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Unit information: Discovering the Past in 2020/21

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Unit name Discovering the Past
Unit code ARCH10015
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Joanna Bruck
Open unit status Not open
Pre-requisites

None

Co-requisites

None

School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description

This unit reviews the variety of methodologies and approaches that comprise the discipline of archaeology today. It introduces students to the history of archaeological research, from the antiquarians of the eighteenth century to contemporary debates on the interpretation of the past. A range of essential archaeological concepts are introduced alongside key field and laboratory methods, including survey techniques, relative and absolute dating, DNA analysis and environmental archaeology. The ways in which archaeologists have employed the evidence from objects, bodies, buildings and landscapes to reconstruct past human societies are considered, with case studies exploring how particular archaeological cultures (for example the ancient Greeks) or issues (for example the origins of agriculture) can be addressed.

Aims:

• To introduce key concepts (such as ‘the archaeological record’) that help us make sense of the past.

• To demonstrate how archaeological techniques and ways of understanding the past have changed since the birth of the discipline.

• To provide a basic understanding of the multidisciplinary methods and approaches that characterise current archaeological practice.

• To explore how archaeologists use the material record to make sense of past social relations and human action.

• To establish core skills in academic writing and research, and in verbal presentation.

• To assess how archaeological techniques can be employed to cast light on big issues such as the origins of social complexity.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, a successful student will be able to:

1. Summarise key intellectual approaches to the past and describe how these have changed over the past two hundred years.

2. Define basic archaeological concepts such as ‘relative dating’.

3. Recognise the major analytical and scientific techniques available to the modern archaeologist to study ancient objects, landscapes and people.

4. Appraise the variety of ways in which archaeological data is employed to reconstruct the past.

5. Construct logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence.

6. Access and correctly reference a variety of written and internet sources.

7. Present such information effectively in writing.

8. Present information verbally and engage in critical discussion.

Teaching details

Weekly lectures, biweekly seminars, supported by self-directed activities. Seminars to include group tasks and student-led discussion.

Assessment Details

Formative: Three student presentations including a precis of key archaeological approaches and methods (ILOs 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8). Summative: 1 x 1500-word essay (ILOs 1-7)

Reading and References

Gamble, C. 2001. Archaeology: the basics. London: Routledge

Greene, K. 2002. Archaeology, an Introduction (4th edition). London: Routledge

Renfrew, C. & Bahn, P. 2008. Archaeology: methods, theories and practice (5th edition). London: Thames & Hudson

Trigger, B. 2006. A History of Archaeological Thought (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Scarre, C. (ed.) 2005. The Human Past: World Prehistory & the Development of Human Societies. London: Thames and Hudson.

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