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BA Classics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Heritage and Reception

Unit code CAHE34601
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics, Ancient History & Egyptology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This module explores the different ways in which the past is produced and reproduced in the present, and thus is highly politicised. By critically examining text, material culture and the notion of heritage itself, this course examines both how the past lies at the heart of the sense of identity of many cultures and the stories cultures tell about themselves. With case studies drawn from across the world, and particular reference to the use of classical Greece and Rome and ancient Egypt, it will explore how the texts, ideas, objects and sites of earlier cultures are appropriated and employed by later cultures. It explores (for example) the tourism which thrives around ancient sites and finds, how past sites can create a strong sense of place and belonging, but also how heritage can also be contentious. The material culture, texts, stories and ideas of the past can be used in conflicting ways to promote different interests (contrast, for example, the use of Sappho’s poems in feminist and LGBT discourse with the appropriation of the classical world by the ‘alt-right’). The course also examines the recent phenomenon of heritage destruction and iconoclasm, seeking to understand why some cultures can view archaeological monuments as idolatrous.  Heritage at a global level has never been more contested or under threat from this and other pressures: building and infrastructure development, climate change, and widespread looting to feed a thriving antiquities trade. The classical world and ancient Egypt form important case studies for the uses and misuses of the past: how these periods and their cultures have been received in different ways is key to understanding the place they occupy in today’s cultures.


This course is ideal for anyone thinking of a career in heritage, museums or galleries, or those ambitious about working for government institutions/non-government organisations in the UK or abroad; it is also ideal for those wanting to understand the ways in which the classical world and ancient Egypt are present in modern political and cultural discourses. Students will critically debate a number of contentious issues such as calls for the repatriation of cultural remains (e.g. Parthenon Marbles or Benin bronzes), as well as the display or reburial of pre-Christian human remains. Further topics will include the study of ancient Egypt and its reception, the antiquities trade and the publication of papyri of ancient Greek and Latin texts, the reception of the classical world in modern media, questions of authenticity, tangible and intangible heritage, the ‘dark’ heritage of sites of trauma and remembrance, and battlefield/conflict archaeology. Students will have the opportunity either to explore a contentious planning development scenario or to prepare a detailed case study of the reception of ancient Greece and Rome or ancient Egypt. 



  • To enhance understanding of the historical, social, cultural and political contexts of the use of heritage (Lectures, Seminars);
  • To enhance understanding of the historical, social cultural and political contexts of the reception of the texts, ideas and cultures of classical Greece and Rome and ancient Egypt (Lectures, Seminars);
  • To raise awareness of the contested and contentious nature of heritage & reception in a global setting (Lectures, Seminars);
  • To develop skills in martialling and critically appraising contrastive arguments on heritage and reception (Seminars, Lectures, Reception Case Study Essay);
  • To improve knowledge of the legislation, policy and ‘best practice’ guidance relating to sites, monuments and finds, in both the UK and at an international level (Lectures, seminars);
  • To develop skills of both individual research (Reception Case Study) and those of working as part of a research team, and communicating effectively in both written and oral formats (Seminars and Hand-out).


Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • Describe and illustrate the range of sites, objects, monuments, traditions, knowledge, practices and performances which can be classed as examples of heritage (tangible and intangible) and show how they are deployed by different communities to gain a sense of identity (Lectures, Seminars, Essay, Fieldtrip);
  • Show an understanding of the main ways in which the texts, ideas and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome and ancient Egypt are received and made use of in a variety of contexts, (Lectures, Seminars, Essay, Fieldtrip)
  • Show an awareness of the national and international legislation/guidance relating to heritage protection (Lectures, Seminars), and describe how and why it has changed over time (Seminars, Essay);
  • Understand and articulate threats to archaeological and cultural heritage, e.g. environmental, cultural, economic, political (Seminars, Essay, Fieldtrip);
  • Critically discuss the range of different interest groups and claimants using heritage assets (public and professional), including those of the classical world and ancient Egypt, and evaluate issues relating to ownership, responsibility towards its future conservation, perceived significance and cultural/economic potential (Lectures, Seminars, Essay, Fieldtrip);
  • Articulate examples of contentious heritage and problematic reception, and discuss real-world based solutions or resolutions to these dilemmas (Seminars, Essay, Fieldtrip).


