BA Ancient History and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Discoveries and Discoverers: Sights and Sites

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE10282
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


In this module we will introduce you to some of the great archaeological discoveries of past cities, graves and finds from around the world. We will explore how people first recognised the antiquity of humankind, and how they first began to make sense of archaeological evidence, the great palaces of the Bronze Age Mediterranean and the earliest cities of Iraq. We will encourage you to share the excitement of iconic figures such as Howard Carter as he shone his torch into Tutankhamun’s tomb or accompany Richard Atkinson as he imagined Stonehenge being constructed by Mycenaean architects. The module will also situate these discoveries and discoverers in the time in which they worked: the class politics of Pitt Rivers on the Cranborne Chase estate, or the role of espionage in the archaeology of the ancient Near East.

Showcasing some of the most spectacular finds from the ancient past, we will introduce you to the range of evidence archaeologists use, and through the seminars, examine the motives which drove some of the most famous names in the discipline, as well the methods and intellectual frameworks of the day. You will read some of the most engaging texts which lay the cornerstones of our discipline as well as the work of writers, poets, artists and photographers who visited these sites or brushed shoulders with their excavators and were inspired: creating a spell of mystery which has fired public imagination for centuries. Finally, we will critically re-evaluate the significance of these discoveries and ask how modern archaeology has changed our thinking on these sights and sites from the past.


This module aims to:

  • Develop your understanding of the emergence of the discipline of archaeology, and its relationship to other subjects
  • Introduce you to the basic methods of archaeological discovery, and show how these have developed over time
  • Raise awareness of the historical, social and political context in which archaeology was - and is - practiced, and how ideas can change over time
  • Reveal how archaeology has inspired the public, and the ways in which it has disseminated its results
  • Introduce you to a range of different periods from the earliest evidence of humanity to the industrial period, from around the globe
  • Improve your knowledge of the range of materials found in sites and finds from across the globe, focusing on iconic or exemplary case studies


Knowledge and understanding

 By the end of the module, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of key techniques used to find sites or objects, in the past and in the present
  • Describe and discuss exciting archaeological discoveries from a range of different periods and types of site, in the UK and abroad
  • Give examples of how archaeology has fed through into the public imagination, and discuss the image this presents of the discipline
  • Evaluate the current importance of these iconic examples or figures
  • Discuss how such discoveries have influenced our understanding of past humanity


Intellectual skills

  • Summarise how ideas about the past were shaped by the tools, methods and approaches of the day, and;
  • Give examples which show how those ideas have changed (with the development of new methods and ideas)
  • Debate the historical, social, political, ethical and cultural frameworks in which a discovery was made
  • Show an awareness of the personal motivations of key archaeologists
  • Critique popular images of archaeology, archaeologists and finds, from the 18th century to the current day

Practical skills

  • Select appropriate evidence to convey the history and investigation of a site
  • Employ archaeological terms to describe a significant find or discovery
  • Utilise text and imagery in an appropriate manner to convey a key discovery to both a professional and public audience

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Assemble evidence through research, and organise it logically into a coherent argument
  • Reflect on the context in which ideas are formed in the past, and re-evaluate them in the light of new knowledge
  • Question your own cultural assumptions
  • Critically appraise others’ arguments and offer independent evaluations of their ideas

Employability skills

Cognitive Skills - Select exciting, important or exemplary material to attract an audience's attention Generic Competencies - Appreciate how disciplines, institutions and individuals are shaped by the world in which they work Practical and Professional Skills - Deploy textual and visual material effectively for both an academic and public audience, according to specified standards - Create content for a Wiki entry Personal Capabilities - Listen to the views of others and respond critically but appropriately to their ideas

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative

Weighting within unit (if summative)

Essay (based on the examination of a key case study and its excavator, drawn from the above examples)


Formative: Essay Plan (week 6) –

Summative: Essay




Wiki entry (based on a single iconic discovery from one of the sites covered in the lectures or seminars)

  • supported by Media Training Workshop or Podcast

Formative: Draft Wiki entry

Summative: online submission of final entry




Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback

  • Formative: Essay Plan and Wiki Draft (module director and GTAs)
  • Summative: Turn-It-In online feedback delivery

Oral feedback

Module director/Academic Advisor Office Hours: personalised, one-to-one discussion of feedback delivered through dedicated office hours (summative) and group feedback (formative) delivered through GTA/lecturer-led seminars and lectures

Recommended reading

Alcock, L. 2001 (reprint). Arthur’s Britain. London, Penguin.

Bahn. P. 1997. The Story of Archaeology. The 100 Great Discoveries. London, W&N.

Bowden, M. 1991 Pitt Rivers: The Life and Work of Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fagan, B. and Fagan, B.M. 2014. (reprint). The Great Archaeologists. London, Thames & Hudson.

Deetz, J. 2010. In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life (reprint). New York, Anchor Books.

Hoskins, W.G. 1991 (reprint). The Making of the British Landscape. London, Penguin.

McGregor, N. 2012. A History of the World in 100 Objects. London, Penguin.

Murray, T. and Evans, C. 2008. Histories of Archaeology: A Reader in the History of Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pearce, S. 2007. Visions of Antiquity. London, Society of Antiquaries.

Renfrew, C. and Bahn, P. 2016. Archaeology – Theories, Methods and Practice. Lo

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Julian Thomas Unit coordinator
Ina Berg Unit coordinator
Melanie Hind Unit coordinator

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