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Practical: Artefact Analysis - ARC00001I

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Steve Ashby
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This module aims to provide an exciting introduction to the world of artefacts or ‘small finds’ analysis. Over the term, you will learn some of the key skills in describing, recording, identifying, and interpreting objects.

Artefact identification is an important ability for any archaeologist to have, and there is a growing need for specialist expertise, while training in detailed observation and precise measurement/recording is a highly transferable skill. Students have said that the module was ‘extremely well explained, and taught with enthusiasm’, and noted that after completion they felt ‘a lot more comfortable with finds work’, ‘developing interests in the area to expand on’.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The Practical Skills modules seek to introduce you to a range of skills in various diverse areas of archaeological practice and are designed to allow you to gain experience in a 'hands-on' manner.

This specific module aims to:

  • To introduce the key concepts and techniques in the recording, identification, and interpretation of archaeological artefacts

  • To critically explore contemporary approaches to artefact study and publication.

Module learning outcomes

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

  • To observe, measure, research, and record to a professional standard, the key features of an artefact previously unknown to them;

  • To identify and date a wide range of commonly encountered archaeological objects from across time and space;

  • To read and critically evaluate a typical archaeological finds report.

Module content

This is an optional module, part of the suite of Spring Term practical modules. It has a companion Team Project which will run in the Summer Term.

Using reproduction objects, fragmentary archaeological material, published reports and online resources, you will become familiar with a range of artefacts, and with the process of recording. We will look at objects of different materials (e.g. bone, stone, glass, iron, copper alloy, leather) and types (e.g. jewellery, weapons, coins), from different time periods (prehistoric, Roman, medieval and later). By the end of the module, you will be familiar with a wide range of objects from across time and space, but more importantly, you will have the skills necessary to begin to research any unidentified object that you come across.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 50
Artefact Analysis: Class test
N/A 50

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 50
Artefact Analysis: Class test
N/A 50

Module feedback

Formative: The marker will share written feedback with you in a timetabled one-to-one meeting and you will have the opportunity to ask further questions about how to improve your work before your summative assessment. If you are unable to attend the feedback session, your tutor will share the formative feedback with you digitally.

Summative: Written feedback sheets will be uploaded to your e:vision account (your personal University of York online services account) within 20 working days of the submission deadline, along with your overall mark for the module. If you have any questions about your mark and/or your written feedback, you will be able to sign up for office hours with the marker.

Indicative reading

Caple, C. 2006. Objects: reluctant witnesses to the past. London: Routledge.

Finds Research Group 1999, 2008. Datasheets Vols I and II. York: Finds Research Group.

Leahy, K. 2018. Finds Identified: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Greenlight Publishing.

Detailed reading for the module will be available via YorkShare (the University's virtual learning environment). When you have enrolled on a module, you will be able to access the full reading list.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.