The University of Southampton

ARCH6114 Maritime Aspects of Culture

Module Overview

This thirty-credit module will introduce you to the key theoretical and technical concepts used in maritime archaeology, along with its evidence base. It has been designed to provide an accelerated learning curve for those who are new to the subject area, developing core knowledge in archaeological method, theory and materials. It begins by analysing the development of the subject and its related areas of study in order to facilitate a better understanding of current theoretical approaches, management priorities and research potential within the context of archaeology as a whole. This provides the platform from which to consider the scope of the subject in terms of the site types and classes of evidence available; from the Palaeolithic to present day, from landscape to site based scales of analysis. It also serves to demonstrate what is gained from adopting a maritime perspective and how this allows fundamental re-assessment of the archaeological record. The waters of the world have frequently served to connect rather than divide communities, leading to water transport becoming of vital importance to society. The remains of ships and boats thus constitute a key primary source for maritime archaeology. The processes involved in their design, construction, use and disposal were dynamically linked to society as a whole. Therefore they cannot be seen simply as interesting technological phenomena or merely as passive ‘reflections’ of that society. As such, hand-in-hand with the development of your knowledge of broader archaeological theory and landscape approaches, this module will develop your knowledge of the history, evolution and archaeological potential of the world’s watercraft. Case studies, practical sessions and fieldtrips will all be used to contextualise the knowledge gained throughout the course and broaden your archaeological experience. By the end of the module you will be familiar with the scope, potential and resource base of the discipline. You will have gained key skills in essay writing and professional report production relevant to both academia and industry.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to provide an essential grounding in the history and theory of Maritime Archaeology.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • A broad knowledge of recent and current maritime research trends
  • A broad understanding of the history of the development of maritime archaeology
  • A basic grounding in the theoretical approaches to maritime archaeology, maritime cultures and maritime landscapes
  • An appreciation of the archaeological potential of boats, ships and associated material culture.
  • A general knowledge of the major watercraft types and building traditions and construction technologies encountered within maritime archaeology.
  • An awareness of the potential of both submerged terrestrially deposited archaeology and the remains of seafaring activities.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Assimilate and evaluate different theoretical perspectives
  • Assess a maritime landscape with respect to interpretation
  • Identify the primary elements of boat and ship structures.
  • Undertake independent research in the above areas
  • Apply theoretical models to specific areas of maritime archaeological research and specific problems
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Learn and apply new practical and theoretical skills
  • Produce academic/commercial standard reports and presentations
  • Plan, design and implement data collection and presentation.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate and critique past and current theoretical approaches
  • Apply current theoretical approaches in maritime archaeology
  • Plan, conduct, process and disseminate a full archaeological survey of a boat.
  • Understand the nature of the marine environment and the potential for activity on it


Maritime Archaeology and Maritime Aspects of culture? Principles of watercraft construction and archaeological classification Fieldtrip 1: Rowing and Sailing small craft, understanding maritime space Understanding the archaeological record: archaeological theory past, present and future Understanding materials and tools Seminar 1: Archaeological theory: key reading discussion Ethnographic approaches to maritime archaeology Log boats, skin boats, rafts, floats and bundles Fieldtrip 2: Ethnographic boat recording two day trip (relates to assignment 4) Technology and tradition Sewn/lashed construction techniques Seminar 2: Terminological familiarisation Ships & Society Mortice & tenon construction techniques Landscape approaches to Mediterranean frame-first Maritime archaeology methods Island archaeologies North West European watercraft case studies: The Roman-Celtic tradition, Clinker origins and development Seminar 3: Scale in archaeological research Beyond function: the social context of maritime culture North West European watercraft case studies 2: Clinker to Carvel Historical archaeology – maritime approaches 18th/19th century wooden shipbuilding Seminar 4: From technical drawing to social understanding Experimental archaeology Student presentations and discussion Maritime archaeology: looking forward

Special Features

You will gain subject specific skills to do with recording and interpreting maritime archaeological data. In addition, we offer practical training to support this both with regard to material culture and time spent on the water. The week-long residential course at Roskilde serves to cement the knowledge gained in this and the additional modules you will take as a part of your MA/MSc in Maritime Archaeology.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Four hours of lectures per week • A minimum of four student led seminars discussing relevant readings • Practical sessions on boat recording and boat use Learning methods include: • Directed learning through lectures/seminars • Guided self-study • Completion of four assignments • Use of online resources • Use of library resources • Oral presentation preparation and delivery on key topics

Independent Study214
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Westerdahl, C. (1992). The maritime cultural landscape. IJNA. ,21 , pp. 5--14.

Blue, L. (2003). Maritime Ethnography: The Reality of Analogy. Boats, Ships and Shipyards. Proceedings of the 9th International Symposium of Boat and Ship Archaeology, Venice 2000. ,0 , pp. 334-338.

Ingold, T (1993). The temporality of the landscape. World Archaeology. ,25 , pp. 152-74.

Steffy, J. R. (1994). Wooden Shipbuilding and the Interpretation of Shipwrecks. 

Garrow, D. and Sturt, F. (2011). Grey Waters Bright with Neolithic Argonauts? Maritime connections and the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition with the ‘western seaways’ of Britain, c. 5000-3500 BC.. Antiquity. ,85 , pp. 59-72.

Gould, R.A. (2011). Archaeology and the Social History of Ships. 

McGrail, S. (1998). Ancient Boats in North West Europe. 

Muckelroy, K. (1978). Maritime Archaeology. 

Lucas, G. (2012). Understanding the Archaeological Record. 

Rainbird, P. (2007). The Archaeology of Islands. 

Gardiner, R. (ed.) (2006). Seafaring as Social Action. Journal of Maritime Archaeology. ,1 , pp. 0.

Hocker, F. M. & Ward, C. A. (2004). The Philosophy of Shipbuilding. Conceptual Approaches to the Study of Wooden Ships. 

Adams, J (2003). Ships, Innovation and Social Change. Aspects of carvel Shipbuilding in Northern Europe 1450 – 1850. 

Green, J. (2009). Maritime Archaeology, a Technical Handbook. 

Gardiner, R. (ed.) (2004). The Earliest Ships. The Evolution of Boats into Ships. Conway History of the Ship (Paperback Edition). 

McGrail, S. (2001). Boats of the World. 

Cooney, G (2004). Introduction: seeing land from the sea. World Archaeology. ,35 , pp. 323-8.


Assessment Strategy

Informal feedback will provided throughout the module via lectures, practicals, seminars and supervisions. Detailed and constructive written feedback will be given for all assignments submitted.


MethodPercentage contribution
Article  (1000 words) 15%
Illustrated report  (1000 words) 15%
Journal Article  (4000 words) 35%
Report  (4000 words) 35%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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