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ARA1026 : Introduction to Archaeological Science

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Lisa-Marie Shillito
  • Lecturer: Dr Eline Van Asperen, Dr Eric Tourigny, Dr Andrea Dolfini, Dr Francesco Carrer, Dr Chloe Duckworth
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Archaeological Science (AS) is the application of scientific methods to the study of the human past. In the last decades, archaeologists have deployed a wide range of scientific methods to address issues of human evolution, chronology, climate, the environment, health, diet, technology, mobility, the manufacture and exchange of goods, and many, many more. The module will introduce some of the main problems that archaeologists can address using scientific methods of enquiry. It will also show how traditional and scientific methods can work together to enhance our understanding of the past. Case studies ranging from prehistory to historical times, virtual practicals, and group seminars and tutorials will help you familiarise with this fast-growing branch of archaeology. Given its introductory nature, the module does not require any background in science.
The aims of the module are:
• To introduce the principal scientific methods used today in archaeology
• 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

Lecture topics may include:
- Chronology and dating methods
- Environmental archaeology
- Geoarchaeology and sedimentology
- Zooarchaeology
- Bioarchaeology
- Biomolecular archaeology
- Mobility and exchange studies
- Ancient technologies and materials science
- Statistics in archaeology

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion701:0070:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials161:0016:00Contact recapped lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical62:0012:00PiP lab practicals
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities112:0022:00Weekly reading, revision quizzes and other supplementary learning material
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops51:005:00PiP introduction, assessment tutorials and module recap sessions
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study751:0075:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures provide an introduction to the archaeological questions and methods discussed through the module.
Laboratory practicals provide hands-on opportunity to learn scientific methods and their archaeological applications.
Workshops provide support for assignments (tutorials) plus module introduction and recap.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M50Dating methods essay (1750 words)
Essay2A50Essay on other topics covered by the module (1750 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written Examination2MWeekly Canvas revision quizzes
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Essay #1 evaluates the ability to understand scientific dating methods and to discuss them critically while Essay #2 evaluates knowledge and understanding of all other main subjects and scientific methods covered by the module. The formative Canvas quizzes provide opportunities to revise the topics introduced weekly.

Reading Lists