The University of Southampton
HumanitiesPostgraduate study

ARCH6409 Archaeologies of the Senses

Module Overview

The module will start by reviewing the ways by which archaeologists have to date dealt with the sensory modalities of the human body. Special emphasis will be placed on the critique of ocular-centricity, and the deployment of vision as an autonomous and disembodied sense. It will proceed by reviewing the philosophical underpinnings of this phenomenon, and the alternative philosophical traditions that have undermined and critiqued disembodied approaches. The second part of the module will look at corporeal and multi-sensorial approaches in other disciplines, such as socio-cultural anthropology, philosophy (esp. continental, phenomenological thinking, based on Bergson, Merleau-Ponty, and others), history, and human geography, with the aim of gaining insights that can be fruitfully used in the production and re-constitution of an archaeology of the senses. It is to this endeavour that the third part of the module will be devoted, with the objective of producing not only a theoretical framework but also the beginnings of a methodological apparatus. These will be then tested using a range of case studies, most notably from the prehistoric Aegean, but also from British prehistory, and other contexts.

Aims and Objectives

The aims of this module are to:

  • help you re-evaluate the ways in which archaeologists have dealt with the bodily senses
  • help you develop inter-disciplinary insights which can contribute to an archaeology of the senses.
  • familiarise you with a novel theoretical framework and a methodology on the emerging field of multi-sensory archaeology.

Objectives (planned learning outcomes)

Knowledge and understanding

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

  • The archaeological and wider literature on the bodily senses
  • Ideas that have shaped current archaeological attitudes towards bodily senses
  • The potential of alternative approaches and of a novel framework for a sensuous archaeology
  • The range of methodologies that can be deployed in such a novel approach

Cognitive (thinking) skills

Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to:

  • Analyse critically existing archaeological approaches
  • Employ ideas from other disciplines to interpret archaeological data
  • Re-interpret archaeological data and contexts from a novel point of view and approach.

Practical, subject-specific skills

Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to demonstrate:

  • An ability to reflect on and critique dominant archaeological paradigms on the human body and the bodily senses.
  • An awareness of debates and discussions on the bodily senses in a range of cognate disciplines.
  • An ability to apply new insights on multi-sensoriality and corporeality to specific archaeological contexts, sites, or monuments.

Key transferable skills:

Having successfully completed the module, you will be able to demonstrate:

  • An ability to present ideas in academic and public fora
  • An ability to evaluate and critique the work of others, and benefit from criticism and feedback.
  • An ability to present their research plan and ideas in a draft/outline form


The module will cover the following themes:

  • What are the senses, how many senses are there, and why do we need an archaeology of the senses?
  • Western modernity and the senses; How has archaeology dealt with the senses so far?
  • Vision and archaeology: the photographic and the archaeological
  • Is landscape phenomenology the way towards a sensuous archaeology?
  • Philosophies of corporeality and anthropologies of the senses
  • Food, the bodily senses, and archaeology
  • Sensuous materiality and art: prehistoric and contemporary art, from architecture to cinema.
  • Bodies/Senses/Memories: Towards a theory and a methodology of a sensuous archaeology.
  • A case study: Bronze Age Crete; Plus: sensuous writing in archaeology
  • Conclusions: An archaeology of the senses as an alternative epistemology and as a new paradigm.

Special Features


Learning and Teaching

Study time allocation

Contact hours:20
Private study hours:130
Total study time: 150 hours

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include

  • Ten, two-hour seminar-based sessions
  • Class discussions
  • Oral presentations by students

Learning activities include

  • Staff evaluation of draft work
  • Peer evaluation of oral presentations
  • Peer and staff comments in class discussions

Resources and reading list

These are the key books/articles for this module, all of them currently in the library:


Hamilakis, Y. 2013. Archaeologies and the Senses. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hamilakis, Y. Pluciennik, M. and S. Tarlow (eds) 2002. Through the Body: Archaeologies of Corporeality. New York: Kluwer/Plenum.

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

Jütte, Robert 2005. A History of the Senses: From Antiquity to Cyberspace. Cambridge: Polity.

Macpherson, F. (ed.) 2011. The Senses: Classic and Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Seremetakis, N. (ed) 1994. The Senses Still: Perception and Memory as Material Culture in Modernity. Boulder (Co): Westview Press.


Assessment methods

Assessment Method Number % contribution to final mark
Project design: Draft outline of the project (2-3 page outline/plan) 1 0%
Oral presentation of the findings 1 15%
Research report (5000 words) on the site/context chosen, previous research, and the student’s re-evaluation of it 1 85%

Linked modules

Pre-requisites and / or co-requisites



Programmes in which this module is compulsory


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