The University of Southampton
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ARCH2013 Approaching the past: trends in Archaeological Theory

Module Overview

Understanding the past is a significant intellectual challenge to which Archaeology has responded to in a variety of ways. This module introduces a range of approaches within contemporary archaeological thought and encourages you to use those to explore archaeological data. Students will gain an understanding of the links between archaeology and anthropology, philosophy, sociology and literary theory (among others) and develop a critical understanding of current issues and debates within archaeology.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To introduce you to a range of approaches within contemporary archaeological thought • To encourage you to use these approaches to explore archaeological data • Develop a critical understanding of current issues and theoretical debates in archaeology

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • A range of current inferential, social and critical archaeological thinking
  • Critically evaluate the usefulness of different approaches for different bodies of data and different interpretive goals
  • Appreciate the links between archaeology and other disciplines including anthropology, philosophy, sociology, human geography and literary theory
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Apply aspects of current archaeological thought to archaeological examples
  • Critically evaluate key themes and debates in social archaeology
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate written communication skills
  • Gather information, analyse and evaluate it critically
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify appropriate theoretical tools to plan and carry out research for the dissertation in Year 3
  • Understand the utility and limitations of selected theoretical tools in a research setting
  • Employ analytical skills appropriate to the study of social archaeology

Syllabus

This module reviews a range of approaches that have a significant role in current theoretical debate within archaeology. Stress is placed upon the connections between archaeology and anthropology, philosophy, sociology, human geography and literary theory. The course is divided into 6 parts: Introductory lectures in Part I outline the importance of theory to archaeological interpretation and provide an introduction to the nature of debates within the discipline. Part II considers the nature of archaeological evidence and methods of archaeological inference. Part III looks at the use of various forms of social theory in order to gain an understanding of past societies, and in part IV we examine the ways that theory is employed to explore relations between people. The use of theory at different scales of analysis is explored through a series of key themes in Part V. The module concludes with an investigation of the means by which we can evaluate competing accounts of the past in Part VI.

Special Features

Lectures will expose students to a range of approaches in contemporary archaeological thought. Emphasis will be placed on case studies and examples in order that students can see the application and influence of theoretical approaches on the interpretation of archaeological data. Seminars will encourage discussion and debate. Independent study will encourage students to gather information and engage critically with the subject matter and to express themselves through the production of essays. The research assignment will give students the opportunity to see how theory works in action by working through the utility and drawbacks of an aspect of archaeological thinking in preparation for the dissertation in Year 3.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Seminars • Independent study Learning activities include • Lectures • Seminars • Independent study • A research assignment involving the application of a body of theory to a familiar place, object or situation • Essay Innovative or special features of this module • This module is supported by a web site

TypeHours
Completion of assessment task25
Follow-up work25
Preparation for scheduled sessions25
Lecture28
Revision22
Wider reading or practice25
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Thomas, J. (ed) (2000). Interpretive Archaeology. 

Hodder, I. (ed) (2001). Archeological Theory Today. 

Johnson, M (1999). Archaeological Theory: an Introduction. 

Assessment

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Research essay  (2000 words) 50%
Written exam  (105 minutes) 50%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Research essay  (2000 words) 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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