The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

ARCH6113 Social Archaeology

Module Overview

The module will introduce you to significant current trends within social archaeology, while fostering an interest in the historical development of the discipline from which they sprang. Thus the intellectual history of social archaeology and individual thematic strands within it will be treated concurrently. The module focuses on specific areas of current interest in social archaeology, and draws on case studies from a range of contemporary, historical, prehistoric and regional contexts.

Aims and Objectives


This module aims to acquaint you with social archaeology and allow you to develop your knowledge and understanding of those aspects of social archaeology that particularly interest you.

Knowledge and Understanding
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The history of current approaches to social archaeology
  • The range of current debates in social archaeology
  • Those aspects of social archaeology that are of particular interest to you

Cognitive (thinking) skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Outline major approaches within social archaeology
  • Critically evaluate different approaches in social archaeology
  • Contextualise theoretical developments taking place in social archaeology
  • Begin to draw links and similarities between different strands of social archaeology

Key transferable skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Actively participate in seminar discussions
  • Engage with both peers and staff to create a personal learning environment supportive to your own learning style
  • Analyse complex texts
  • Begin to produce independent research


Typically the syllabus will cover (normally in the form of seminars):

  • Introduction to the module. What is Social Archaeology?
  • Phenomenology
  • Actor Network Theory
  • Ontological Approaches
  • Putting theory into practice. A fieldtrip to experiment with applying/using phenomenological, ANT and Ontological approaches.
  • First assessment workshop Student-led discussion on research projects
  • Connecting people and things - nets, sets and networks
  • Social archaeology in action – Praxis
  • Indigenous Archaeologies
  • Feminist Approaches to Archaeology
  • Second assessment workshop
  • Feedback on assessed work; where to next?

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

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

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include:

  • Lectures
  • Seminars and group discussion
  • Field trip or visit to a museum exhibition

Learning activities include

  • Preparation and presentation of seminar papers
  • Self-directed reading and research
  • Preparation of final essay

Resources and reading list

Chapman, J., and B. Gaydarska. 2007. Parts and wholes: fragmentation in prehistoric context. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Conkey, Margaret 2005. Dwelling at the Margins, Action at the Intersection? Feminist and Indigenous Archaeologies. Archaeologies 1(1): 9-59.

Edgeworth, M. (ed.) 2006. Ethnographies of Archaeological Practice: Cultural Encounters, Material Transformations. Lanham, MD: AltaMira.

Gamble, Clive 2007. Origins and Revolutions: Human Identity in Earliest Prehistory. Cambridge University Press.

Hamilakis, Yannis & Aris Anagnostopoulos 2009 (eds) Archaeological Ethnographies. Public Archaeology Vol 8 No 2-3.

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

Ingold, Tim 2011. Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. Routledge

Meskell, L and R. Preucell (eds) 2005. A Companion to Social Archaeology. Blackwell.

McGuire, Randall 2009. Archaeology as Political Action. University of California Press.

Merriman, Nick (ed.) 2004. Public Archaeology. Routledge.

Thomas, Julian (ed) 2000 Interpretive Archaeology: a Reader. Leicester University Press.


Assessment methods

  • Research Project (6000 words) - 100%

An outline/draft of this assignment is handed in halfway through the module. It is marked and feedback given but the grade does not count toward your final mark.

The project can address the reconstruction of social aspects of past communities, the representation of ‘the social' in academic or non-academic ‘products', or the social context of the discipline of archaeology. The challenge of this assignment is to delineate a timely and relevant research question that contributes to more general debates in the discipline. Each student will negotiate an appropriate topic with the module co-ordinator and in conjunction with a potential dissertation supervisor if they wish too.


Programmes in which this module is compulsory

MA Social Archaeology

ProgrammeUCAS CodeProgramme length
MA Social ArchaeologyV4001 years
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