The University of Southampton

ARCH2012 Archaeology and Society

Module Overview

The purpose of this module is to explore the role of archaeology in the modern world. It is not only concerned with the professional and academic discipline of archaeology, but also with the variety of other groups who lay claim to an interest in the past. The module focuses on two interrelated subjects: the social and political dimensions of archaeology and the representation of the past. While the former refers to the practice of archaeology in the present, archaeological representation is concerned with the ways in which we derive our understanding of the past from non-academic forms of communication such as images, museum displays and films.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• study the social context of the use of the past, archaeological representation • examine the role of archaeology in contemporary society.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the nature of archaeological practice as an often contested activity in the present
  • the social, political and economic context of archaeology
  • the nature of some key conflicts in world archaeology
  • the role of archaeological representation in constructing archaeological meaning
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critical ability to interrogate the social and political role of archaeological practice
  • Appreciation of the contested nature of the past, the variety of values placed upon it, and the sensitivity of academic research
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Concise and accurate writing
  • Use of a variety of information sources
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Data collection, synthesis and presentation


Questions about the social context of the practice of archaeology, and about interest in and use of the past, have been introduced at a basic level in several first-year courses and are now examined in more detail. Particular attention will be paid to the nature of archaeological practice; the notion of ethics and responsibility; the use of the past for establishing group identity with particular reference to nationalism; the concept of heritage; archaeology in the media; and the role of archaeology in situations of conflict.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Classes Learning activities include • Lectures • Classes • Private study

Independent Study120
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Moser, S. (1998). Ancestral Images: The iconography of human antiquity. 

Merriman, N. (ed) (2004). Public Archaeology. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2001 words) 25%
Essay  (2000 words) 25%
Written exam  (105 minutes) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite: ARCH1057 The Development Of Archaeological And Anthropological Thought 2016-17

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