Module Catalogue 2024/25

ARA1026 : Introduction to Archaeological Science

ARA1026 : Introduction to Archaeological Science

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Andrea Dolfini
  • Lecturer: Professor Lisa-Marie Shillito, Dr Eric Tourigny, Dr Eline Van Asperen, Professor Chantal Conneller, Dr Francesco Carrer, Dr Chloe Duckworth
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

Pre Requisite Comment



Modules you need to take at the same time

Co Requisite Comment



Archaeological Science (AS) is the application of scientific methods to the study of the human past. In the last few decades, archaeologists have employed a wide range of scientific methods to research problems including human evolution, chronology, climate, the environment, health, diet, technology, mobility, the manufacture and exchange of goods, and many, many more. The module introduces some of the main problems that archaeologists address using scientific methods of enquiry, as well as the methods themselves. It also shows how scientific and non-scientific methods of enquiry can work together to enhance our understanding of the past. Case studies ranging from prehistory to historical times, small group lab practicals, and tutorials will help you familiarise with this fast-growing branch of archaeology. Given its introductory nature, the module does not require any scientific knowledge as a background.
The aims of the module are:
- To introduce the principal scientific methods used today in archaeology (except field methods)
- To enable students to place archaeological science within the wider field of archaeology
- To foster an understanding of science as an essential tool for addressing social problems in archaeology
- To encourage students to develop an area of interest in specific aspects of archaeological science

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics may include:
- Relative and absolute dating methods
- Environmental archaeology: plants and people
- Geoarchaeology and sedimentology
- Zooarchaeology
- Bioarchaeology
- Biomolecular archaeology
- Mobility and exchange studies (people and artefacts)
- Ancient technologies and materials science
- Statistical applications to archaeology

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

In successfully completing the course, students will be able to:
- Identify the principal archaeological questions that can be addressed through scientific methods
- Identify the principal scientific methods used in contemporary archaeological practice and appraise their most common applications
- Critically evaluate strengths and limitations of the scientific methods examined during the module

Intended Skill Outcomes

- Comprehending and appropriately using scientific terminology in archaeology
- Introducing lab H&S and code of conduct
- Enhancing students' critical thinking and team working through lab practicals and formative assignments
- Enhancing students' critical thinking and writing skills through summative assignments

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion701:0070:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture141:0014:00PIP lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical21:002:00PIP 1h lab practicals
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical72:0014:00PIP 2h lab practicals
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities112:0022:00Weekly reading, revision quizzes and other supplementary learning material
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops31:003:00PIP assignment preparation tutorials and surgeries
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study751:0075:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

- Lectures provide an introduction to the archaeological problems and scientific methods discussed through the module.
- 1h and 2h laboratory practicals provide hands-on opportunities to learn and practice the scientific methods introduced in the lectures.
- Workshops (tutorials) provide assignment preparation support and structured Q&A time.
- Structured guided learning including weekly reading, videos, and revision quizzes provide further Canvas-based learning opportunities to students.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Digital Examination1202A50Inspera exam
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M50Dating methods essay (1800 words)
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment2MWeekly Canvas revision quizzes
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

- Essay #1 evaluates students' understanding of relative and absolute dating methods as well as their ability to discuss these methods critically.
- The Digital Exam evaluates students' knowledge and understanding of all the other main subjects and scientific methods covered by the module.
- Weekly formative Canvas quizzes provide opportunities to revise the topics introduced in the classroom/lab and prepare for the assessed quiz.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes

Recommended textbook: Renfrew, C. & P. Bahn. 2020. Archaeology: Theories, Methods, and Practice, 8th edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Welcome to Newcastle University Module Catalogue

This is where you will be able to find all key information about modules on your programme of study. It will help you make an informed decision on the options available to you within your programme.

You may have some queries about the modules available to you. Your school office will be able to signpost you to someone who will support you with any queries.


The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2024 academic year.

In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described.

Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2025/26 entry will be published here in early-April 2025. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.