Study Abroad and Exchanges

Modules

Modules

ARA2001 : Archaeological Theory and Interpretation

Semesters
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0

Aims

The last forty years have seen some radical changes in how we study the past. The majority of these stem from the recognition that the past must be actively interpreted in the present. During this module we will explore the major trends in archaeological theory over the last forty years and consider how each of these assists in the interpretation of the past. Such theoretical trends have not only shaped archaeology but also played an integral role in many other disciplines, including anthropology, history of all kinds, geography, philosophy, sociology and cultural theory. For that reason, topics covered in this module are of wider relevance as they provide a guide to the ideas characteristic of the modern and postmodern world in which we live. Nonetheless, while the course is designed to address theoretical perspectives on the past, emphasis will be given to the practical deployment of theoretical perspectives in interpreting the past.

This module aims to develop an awareness of the relationship between archaeological interpretation and theoretical reasoning, to provide a detailed understanding of developments in archaeological theory over the last four decades, and to illustrate the impact of different theoretical approaches on our understanding of the past and on present social, cultural and political contexts. It also aims to develop your ability to recognise and critically evaluate differing theoretical perspectives and communicate these to others.

Outline Of Syllabus

A version of the following syllabus will run each year:

Part 1: Theories of Culture
In this section we will briefly outline the history of archaeological thinking. When did ‘theory’ begin? What is it anyway? And why should it concern a practical discipline like archaeology? We will see that one of the first goals in twentieth century archaeology was to identify specific cultures. But what are cultures, and what is culture? How can we understand thing complex concept which is fundamental to archaeology?
1. The ‘Loss of Innocence’: A historical introduction to archaeological theory
2. The New Archaeology: A. From culture history to culture as process. B. Ethnoarchaeology and anthropological analogy.
3. Culture and conflict: A. Marxism. B. Marxism in archaeology.

Part 2: Archaeology, text and context
Here will trace the course of the ‘textual analogy’ in archaeology. Firstly, archaeologists often refer to an ‘archaeological record’, creating an analogy between archaeological deposits and texts. Secondly, archaeologists have considered that material culture can be read like a text. Thirdly, it has been argued that all cultural communication is like a language. How have archaeologists tried to interpret past societies through these ideas?
4. The archaeological record. A. The ‘archaeological record’ B. Is the archaeological record a text? Is material culture like a text? The text and structuralism.
5. Structuralist Archaeology: A. Structuralism in anthropology. B. Structuralism in archaeology.
6. Contextual Archaeology: A. What is a context? (1 hour) B. Class exercise: Taking a stance… or, what do you think?
7. Theories of the text and the textual analogy after structuralism: Barthes, Derrida and Hermeneutics.

Part 3: Relational approaches to archaeology: practice, experience and the material world

8. Phenomenology. A. Phenomenology B. Investigating architecture and landscape using phenomenology and practice theory.
9. Agency and materiality. A. Human agency and the question of material agency B. Bodies, objects, materials and persons.
10. Identities that matter, identities in practice: A. Gender and sexuality B. Ethnicity.
11. An ontological turn? The archaeological implications of non-representational and post-humanist theories A. Actor Network Theory B. Other non-representational theories'
12. Critical theory and archaeology today; Review and Summary

Seminars will also run weekly. Some will involve group presentations and a class debate over set topics, while others will serve as discussion groups on the interpretation and analysis of key set texts which students will read in advance of the seminar.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion651:0065:0040% of guided independent studies
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading651:0065:0040% of guided independent studies
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching131:0013:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study331:0033:0020% of guided independent studies
Total200:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

A series of subject-specific lectures will provide an introduction to the aims and objectives of the module, its forms of assessment, and a detailed outline of notable developments in archaeological theory over the last four decades. Alongside the lectures students will attend weekly seminars. Four or five of these will form the venue for groups of students to deliver presentations and for the class to discuss issues raised by these, while the remainder will act as workshops where students, lead by the module leader, analyse key texts in archaeological theory. This will assist in preparation of all forms of assessed work. Students will be expected to individually complete 163 hours of reading/writing including in preparation for the seminars, assessed group presentation, and essays.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M50Essay, 2000 words
Essay2M50Essay, 2000 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Oral Presentation2MOne formative group presentation during the module, relating to one assignment prior to its completion.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Each student will participate in one formative group presentation during the module, and this will relate to an essay question. They will therefore receive verbal feedback as a group on preparatory work relating to one assignment prior to its completion as a written piece. Each written piece will be prepared by an individual student.

Breaking up the assessment in this way will allow for progress to be monitored throughout the module. Group presentations, assessed only formatively, will assess knowledge and understanding of a theoretical position on which the students in that group (as well as some students in the audience) will prepare one of their written assignments. Two groups will present in each seminar, providing contrasting positions on related topics which staff and the class will then discuss. The essay topics will relate to debates covered in lectures, seminars and group presentations and assess students’ abilities to analyse or compare these positions.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists

Timetable