The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

ARCH6114 Maritime Aspects of Culture

Module Overview

This thirty-credit module will introduce you to the key theoretical and technical concepts used in maritime archaeology, along with its evidence base. It has been designed to provide an accelerated learning curve for those who are new to the subject area, developing core knowledge in archaeological method, theory and materials. It begins by analysing the development of the subject and its related areas of study in order to facilitate a better understanding of current theoretical approaches, management priorities and research potential within the context of archaeology as a whole. This provides the platform from which to consider the scope of the subject in terms of the site types and classes of evidence available; from the Palaeolithic to present day, from landscape to site based scales of analysis. It also serves to demonstrate what is gained from adopting a maritime perspective and how this allows fundamental re-assessment of the archaeological record.
The waters of the world have frequently served to connect rather than divide communities, leading to water transport becoming of vital importance to society. The remains of ships and boats thus constitute a key primary source for maritime archaeology. The processes involved in their design, construction, use and disposal were dynamically linked to society as a whole. Therefore they cannot be seen simply as interesting technological phenomena or merely as passive ‘reflections’ of that society. As such, hand-in-hand with the development of your knowledge of broader archaeological theory and landscape approaches, this module will develop your knowledge of the history, evolution and archaeological potential of the world’s watercraft.
Case studies, practical sessions and fieldtrips will all be used to contextualise the knowledge gained throughout the course and broaden your archaeological experience. By the end of the module you will be familiar with the scope, potential and resource base of the discipline. You will have gained key skills in essay writing and professional report production relevant to both academia and industry.

Aims and Objectives


The aims of this module are to provide an essential grounding in the history and theory of Maritime Archaeology.

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

  • A broad knowledge of recent and current maritime research trends
  • A broad understanding of the history of the development of maritime archaeology
  • A basic grounding in the theoretical approaches to maritime archaeology, maritime cultures and maritime landscapes
  • An appreciation of the archaeological potential of boats, ships and associated material culture.
  • A general knowledge of the major watercraft types and building traditions and construction technologies encountered within maritime archaeology.
  • An awareness of the potential of both submerged terrestrially deposited archaeology and the remains of seafaring activities.

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

  • Assimilate and evaluate different theoretical perspectives
  • Assess a maritime landscape with respect to interpretation
  • Identify the primary elements of boat and ship structures.
  • Undertake independent research in the above areas
  • Apply theoretical models to specific areas of maritime archaeological research and specific problems

Practical (subject specific) skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate and critique past and current theoretical approaches
  • Apply current theoretical approaches in maritime archaeology
  • Plan, conduct, process and disseminate a full archaeological survey of a boat.
  • Understand the nature of the marine environment and the potential for activity on it.

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

  • Learn and apply new practical and theoretical skills
  • Produce academic/commercial standard reports and presentations
  • Plan, design and implement data collection and presentation.


Lecture Lecture Other
Maritime Archaeology and Maritime Aspects of culture? Principles of watercraft construction and archaeological classification Fieldtrip 1: Rowing and Sailing small craft, understanding maritime space
Understanding the archaeological record: archaeological theory past, present and future Understanding materials and tools Seminar 1: Archaeological theory: key reading discussion
Ethnographic approaches to maritime archaeology Log boats, skin boats, rafts, floats and bundles Fieldtrip 2: Ethnographic boat recording two day trip (relates to assignment 4)
Technology and tradition Sewn/lashed construction techniques Seminar 2: Terminological familiarisation


Ships & Society Mortice & tenon construction techniques  
Landscape approaches to maritime archaeology Mediterranean frame-first methods  
Island archaeologies North West European watercraft case studies: The Roman-Celtic tradition, Clinker origins and development Seminar 3: Scale in archaeological research
Beyond function: the social context of maritime culture North West European watercraft case studies 2: Clinker to Carvel  
Historical archaeology - maritime approaches 18th/19th century wooden shipbuilding Seminar 4: From technical drawing to social understanding
Experimental archaeology Student presentations and discussion  
Maritime archaeology: looking forward    

Special Features

You will gain subject specific skills to do with recording and interpreting maritime archaeological data. In addition, we offer practical training to support this both with regard to material culture and time spent on the water. The week-long residential course at Roskilde serves to cement the knowledge gained in this and the additional modules you will take as a part of your MA/MSc in Maritime Archaeology.

Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:86
Private study hours:214
Total study time: 300 hours

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include:

  •  Four hours of lectures per week
  • A minimum of four student led seminars discussing relevant readings
  • Practical sessions on boat recording and boat use

Learning methods include:

  • Directed learning through lectures/seminars
  • Guided self-study
  • Completion of four assignments
  • Use of online resources
  • Use of library resources
  • Oral presentation preparation and delivery on key topics.

Resources and reading list

Adams, J. 2003. Ships, Innovation and Social Change. Aspects of carvel Shipbuilding in Northern Europe 1450 - 1850. Stockholm: University of Stockholm. [Archaeology to provide PDF.]

Blue, L. 2003. Maritime Ethnography: The Reality of Analogy, in C. Beltrame (ed.) Boats, Ships and Shipyards.
Proceedings of the 9th International Symposium of Boat and Ship Archaeology, Venice 2000: 334-338. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Cooney, G., 2004. Introduction: seeing land from the sea. World Archaeology, 35(3),            323-8.

Farr, H., 2006. Seafaring as Social Action. Journal of Maritime Archaeology, 1(1).

Gardiner, R. (ed.), 2004. The Earliest Ships. The Evolution of Boats into Ships. Conway History of the Ship (Paperback Edition). London: Conway Maritime Press.

Garrow, D. and Sturt, F. 2011.  Grey Waters Bright with Neolithic Argonauts?  Maritime connections and the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition with the ‘western seaways' of Britain, c. 5000-3500 BC.  Antiquity 85 (327) p. 59-72

Green, J. 2009. Maritime Archaeology, a Technical Handbook. London: Academic Press

Gould, R.A. 2011.  Archaeology and the Social History of Ships.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Hocker, F. M. & Ward, C. A. 2004. The Philosophy of Shipbuilding. Conceptual Approaches to the Study of Wooden Ships. College Station: Texas A & M University Press.

Ingold, T., 1993. The temporality of the landscape. World Archaeology,         25:2(Conceptions of Time and Ancient Society), 152-74.

Lucas, G. 2012.  Understanding the Archaeological Record.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

Muckelroy, K. 1978. Maritime Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McGrail, S. 1998. Ancient Boats in North West Europe. London: Longman.

McGrail, S. 2001. Boats of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rainbird, P., 2007. The Archaeology of Islands, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Steffy, J. R. 1994. Wooden Shipbuilding and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks. Texas A&M University Press.

Westerdahl, C. 1992. The maritime cultural landscape. IJNA 21.1: 5-14


Assessment methods

Informal feedback will provided throughout the module via lectures, practicals, seminars and supervisions. Detailed and constructive written feedback will be given for all assignments submitted.

  • Assessment 1: Short article (1000 words) on maritime archaeology - 15%
  • Assessment 2: Illustrated short entry on boat construction methods (1000 words) - 15%
  • Assessment 3: 4000 word academic article- 35%
  • Assessment 4: 4000 word boat survey and report - 35%


Programmes in which this module is compulsory

MA/MSc Maritime Archaeology

ProgrammeUCAS CodeProgramme length
MA/MSc Maritime ArchaeologyV4001 years
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