Accessibility statement

World Archaeology I: Conflict


Module leader: Tim Sutherland


This module will provide an introduction to the theme of conflict within world archaeology, drawing on case studies from a range of time periods and geographical areas. Some of these case studies will be from areas and time periods with which students are already familiar (there are a number of examples from northwest Europe), while others will introduce more exotic material. The latter might include examples from:

  • Mesolithic Israel (human osteology)
  • China (in the form of evidence exhibited by the second century BCE Terracotta Army)
  • Israel (evidence of siege warfare of the medieval crusades)
  • North America (evidence for ‘Plains Indian’ warfare)
  • Furthermore, the course will bring to the present day, with discussion of evidence for the extensive looting of WWII artefacts and human remains in 21st-century Russia. We will also consider political issues associated with the ‘Cold War’ of post-WWII Europe

Following such wide-ranging discussion, the difficult issue of the need to protect and preserve all sites of conflict will be addressed. We will consider the ethics of how these sites are used and displayed today, particularly in the context of the recent rise of ‘Dark tourism’. One lecture will look at amphitheatres around the Roman world and potentially take part in the investigation of the lost example from York, England


The aims of this module are:

  • To provide a global, case-study based, introduction to conflict in the past.
  • To introduce the means by which such conflict may be recognised in the archaeological record.
  • To explore a number of case studies.
  • To raise awareness of the need for sites of human conflict to be considered in heritage-management terms.

Learning outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate a broad and comparative knowledge of the archaeology of conflict around the world.
  • Discuss and explain the principal archaeological evidence in study of conflict archaeology, and demonstrate a critical appreciation of the potential biases and problems in the interpretation of the evidence.
  • Evaluate and contextualise different types of archaeological source material related to past conflict.
  • Critically appraise other people’s studies, and produce logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence


The World Archaeology modules provide a range of important employability skills including:

  • Self management: because this is a lecture course students need to manage their time carefully, spending time reading the literature suggested for each topic; this will help when writing the essay
  • Communication: students need to develop their written communication skills in this module - writing a clear argument based on evidence from the reading is key to the assessment, and students have chance to practice this in their formative work
  • Problem solving: students need to be able to retrieve, analyse and evaluate information from different sources
  • Social, cultural and global awareness: students will gain knowledge of cultures and customs in other countries and should appreciate the diversity of issues

Denia Castle, Spain