The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

ARCH6111 Visualising Archaeology

Module Overview

This module will focus on providing an historical background to the representation of the past. The main objective is to gain an understanding of how traditions of representation have grown out of a long legacy of making meaning about cultural remains. The premise of this module is that in order to appreciate how representations of the past have served to define ancient cultures we need to identify the conventions that are used in representation to construct knowledge.

The module will provide you with a basis for in-depth critique of selected readings in the anthropology and archaeology of art and material culture, with a specific focus on prehistoric rock art. This will introduce you to the key theoretical and methodological approaches used in different disciplines to interpret art and material culture. You will be required to evaluate the evidence for visual cultures in constructing archaeological interpretations of the past. Finally, you will explore the relationship between material culture studies and the ‘archaeology of art’.

Aims and Objectives


This module aims to establish understanding of a range of interdisciplinary approaches to visual culture in both past and contemporary societies.

Knowledge and Understanding
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of interdisciplinary approaches to interpreting visual culture in both past and contemporary societies
Cognitive (thinking) skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to critically evaluate a range of approaches to understanding and representing visual material including art, artefacts and the contemporary display and representation of visual culture
Key transferable skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • prepare presentations
  • compile a bibliography relevant to a specific research question
  • Lead and present oral seminars
  • Analyse complex written texts
  • Work as part of a group
  • Produce independent research


Typically, the syllabus will cover:

  • Introduction
  • The Renaissance sense of the past: Collecting and display
  • Contextualising ancient material culture: Early museum display
  • The past as the picturesque: art and the romancing of relics
  • The iconography of antiquity: creating a visual vocabulary of the past
  • Defining art.
  • Formalism style and semiotics.
  • Art as skilled practice - Art, technology and agency.
  • Colouring the Past
  • The art of memory – making, breaking and discarding.
  • Field Trip

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:48
Private study hours:252
Total study time: 300 hours

Teaching and learning methods

This is primarily a seminar-based course. Discussions in seminars will enable you to develop your knowledge, understanding, intellectual skills and critical abilities. Self-directed study and use of audio-visual materials will further develop these. They will be assessed, along with a range of key skills in the essay and case study.
Teaching methods include:

  • Seminars
  • Group work
  • Tutorials

Learning activities include:

  • Individual study
  • Preparing and delivering student-led seminars
  • Discussion groups
  • Field Trip

Resources and reading list

Alcock, S. and van Dyke, R. 2003 Archaeologies of Memory. Blackwell. Oxford.

Beaudry, M. and Hicks, D. 2010 The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Belk, R.  1995.  Collecting in a Consumer society. London: Routledge.

Bermingham and J. Brewer (eds). The Consumption of Culture 1600-1800. Image, object, text.  London: Routledge. pp.1-20.

Brewer & R. Porter (eds)  Consumption and the World of Goods.  London: Routledge. pp. 1-15.

Buchli, V. 2002 The Material Culture Reader. Berg: Oxford.

Clottes, J and Lewis-Williams, D 1996 The Shamans of prehistory: trance and magic in the Painted Caves. H.N. Abrams, Inc. New York.

Cochrane, A. and Jones, A.M. 2012 Visualising the Neolithic. Oxbow. Oxford.

Coote, J and Shelton, A. 1992 Anthropology, art and aesthetics. Clarendon Oxford.

Campbell, S.F. 2002 The Art of Kula. Berg. Oxford.

David, B. 2002 Landscapes, rock art and the dreaming: an archaeology of preunderstanding. Leicester University Press. London.

Daston, L & C. Park. 1998. Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750. NY: Zone Books

Elsner, J and R. Cardinal (eds).  1994.  The Cultures of Collecting.  London: Reaktion Books.

Findlen, P. 1994. Possessing Nature: Museums, collecting and scientific culture in early modern Italy. Berkeley : University of California Press.

______ 1998. Possessing the Past: The material world of the Italian Renaissance. American Historical Review. Feb: 83-114.

