BA Ancient History

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Doing Archaeology 1

Unit code CAHE10501
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics, Ancient History & Egyptology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


What do you imagine when you think about doing archaeology? Perhaps people in a trench undertaking excavation with trowels and brushes? Perhaps scientists in a lab, forensically examining artefacts and bones? Or perhaps the exciting adventures of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft?! In this course we will fill in the gaps between what you might imagine and what happens in reality (Spoiler Alert: No action heroes are involved!).

This course introduces archaeological practice through a mixture of media including virtual field and lab exercises and, where social distancing rules allow, artefact handling sessions, lab practicals and field training. Even in lock down you will be able to explore archaeological phenomena on your doorstep in order to better understand the archaeological process.

Together we will trace the process of archaeological fieldwork. Starting with the survey methods used in understanding known sites and identifying new archaeology, we then consider how archaeological sites are formed and preserved, before examining what archaeological fieldwork methods are used to excavate, record and interpret these sites. Finally, we explore how post-excavation analyses can use excavated artefacts and ecofacts to produce detailed understandings of people in the past.  Through this course, you will have the opportunity to learn a diverse range of skills, which are key in the practical investigation of archaeological and historical material.



 -To introduce students to the processes of archaeological fieldwork, developing a familiarity with essential methodologies, fieldwork techniques and post-excavation analysis and interpretation (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip, Assessment).

-To equip students with the necessary skills and understanding to undertake practical fieldwork and understand discussions of fieldwork practices and results during their degree program (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip)

-To equip students with a range of specific skills that forms the foundation of abilities required by employers in the Professional Heritage Sector, and wider transferable skills to enhance student employability (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip, Assessment).

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course students will have:

-The ability to undertake basic archival investigations using the Historic Environment Record (Lectures and Seminars)

-The ability to demonstrate a working knowledge of site formation processes, stratigraphy, and the key questions archaeologists can ask by studying it (Lectures, Seminars, Assessment).

-A theoretical understanding of the principles of archaeological survey, remote sensing, excavation techniques and archaeological recording, with a basic ability to undertake these in practice (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip, Assessment)

-An awareness of the range of material evidence encountered in archaeology, and an understanding of the key forms of analysis, and the types of archaeological information they can provide (Lectures, Seminars, Assessment).

-An appreciation of the importance of primary data recovered through practical fieldwork (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip, Assessment)

-An ability to critically analyse all aspects of archaeological practice, understand how and when different practical elements should be employed, and devise suitable approaches to specific archaeological situations (Seminars, Assessment).

Knowledge and understanding

-An understanding of archaeological fieldwork within legislative, commercial and research frameworks (Lectures, Seminars).

-An understanding of the key archaeological questions asked during excavation, and the standard methodologies employed to address them (Lectures, Seminars).

-An understanding of the finite nature of the archaeological resource, and the need for correct processes of excavation, recording and conservation (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip, Assessment)

-A theoretical knowledge and understanding of remote sensing techniques, including the equipment used, the potential results, and the suitable application of different methods in specific conditions (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip, Assessment).

-A knowledge and understanding of the potential materials recovered from archaeological sites, the main ways in which these are analysed, and how such analyses contribute to archaeological interpretations and narratives of the past (Lectures, Seminars)

-A knowledge and understanding of dating methods and chronologies within archaeological interpretations (Lectures, Seminars).

-A knowledge and understanding of the conservation and archiving of archaeological materials and records (Lectures, Seminars)

Intellectual skills

-Understand and critically assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of a range of practical archaeological methods, and identify when specific methods can and should be employed (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip, Assessment)

 -Develop problem solving abilities by combining the ability to interpret and understand archaeological conditions with knowledge of practical methodologies in order to identify suitable fieldwork processes (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip, Assessment).

-Develop critical reflection skills by considering the importance of specific archaeological skills, using your own experiences gained through practical work (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip, Assessment).

-Ability to produce logical and structured arguments based on knowledge and wider research (Assessment).

Practical skills

-Ability to undertake basic archival research, including accessing and searching Historic Environment Records (HERs) and historic map regressions (Lectures and Seminars).

-Ability to undertake the practical element of basic standing building surveys (Fieldtrip)

-Ability to undertake a range of key pre-excavation techniques regularly used in archaeological fieldwork (Lectures, Seminars, Fieldtrip)

-Ability to understand and interpret stratigraphy in written descriptions and archaeological drawings, and to produce descriptions of stratigraphy using appropriate written language, and through a Harris matrix (Lectures, Seminars, Assessment).

Transferable skills and personal qualities

-Information retrieval: ability to independently gather, select and synthesise material from a variety of sources, and to critically evaluate its significance (Fieldtrip, Assessment).

-Literacy: the ability to produce written work using appropriate language for a target audience, and to collect and integrate evidence to formulate points, descriptions and arguments (Seminars, Assessment)

-Computer Literacy: ability to use word processing software, online resources and the use and manipulation of available material for use in formal assessment (Lectures, Seminars, Assessment).

-Teamworking: recognising and identifying views of others and working constructively with them to achieve team goals (Fieldtrip, Seminars).

-Time Management: ability to schedule tasks in order of importance (Fieldtrip, seminars, assessment).

-Research: ability to plan and implement an effective research project (Fieldtrip, Assessment)

-Improving own learning (through feedback): ability to improve one's own learning through planning,monitoring, critical reflection, evaluate and adapt strategies for one's learning, including a critical engagement with assessment feedback (Assessment).

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Cognitive Skills: Ability to understand and critically evaluate a range of practical methodologies, judgement and problem solving, attention to detail, critical reflection on personal work, involvement and performance, planning and organisation
Group/team working
Personal Capabilities: independent learning and research, literacy, numeracy, computer literacy, team working, time management, reflexive learning (improving through feedback),
Practical and Professional Skills: Basic historic archival research skills, basic building survey skills, theoretical understanding of a range of field methodologies and their results, practical experience and knowledge of pre-excavation fieldwork practices. Opportunities for further experience through regularly updated archaeological job vacancies and volunteering opportunities.
Generic Competencies: Communicating in seminar contexts, understanding, summarising and presenting arguments in written and oral situations, listening and questioning skills, interpersonal sensitivity

Assessment methods

Bi-Semester Tests 30%
Practical Fieldwork Report 35%
Site Investigation Proposal 35%


Feedback methods

Feedback for assessment 1 will be provided in the form of automatic comments written into the online tests in Blackboard, which will highlight any incorrect answers, identify the correct answer, and discuss any potential common mistakes.

Feedback for Assessments 2 and 3 will be provided through turnitin, within 15 working days, in line with Faculty of Humanities and SALC feedback policies.

Recommended reading

  • Henson, D. 2012. Doing archaeology : a subject guide for students. London: Routledge
  • Grant, J, Gorin, S, and Fleming, N. 2015 (4th Edition). The Archaeology Coursebook: An introduction to themes, sites, methods and skills. London: Routledge.
  • Greene, K, and Moore, T. 2010 (5th Edition). Archaeology: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
  • Renfrew, C, and Bahn, P. 2012 (6th Edition). Archaeology : Theories, methods and practice. London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Wilkinson, P. 2007. Archaeology: What it is, where it is, and how to do it. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Hannah Cobb Unit coordinator

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