Making Sense of the Past (Critical Thinking in Archaeology)

Module code: AR1010

This module focuses on how we make sense of archaeological evidence. It looks critically at the processes that we go through to take the evidence we excavate and turn it into the narratives and interpretations we present about the past. We will focus on the ways in which archaeological evidence works at different scales: consider, for example, the scale of a single grave, and then zoom out to consider all the graves on a burial site, and zoom out further still to look at all the burials in a landscape. How do we interpret our evidence at these different scales? How do we look for patterns? How does the scale of our analysis affect the narratives we write?

This module begins by teaching you the basics of working at different scales and examining archaeological evidence to make sense of the past. As the module continues we take a more practical approach, working on group projects. In your group you will be given real archaeological datasets that include data from the scale of a single archaeological context, through to the data from a whole site, and beyond. You will work together to explore this evidence and make sense of it. During the group work part of the course your group will have weekly timetabled workshops, as well as seminar meetings with your lecturer to guide you. This course combines theory and data and allows you to get hands-on with real archaeological datasets to make sense of the past.

Topics covered

  • Interpreting primary data from archaeological research
  • Writing about archaeological data
  • Working at different scales of analysis
  • Group working

Teaching and learning methods

  • 6 one-hour lectures
  • 10 hours of seminars (8 one-hour and 1 two-hour seminar)
  • 14 hours of student-led group workshops
  • 120 hours guided independent study

Assessment methods

  • Group Wiki, 2,000 words (60%)
  • Group presentation (40%)