Accessibility statement

Artefacts & Materials - ARC00002C

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Andy Needham
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

The course introduces you to a core aspect of the archaeological record: artefacts. The course balances the theoretical and the practical, encouraging deep discussion through seminar participation, and critical reflection through artefact handling and making at our dedicated outdoor experimental archaeological facility. Students who have previously studied the course have said:

“The hands-on aspects in the YEAR centre was something new and thought provoking which allowed a greater understanding of the module. It also added a greater depth of involvement and fun which made the module very enjoyable.”

“It was really fun, interesting and interactive. I liked the hands-on aspects and that there was a practical element to the module, as well as the theory. The teaching was engaging, and I've found the content very interesting.”

“I have found I am able to apply the knowledge and thoughts I have gained from this module to my other modules, and it has also helped me to consider a different approach to the objects around me.”

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

This module will introduce:

  • the varied sources of data that allow archaeologists to study the past
  • the diverse methods and approaches that they may use to do so.

It will foster familiarity with the main sources of evidence and techniques of analysis associated with the study of landscapes, environments, sites, buildings, artefacts, and populations. It will also facilitate development of a range of important skills, including oral and written communication, critical analysis, and synthesis

Module learning outcomes

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

  • describe the characteristics of archaeological data generated by particular kinds of site or forms of material culture
  • explain the methods by which different forms of archaeological data are studied by archaeologists
  • select, synthesise and present archaeological data orally and in written seminar papers
  • appraise and debate archaeological data presented to you by others

Module content

Artefacts and Materials is a module which introduces you to how we actually do archaeology. Although all archaeologists are interested in the people of the past and their material culture, they draw on a diverse and exciting range of sources in their research.

The module consists of a series of seminar-workshops and site visits, taught by academic staff and other researchers in the department (postgraduate students who teach). This module is designed to introduce you to the different ways in which archaeologists study the past, and the different sources of archaeological data which they use to do so.

Each seminar-workshop introduces you to the nature of the archaeological evidence for a particular type of archaeological site or subject and the ways in which archaeologists have interpreted such data. Examples are drawn from both Prehistoric and Historical archaeology in the British Isles and overseas, and the sources we use include broad syntheses and surveys, as well as excavation and finds reports. You will have the opportunity to work with real archaeological objects and sources, and to make short group presentations to the class.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 1500 words
1.5 hours 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 1500 words
1.5 hours 100

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. It is important that you attend these feedback sessions to discuss your work and to gain a good understanding of how markers use Grade Descriptors to mark your work. 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. There will also be a timetabled feedback meeting with the marker. 


Indicative reading

Gosden, C. and Marshall, Y. (1999) The cultural biography of objects, World Archaeology 31(2), 169-178.

Johnson, M. (2020) Chapter 8: The Material Turn. Archaeological Theory An Introduction (Third Edition), pp. 132-155. UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Joy, J. (2009) Reinvigorating object biography: reproducing the drama of object lives. World Archaeology 41(4), 540-556.

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.