Themes in Historical Archaeology


Module leader: Kevin Walsh


The aim of this module is to build on the Year 1 modules and to provide students with both a broader and more in-depth understanding of the 'historical' past, defined as periods in which societies had writing and documentation. The module will focus on four periods of time or areas of archaeological enquiry within the historical era, and these will be linked together through the examination of a series of important archaeological themes: power, landscape, identity, and memory. The aim of this module is NOT to provide a chronological survey of British historical archaeology, but rather present a series of thematic assessments that cover a wide geographical range - from Northern Europe to Africa.

Learning outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate a broad and comparative knowledge of historical archaeology
  • Construct and communicate an in-depth critical argument that relates the archaeology of at least two periods or subject areas
  • Communicate complex ideas, discuss and defend arguments in seminars and presentations
  • Collaborate and support one another in seminars

Further information

This module is divided up into 4 blocks of teaching; these are period, or context-based, and will change from year to year, but may include Roman, Viking, Medieval (Britain, Continental Europe, and Africa), and the Modern and Contemporary Worlds.  In each block, the key themes of power, landscape, identity, and memory will be discussed.  Each block will be organised by a member of staff who is an expert in the topic. For each block there will be 4 x 1-hour lectures. In addition, the class will be divided into groups of c. 12 students for a 1-hour seminar each week. In these seminars, students will be asked to give short (10-15 minute) presentations, and there will be plenty of time for in-depth discussion. At the end of the module, students will write an in-depth essay on a subject of their choice, demonstrating more specialist knowledge. 


This module will provide you with the following skills which are both critical for this degree and academic, but also for the world of work. 

  • Self management: by the second year you should have developed your ability to plan and manage your time, and for this module you will need to hone those skills further so that you prepare for each seminar through about 10 hours reading a week and go to the seminar ready to ask questions and stimulate debate.
  • Communication: you will need to work on your presentation skills as you will be giving a couple of seminar presentations (and these need to be to time)- this is great practice for the third year seminars which count towards your final mark. In addition, you will be writing an essay for this module and you are expected to be able to present information clearly and provide a critical argument
  • Team working: you will be working together in your seminars to get the most out of each topic, but you might also like to form your own study groups so as to examine the themes which arise in the module in further detail
  • Problem solving: many of the papers you will be asked to read will require skills in analysis and evaluating information 
  • Creativity and innovation: in the second year we hope that you will be able to generate innovative ideas within the seminars
  • Social, cultural and global awareness: you will be learning about international issues and should begin to appreciate the diversity of ideas from different cultures. You should also have an interest in the ethical issues that arise out of studying the human past
  • Application of IT: you should be using electronic sources for access to journal papers, as well as using word processing for writing and PowerPoint for your presentations
  • Application of numeracy: you should be able to read and interpret graphs and critically evaluate data which is presented in seminars
Sculpture from Gustav Vasa's tomb, 16th century, Sweden

Overall a well taught and extremely interesting module