Intellectual skills

  •  Think critically about the role of heritage in identity-making (personal, community, nation-state, ethnic or other interest groups) (Lectures, Seminars, Essay, Fieldtrip);
  • Express contrastive views over heritage issues and ethics and reception, using a range of primary and secondary literature (Seminars, Essay);
  • Critically evaluate competing claims to heritage and propose ways in which disputes over the past could be mediated (Seminars, Essay);
  • Critically examine the reception of different aspects of classical antiquity and ancient Egypt (Lectures, Seminars, Essay, Fieldtrip)


Practical skills

  • Utilise a range of primary and secondary archaeological and heritage literature, and work on the theory and practice of reception, to support critical arguments about the use of the past (Seminars, Essay);
  • Locate, synthesise and evaluate heritage data (from digital archive resources, as well as paper-based literature), map/model the threat posed to it by a planned development, and propose a suitable set of recommendations and mitigation strategy (Essay).


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Present contrastive view in a balanced manner, and offer critical evaluations of contentious/conflicting uses or interpretations of the past (Seminars, Essay);
  • Work effectively as part of a team, demonstrating leadership or responsibility for a particular aspect of both research and oral presentation (Seminars);
  • Demonstrate an ability to both propose views, evaluate others’ arguments and mediate dispute (Seminars);
  • Develop a research question independently (Essay);
  • Retrieve information (quantitative, qualitative and spatial) from a variety of sources, assess its significance according to a given set of standards and subject-specific knowledge, and present results in a professional written format (Essay);
  • Reflect upon and respond to critical feedback (Group Seminar, Essay).


Employability skills


Assessment methods

Group  presentation planning session  0%
Group  Presentation  25%
Reflective Report & Script 25%
Essay 50%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback

Formative: Essay plan feedback in Turnitin

Summative: Essay feedback in Turnitin

Summative: Group-led Asynchronous Seminar written feedback sheet (for group VoiceThread AND for individual write up)


Oral feedback

Formative: Group-led Assessed Seminar – joint feedback from planning session with module director


Recommended reading

Aitchison, K. 2012. Breaking New Ground: How Archaeology Works. Sheffield, Landward Research. (online publication).

Cobb, H., Harris, O. Jones, C. and Richardson, P. (eds.) 2012. Reconsidering Archaeological Fieldwork. Springer Verlag.

Edgeworth, M., (ed.), 2006. Ethnographies of Archaeological Practice: Cultural Encounters, Material Transformations, Lanham: Altamira Press.

Fairclough, G., Harrison, R., Scofield, J. and J.H. Jameson (Jnr). 2007. The Heritage Reader. London, Routledge.

Gillespie, S. 1988. The Poets on the Classics. London and New York: Routledge.

Hardwick, L. 2003. Classical Reception Studies. Oxford: OUP.

Hardwick, L. and Stray, C. (eds.) 2007. Blackwell Companion to Classical Receptions. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Jameson, J. and Eogan, J. (eds.) Training and Practice for Modern Day Archaeologists. New York, Springer Verlag.

Lucas, G. 2001. Critical Approaches to Fieldwork. London, Routledge.

Lucas, G. 2012. Understanding the Archaeological Record. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Martindale, C. and Thomas, R.F. (eds.) 2006. Classics and the Uses of Reception. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Schofield, J., Carman, J. & Belford, P. (eds.) 2012. Archaeological Practice in Great Britain: A Heritage Handbook. New York: Springer Verlag.

Smith, L. 2006. The Uses of Heritage. London, Routledge.

Smith, L. and Watson, E. 2009. Heritage, Communities and Archaeology. (Duckworth Debates in Archaeology). London, Gerald Duckworth and Co.Ltd.

E. Said, Orientalism, New York: Vintage Books 1978.

T. Mitchell, Colonising Egypt, Cambridge 1988.

D. M. Reid, Whose Pharaohs? Archaeology, Museum, and National Identity From Napoleon to World War I, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London 2002.

E. Colla, Conflicted Antiquities: Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian Modernity, Durham, N.C. 2007.

W.A. Johnson, “The Oxyrhynchus Distributions in America: Papyri and Ethics”, BASP 49 (2012) 209-22.

R. Mazza, “Papyri, Ethics, and Economics: A Biography of P.Oxy. 1780 (P39)”, BASP 52 (2015) 113–142.

Paola Davoli, “Papyri, Archaeology, and Modern History: A Contextual Study,” BASP 52 (2015): 87-112

D. Gange, Dialogues with the Dead: Egyptology in British Culture and Religion, 1822-1922 (Oxford 2013).


There is a whole journal on this matter:


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicky Nielsen Unit coordinator
Jenny Bryan Unit coordinator
Hannah Cobb Unit coordinator
Roberta Mazza Unit coordinator
Melanie Giles Unit coordinator

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