Forty, A and Kuchler, S 1999 The art of forgetting. Berg. Oxford.

Henare, A., Holbraad, M. and Wastell, S. 2007 Thinking through things. Routledge: London.

Ingold, T. 2000 The Perception of the Environment. London: Routledge.

Ingold, T. 2011 Being Alive. London: Routledge.

Jones, A and MacGregor, G 2002 Colouring the Past: the significance of colour in archaeological research. Berg. Oxford.

Jones, A 2007 Memory and Material Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Jones, A. 2012 Prehistoric Materialities. Becoming material in prehistoric Britain and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kenseth, J.  1991 (ed) Age of the Marvelous. pp. 25-59. Hanover, N.H.: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College.

Küchler, S. 2002 Malanggan. Berg. Oxford.

Layton, R. 1991 The Anthropology of Art. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Lewis-Williams, J.D 1981 Believing and seeing: symbolic meanings in southern San rock paintings. Academic Press. London.

Lewis-Williams, J.D. 1982. The economic and social contexts of southern San rock art. Current Anthropology 23:429-450.

Lewis-Williams, J.D. 1997. Agency, art and altered states of consciousness: a motif in

French  (Quercy) Upper Palaeolithic parietal art. Antiquity 71: 810-830.

Lillios, K.T.  2008 Heraldry for the Dead. Texas University Press: Austin.

Mauries, P.  2002.  Cabinets of curiosities.  London: Thames and Hudson. (Especially first chapter).

Miller, D. 1994 Artefacts and the meaning of things, in T. Ingold (ed.) The Companion Encyclopaedia of Anthropology. Routledge. London, 396-419.

Morphy, H 1994 The anthropology of art, in T. Ingold (ed.) Companion Encyclopaedia of Anthropology. Routledge. London.

Morphy, H. 1989 Animals into Art. Unwin Hyman. London.

Morphy, H. 2007 Becoming Art. Berg. Oxford.

Moser, S. 1998 Ancestral images: the iconography of human antiquity. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Moser, S. 2006 Wonderous Curiousities. Ancient Egypt at the British Museum. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Moser, S. 2012 Designing Antiquity. Owen Jones, Ancient Egypt and the Crystal Palace. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Myers, F 2001 The Empire of Things. SAR Press. Washington.

Neill, A. and A. Ridley (eds) 1995. Philosophy of Art: Readings Ancient and Modern. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Pearce, S.  1995.  On Collecting. An investigation into collecting in the European tradition. London: Routledge. 

Pearce (ed.)  Interpreting Objects and Collections. London: Routledge..

Pomian, K.  1990.  Collectors and curiosities. Paris and Venice, 1500-1800.  Cambridge:  Polity Press

Powell, T.G.E. 1966 Prehistoric Art. London: Thames and Hudson.

Price, N. 2001 The Archaeology of Shamanism. Routledge. London.

Swann, M. 2001. Curiosities & Texts : the culture of collecting in early modern England. University of Pennsylvania Press. 

Taussig, M 1993 Mimesis and Alterity. Routledge. London.

Whitley, D. 2000 The art of the shaman: rock art of California. University of Utah Press. Salt Lake City.


Assessment methods

Either Case Study (6000 words) - 100%

Or Reserach Paper (6000 words) - 100%

EITHER 6,000 word case study on the history of the representation of the past and its implications in the present. This study should focus on one of the areas presented in the seminar outline – e.g. collecting in the Renaissance; early museum display; archaeological illustration. The aim of the assignment is to articulate a research question, which is based on sound knowledge of the relevant literature, and to address this question by looking at a body of data. An explanation of how the data was collected and the methodology employed to analyze it is fundamental.

OR 6000 word research paper on an aspect of the archaeology of art. This typically takes the form of an analysis of an aspect of prehistoric art covered in the seminars, however it can also take the form of a material culture analysis of historic or contemporary artefacts.


Programmes in which this module is compulsory

MA Social Archaeology

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