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Archaeological Excavation


Module Leader: Steve Roskams


This is a 20 credit module designed to introduce first-year students to all aspects of assessing, collecting and analysing primary excavation data and to provide hands-on experience of excavation and post-excavation techniques.

For many people excavation is synonymous with archaeology. Excavation is certainly one of the defining methods of the discipline, a unique way by which we recover material evidence about the past, which can then be used alongside other data.

So although we know that excavation is just one part of archaeology as a whole, the excavation element of the degree is something to be looked forward to (occasionally with trepidation) and enjoyed, and certainly something that students look back on fondly at the end of their degree course, and sometimes for the rest of their lives. It is a unique opportunity to be part of a really exciting phase of a research project.

All the excavations which we involve in field school have a strong research element. It would be wrong to excavate for the sake of it and so you will be involved in a project which will make a real contribution to the discipline, to our understanding about the past, and to the public understanding of the past. It therefore encapsulates most of the key themes that run throughout the degree in a practical and unique experience. For most of us excavation is a voyage of discovery, finding new evidence, trying new techniques and often discovering new things about the past - and sometimes about ourselves. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module and its assessment, students should be able to:

  • appreciate the process of reconnaisance and evaluation and its impact on excavation strategy  
  • understand and apply excavation techniques
  • record archaeological features and take environmental samples
  • understand the process and recording of stratification
  • recognise, sort and care for artefacts
  • process field records from excavation work
  • process and sort environmental samples


This module allows you to develop many skills, but particularly:
  • Self management: you need to be punctual for work on site
  • Communication: you will have to communicate with your supervisor and others in the team - make sure you ask questions and learn as much as you can about what is going on around you.
  • Team working: this is one of the fundamental skills of this module - you will be learning how to co-operate with others in the trench and when putting together your exhibition for the end of term
  • Problem solving: having had a series of lectures, you will be learning how to put this knowledge into practice
  • World of work awareness: this allows you to understand the world of work, how excavations operate, how decisions are made, how large teams are organised, how records and kept and processed etc
  • Application of IT: you will be using PowerPoint for your team exhibition at the end of term 

The field school is a fantastic opportunity that every student loves, and it is term time

Joanne Cooper