Archaeology: The Essentials

Module code: AR1007

Module co-ordinator: Dr Mark Gillings

  • What is an archaeologist?
  • Where does the discipline of Archaeology come from and how is it organised?
  • What techniques do we use to identify traces of past social life?
  • How do we recover those traces through survey and excavation?
  • How do we date and make sense of the material we recover?

This module will provide you with a wide-ranging overview of the history, structure and organisation of the discipline of Archaeology, the types of material we study and the varied techniques and approaches we employ to shed light upon the past.

Through a series of lectures we will explore topics as diverse as the place of the past in the present, tomb-robbing, the rise of antiquarianism, geophysical survey, archaeological excavation and the reconstruction of the environment. By exploring the history, context and methodology of Archaeology as it is currently practiced this course provides an essential background to the discipline.

Topics covered

  • The birth of a discipline
  • What do archaeologists actually do?
  • Finding archaeological sites on the ground and from the air
  • Looking beneath the soil
  • Digging deeper: excavation in theory
  • Digging deeper: excavation in practice
  • The dating game: chronological frameworks and dating techniques
  • Looking at standing buildings
  • Studying past environments
  • Bringing it all together: Archaeology in action


  • 10 one-hour lectures


  • weekly on-line exercises (20%)
  • exam, two hours (80%)