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: 2024-25

Module summary

The course introduces you to a core aspect of the archaeological record: artefacts. The course balances the theoretical and the practical, providing foundational knowledge of theories and methods via lectures, encouraging deep discussion through seminar participation, and critical reflection through artefact handling and making at our dedicated outdoor experimental archaeological facility.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

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.

The module will foster familiarity with the main theoretical approaches, sources of evidence and techniques of analysis associated with the study of artefacts. 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 forms of material culture
  • describe the experimental archaeological approach and the strengths and limitations of this approach to artefacts
  • explain the methods by which different forms of archaeological data are studied by archaeologists
  • explain some of the main theories used by archaeologists to study artefacts
  • describe some of the main scientific techniques used by archaeologists to study artefacts
  • select, synthesise and present archaeological data orally in seminar papers
  • present ideas and arguments in detail via written essays
  • appraise and debate archaeological data presented by others

Module content

Artefacts and Materials is a course which introduces you to how we study artefacts. Archaeologists draw on a wide range of sources and employ a diverse array of techniques and specialisms to study the past. Important amongst these is the study of material culture, which can provide an important window into the lives of past people. In this course, we will explore a diverse array of artefacts, ranging from familiar objects in the contemporary world, to ancient objects made from stone, organics, ceramics, and metal. The course explores temporally and geographically diverse case studies, from periods including the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Mediaeval, Post-Mediaeval, and through to the contemporary, and from sites across the world.

The course provides an introduction to the diverse ways archaeologists approach material culture, including theoretical tools, especially object biography and materiality, as well as the more scientific tools, such as experimental archaeology, with the opportunity to try to make some of the objects we study. The course will also introduce what happens to objects after they have been excavated by archaeologists, how we conserve them, interpret them, and display them for the public, including some of the challenges involved in this.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative: written feedback from module leader

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

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.

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.