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The University of Southampton

ARCH3034 Archaeology of Seafaring

Module Overview

Seafaring lies at the heart of human activity across the world and has taken place from the earliest times to the present day. Reflecting this, in recent years the study of seafaring has become an increasingly important area in our understanding of the human past. Current research within the Archaeology Department takes place across a range of areas and periods and is reflected in the module content; from the prehistoric human colonisation of Australasia in c.50,000BC to the development and application of industrial processes for maritime technology in the globalising maritime world of the 18th and 19th century. These periods form part of the case studies, alongside archaeological examples from the ancient Mediterranean, early medieval north- west Europe and the Indian Ocean, which are central to the module. You will also be introduced to the basic ways in which seafaring is studied through the archaeological record and you will gain a thorough grounding in the understanding and interpretation of seafaring from a social, economic and environmental perspective. This, along with the case studies, will provide you with a developed appreciation of the global significance of seafaring activity and how it can greatly enhance our overall understanding of the past.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Analyse the key theories and sites relating to ancient seafaring
  • Compare the different modes and motivations for people’s engagement with water in the past
  • Appraise the variety of ways in which we can investigate this form of activity in the past.
  • Synthesise the different types of evidence that contribute to an interpretation of the patterns of maritime exchange, the form and development of water transport, and the capabilities of the vessels and seafarers from a particular period and region
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Integrate the analysis of different kinds of archaeological and historical data
  • Describe archaeological assemblages associated with different forms of economic and seafaring activity
  • Make connections between sequences, patterns and underlying historical processes
  • Develop arguments addressing past understandings of space through analysing archaeological evidence
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Undertake research on a specific theme, both pre-defined, and personally defined.
  • Evaluate and synthesise complex bodies of data.
  • Critically analyse complex issues.
  • Present research to a range of different audiences, using a range of different output methods.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify classes of material culture associated with seafaring.
  • Apply theoretical models to specific aspects of maritime trade and technological exchange
  • Evaluate the arguments of others based on the evidence being cited.
  • Synthesise and offer critical analysis of the results of current research in written and oral form


• Introduction to studying seafaring and what we understand the concept of seafaring to be. • The source material used for studying the archaeology of seafaring including direct archaeological material, as well as other complimentary sources. • Seafaring and the Maritime Environment to understand the effect that the wind, waves and tide have on seafaring, in addition to longer term environmental changes, such as rising sea-levels. • The Origins of Seafaring from the earliest periods using case studies drawn from Oceania and the Pacific, as well as the Mediterranean and the Americas. • Prehistoric seafaring in North-West Europe with an emphasis on the spread of people and technology between Britain and Ireland and the continent and how we understand that movement archaeologically. • Seafaring in the Mediterranean spanning Ancient Egypt, the Greco-Roman period and late-antiquity. • Early Medieval seafaring in North-West Europe with a specific focus on the Irish Sea, Saxon seafaring and Viking-Age developments, including the evidence from experimental archaeological research. • Late Medieval and Early Modern seafaring and in particular using the archaeological and historical record to understand how ships changed into symbols of national prestige and power. • Globalised Seafaring in the 19th century, seen through the biography of a single ship case study and drawing upon the archaeological and historical material associated with that vessel. • The Indian Ocean as a case study of a single broad geographical location through which we can explore continuity and change in seafaring practice over time.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Student-led discussion in groups • Student led presentations Learning activities include • Lecture and class-based activities supported by hand-outs and slides • Additional reading supported by reading lists • Some informal self-learning through Web-based resources • Student-led group work resulting in a group presentation and subsequent discussion in seminars.

Wider reading or practice40
Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Follow-up work20
Completion of assessment task40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Lionel Casson (1971). Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World. 

Ole Crumlin-Pedersen (2010). Archaeology and the Sea in Scandinavia and Britain. 

Duncan Garrow, Fraser Sturt (2011). Grey waters bright with Neolithic Argonauts? Maritime connections and the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition within the ‘western seaways’ of Britain c. 5000-3500 BC. Antiquity. ,85 , pp. 59-72.

Cemal Pulak (1998). The Uluburun shipwreck: an overview. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. ,27 , pp. 188-224.

John Mack (2011). The Sea: A Cultural History. 

Jon Adams (2013). A Maritime Archaeology of Ships: Innovation and Social Change in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe. 

David Strachen (2010). Carpow in Context. A late Bronze Age Logboat from the Tay. 

Helen Farr (2006). Seafaring as Social Action. Journal of Maritime Archaeology. ,1 , pp. 85-99.


Assessment Strategy

Assessment will be 100% by coursework and will comprise three separate components. One of these is formative and is designed to provide an opportunity to gain experience in presentation in a non-pressure environment. The other two are more traditional pieces of written work to test your research and analysis skills.


MethodPercentage contribution
Optional assessments 50%
Short answer questions  (2100 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Research essay  (2000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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