history, this module will also identify elements of continuity into the early Independence era. Drawing on individual life histories and oral history research, students will learn how ‘real’ men and women engaged with and experienced the expansion of commercial agriculture, labour migration, urbanisation, formal schooling, and changing norms in marital and family relationships. Students will develop a detailed knowledge of the political and social history of Ghana, but the weekly sessions will also provide opportunities to reflect on the methodological challenges of modern African history and compare Ghana to other former colonies around the world.

New African Writing (20)

This module explores the variety of approaches to the business of making literature in the circumstances of contemporary Africa that the continent’s writers have evolved in the last two decades.

We will look, for example, at writers’ responses to gender and sexuality, at the rise of genre fiction, and the ‘extroverted African novel’ and diaspora. The problems of constructing adequate and appropriate critical tools for the discussion of such work will be considered.     

Africa the Arts and Social Change (20) 

*The Department’s ability to run this module will depend on the availability of a particular member of staff. If this module has to be cancelled, students will be asked to choose between the other optional modules on offer. The Department will also try to run African Popular Culture as an alternative.

In this course we will consider the varied ways in which arts practices have, and continue to, foster social change across, within and beyond Sub-Saharan Africa.  From resistance poets struggling against colonialism or grappling with conflict, to radical theatre and so-called ‘theatre for development’ productions, to contemporary bloggers and citizen media, we will explore and interrogate the role of writers, artists and makers as social animators.  We will explore, for example, how artistic practices have been harnessed for resistance and agitation, community sensitisation (so called ‘edutainment’), for social and personal recovery, and envisioning futures.

Using case studies from a variety of national and regional settings, we will consider both spontaneously emerging artworks and commissioned projects on current themes, which could include Ebola response, FGM, Rape Crisis and Post Conflict Reconstruction.  Seminars will interrogate the use of the arts as a vehicle for social change by NGOs, governments and community organisations and consider the work of artists and writers with an explicit social and political remit.

In the final term students will design a mini ‘arts for social change’ project or show.