Ethnoarchaeology

Module code: ARC00086M

Module leader: Stephanie Wynne-Jones

Overview

Ethnoarchaeology is central to the ways archaeologists understand the past, and has informed interpretations of the archaeological record from the Palaeolithic to the present day. It provides a powerful set of techniques for understanding how the archaeological record we see relates to past activity, through using modern analogies. This course, which gives an introduction to the debates, practices, and ethics of ethnoarchaeology is therefore a fantastic component of any programme of study.

It will introduce students to all aspects of ethnoarchaeology, from theoretical approaches to practical aspects of working between living societies and the archaeological record. After an introductory lecture, teaching will be via seminars and discussion groups, based on particular readings. Students can expect to become confident in using ethnoarchaeology to enhance their understandings of the past, particularly with aspects of material culture and spatial patterning.  This means that students will not only learn how to explore the technological and social context of archaeological objects, but will also be able to engage in informed discussion about technology and materiality in context. 

Aims

  • Introduce students to the theoretical basis, critique of archaeology offered by ethnoarchaeology, and reflexivity within ethnoarchaeology
  • Allow students to understand how ethnoarchaeology can help archaeologists to understand the past, working through different areas of study: discard patterns, hunter-gatherer archaeology, craft production and consumption, the use of space in houses and settlements, and engagement with the material world. Studies will focus particularly but not exclusively on African examples
  • Introduce students to formative and current debates on the uses and problems of ethnoarchaeology, as an essential basis for the study of the material world
  • Enable students to design their own ethnoarchaeological studies

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this module students should be able to:

  • Discuss with confidence with the historical development and significant debates within ethnoarchaeology and be able to situate them within the broader development of Archaeology as a discipline
  • Debate the merits and contribution of ethnoarchaeological research, including ethical dimensions
  • Evaluate critically different interpretative and methodological approaches to understanding the past through ethnoarchaeology, and to assess their application to different periods and contexts
  • Design and implement their own ethnoarchaeological study using standard terminology and style for reporting ethnoarchaeological studies