Accessibility statement

Environmental Archaeology

Module leader: Kevin Walsh


  • To introduce a range of methods that are key to the practice of environmental sampling and analysis
  • To consider why these are important to the broader discipline of landscape archaeology and site interpretation
  • To use a series of basic laboratory methods that can help us characterise the important properties of soils and sediments and environmental samples
  • Demonstrate the important and useful contribution that environmental archaeology may make to the wider discipline of archaeology

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Execute a series of simple laboratory tests on different environmental samples
  • Interpret the results of the laboratory tests
  • Identify other tests that could be carried out on these samples
  • Perform a basic analysis on an archaeological soil sample
  • Critically evaluate specialist environmental reports 
  • Become familiar with a range of biological remains commonly encountered in archaeological and natural deposit of various kinds

Further Information

This module builds on the first year module Archaeological Excavation where students are introduced briefly to environmental analyses.

This module will consist of an introductory lecture, practical sessions, and seminars on specialist reports.

Through the term, students will be expected to develop their skills in critiquing a specialist report (students write their own specialist report in the co-requisite module the following term so it is important that they understand good practice). The formative assessment is designed to provide training and a similar summative assessment is handed in at the end term. Students will be encouraged to keep a lab notebook during term (which will help them remember techniques for the Team Project in the summer) and in week 10 they will be assessed on the practical skills they have acquired during practical sessions through the term, and their ability to “think on their feet” in a class test.


This module not only provides practical skills in a certain area but also gives students the opportunity to develop the following skills:

  • Self management: it is of vital importance that you learn the practical skills this term so you can apply them next term to your team project so you will need to manage your time well and spend about 10 hours a week in independent study
  • Communication: you will be learning how to communicate the results of work and should be developing both your written and verbal communication skills
  • Team working: although the focus of team working comes next term it is a good idea to begin to work with others in the group and think about how to lead, and follow, effectively
  • Problem solving: this module will require a capacity for analysis, synthesis and the ability to evaluate information from a range of sources
  • Social, cultural and global awareness: you may be considering case studies from an international context within this module. You should also appreciate the ethical issues involved.
  • Application of IT: you will be using the internet for a range of sources and you will be using word processing packages for presentation of your work
  • Application of numeracy: you will be thinking about how to interpret data