The University of Southampton

ARCH2033 Pots and People: Ceramic Analysis in Archaeology

Module Overview

The aim of this module is to give hands on experience of working with a real archaeological pottery assemblage from the university's research collections. A range of assemblages are available covering different periods You will engage with the theoretical, methodological and analytical skills needed to interrogate the profound role pottery has played throughout history in the construction, maintenance and even the destabilising of society.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To introduce you to the value of pottery as a critical archaeological resource for analysis and social interpretation; • To foster a hands-on approach to learning currently accepted methodologies for the recording of pottery data; • To expose you to a diverse range of pottery assemblages, and provide the skills for you to be able to critically appreciate and report on the social value of any of these.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • The significance of pottery to a full understanding of past societies;
  • The skills required to record and prepare a technical pottery report;
  • Key texts, research concepts and controversies in materials analysis, particularly of archaeological pottery;
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse and classify a diverse range of pottery types;
  • Synthesise and analyse pottery from an archaeological assemblage and understand how this relates to wider questions in archaeology
  • Undertake basic identification analysis of the range of technological characteristics that make up specific pottery types and draw this information together to create a holistic view of the material studied;
  • Use microscopes and other basic analytical equipment and methods that are used by archaeological ceramics specialists;
  • Evaluate the research methods used by archaeologists to study pottery assemblages and make choices about appropriate ways to proceed
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Participate actively in group work to collect data;
  • Use of excel as a means to record and report on data.


The module will introduce you to pottery, the most ubiquitous material recovered by archaeologists. Investigating how pots are used, their biographies and how they are discarded adds to our knowledge of – amongst other things – trade, economics, domestic and ritual life, craftsmanship and technology. The module will provide hands-on experience of working with a pottery assemblages from the department’s research collections and teach current methodological and theoretical skills needed to write a pottery report. The ‘Pot of the Week’ handout exercise will further your ability to produce a piece of work in a different format using techniques specific to this style which is aimed at conveying maximum information in a concise and visually appealing way. This is primarily a ‘hands-on’, practical course, however, the lecture content will set this learning within a framework of critical thinking based in recent social theory linked to materials analysis.

Special Features

You will work directly on pottery collections that have been or are part of on-going departmental research projects. • This module will be taught in the ‘Nick Bradford’ lab at Avenue Campus which is especially equipped for practical teaching; • Equipment, such as microscopes, rim diameter charts, callipers, drawing equipment will be available; • All materials for the experimental archaeology element of the module will be provided. Instruction will be given by the module co-ordinator

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Short lectures followed by practical group work recording pottery assemblages • ‘Pot of the Week’ presentations, each one of no more than 5 minutes duration to follow the lecture • Practical experimental archaeology involving producing and firing a pot you have made using traditional potting methods Learning activities include: • Preparatory reading before each practical session • Participation in group work to record and explore the assemblage provided • Independent reading of the sources provided and of related secondary works • Short, 5 minute, oral presentations for ‘Pot of the Week’ handout • Independent research of additional information and source materials in order to prepare an independent report on the assemblages provided in class The weekly lectures will provide you with knowledge about the theoretical issues surrounding methods of analysis and knowledge and understanding about chronology, sources and key concepts related to archaeological pottery analysis. This will be consolidated through readings and discussions of primary and secondary source material as you work through your archaeological assemblages. These discussions will help you to develop your own ideas about how to present your pottery reports, to analyse a range of source material and to articulate critical discussion of pottery assemblages.

Practical classes and workshops21
Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Completion of assessment task67
Wider reading or practice10
Follow-up work20
Total study time150



Bone tests


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1000 words) 30%
Report  (2500 words) 70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 50%
Report  (2500 words) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal

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