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The University of Southampton

ARCH1062 Wonderful things: World history in 40 objects

Module Overview

As he broke the seal and opened the door to Tutankamun’s tomb, archaeologist Howard Carter declared, breathlessly, that he could see ‘Wonderful things’. Ancient things have this special appeal. They enchant and captivate. They excite curiosity and unleash enthusiasm. But above all they are the way to tell big histories through small objects. In this module we set out to tell the seamless history of deep-time, from 2 Million years ago to the maritime foundations of the modern world. Through our deep-history we will examine the motives behind making, acquiring, preserving and keeping things; the pride and passion of people in the past, the constantly changing desire of humanity for the sumptuous, the aesthetically pleasing and the exotic. To do this our archaeological experts have chosen a variety of objects from deep-history; starting with the stone handaxes of Africa and ending with the fatal voyage of the Mary Rose. During your historical journey you will learn about changing technologies and food-ways, the things that glued Empires together, concepts of citizenship, icons of faith and the variety of objects used in social networking and games of power. By the end you will have a different understanding both of history and wonderful, handmade, things.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Current methods of archaeological analysis and presentation of historical issues.
  • The big issues in world human history as illustrated by the material record of the past.
  • How materials have shaped the human past and acquired agency.
  • How to approach world history as a seamless enterprise that complements the perspective of shallow-history with that of deep-time.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Think critically and self-reflectively.
  • Critically interpret narratives of world history.
  • Appreciate the power and subtlety of objects as historical sources.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage better with self-directed learning
  • Research and discover sources
  • Improve your essay writing and know how to structure an argument
  • Manage your time to meet assignment deadlines
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Develop your skills of historical understanding.
  • Observe and describe materials and the range of ancient technologies.
  • Collect, organise, classify and describe data within historical narratives.
  • Ask questions about the origins and development of human society.


You will improve your skills in object identification and historical analysis. You will gain an understanding of deep-history and learn the seamless character of the past. You will appreciate the diversity of world civilisations and societies and see parallel lines of developments across the major continents. You will come to see the power of objects and the special agency they possess in controlling human lives and the destinies of civilisations. Double-period (numbers refer to weeks): The module is based on lectures and the timeline that provides the central spine is shown below. Each lecture will be given by a member of the Archaeology Department and will describe two objects in detail. Introduction: Making us human before 15,000 years ago Global Taming nature 11,000 - 5,500 years ago Laying foundations 5,500 - 3000 years ago The first cities and states 4000 - 2000 years ago Old World New World Empires and faiths 2000-500 years ago Old World Threshold of the modern world 500 years ago Global

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Lectures • Group work Learning activities include: • Writing a blog • Presenting an exhibition • On-line quiz • Background reading • Evaluating public domain web-resources

Practical classes and workshops2
Wider reading or practice50
Completion of assessment task78
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Shryock, A. & D.L. Smail (Eds.) (2011). Deep history: the architecture of past and present. 

Christian, D. (2004). Maps of time: an introduction to Big History. 

Fagan, B. (Ed.) (2004). The seventy great inventions of the Ancient World. 

Gamble, C. (2013). Settling the Earth: the archaeology of deep human history. 

Schalansky, J. (2010). Atlas of remote islands. 

Gamble, C.S (2008). Archaeology: The basics. 

McNeill, J.R. & W.H. McNeill (2003). The human web: a bird's-eye view of world history. 

MacGregor, N. (2010). The history of the world in 100 objects. 

Scarre, C. (Ed.) (2005). The human past. 

de Waal, E. (2010). The hare with amber eyes: a hidden inheritance. 

Renfrew, C. (2003). Figuring it out: What are we? Where do we come from? The parallel visions of artists and archaeologists. 



Online test


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assignment 40%
Written report  (2000 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Portfolio 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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