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Introduction to Historical Archaeology

When you'll study it
Semester 2
CATS points
15
ECTS points
7.5
Level
Level 4
Module lead
Alison Gascoigne
Academic year
2024-25

Module overview

In a common analogy where the c.4.5 billion years of Earth's geological history are equated to a 24-hour day - modern humans appearing only within the last 4 seconds - written human history begins only in the last 100 milliseconds. That time, though, saw major shifts in human behaviours. Archaeological investigation of societies that habitually read and write has its own characteristics and challenges: the presence of written records changes how scholars have engaged with the past, providing hugely detailed information across diverse spheres of activity, but also tending to devalue and undermine the autonomy of the material record. This module will introduce you to the archaeology of historical periods, and the range of human societies, with and without writing, that existed from the advent of text at the end of the 4th millenium BCE. We will critique the historical tendency to privilege written sources over material ones, and demonstrate the range and diversity of archaeology's contributions to our understanding of societies from the ancient world to the present day.