Accessibility statement

Archaeological Excavation - ARC00003C

« Back to module search

  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Mr. Steve Roskams
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

Excavation is, for many people, the defining activity of archaeology and this module uses hands-on work to introduce you to all aspects of collecting, analysing and communicating fieldwork data. All of our excavation projects are driven by research questions and have resulted in substantial publications which have transformed our understanding of the Yorkshire region from the Mesolithic period right up to the modern day. The excavation experience is looked forward to by many students and is often the thing they most remember from their degree – not just for the technical understanding gained, but for the lasting friendships made.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Summer Term 2021-22

Module aims

This first-year module is designed to: 

  • introduce students to all aspects of archaeological excavation

  • provide hands-on experience of field work and post-excavation practices

Module learning outcomes

What a student should know, understand, or be able to do at the end of the module

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

  • Understand and apply excavation techniques
  • Record archaeological context data under supervision
  • Understand the process and recording of stratification
  • Understand the process of environmental sampling processing, and sorting
  • Recognise, sort and care for artefacts
  • Process field records from excavation work
  • Participate and co-operate in team-based work
  • Understand what is required in the world of work including good attendance and punctuality
  • Communicate ideas through visual media, developed through production of a PowerPoint poster

Module content

This module is structured around a combination of introductory lectures, then hands-on experience on a designated departmental project, finishing with post-excavation work and an exhibition. In this way, it introduces you to all aspects of assessing, collecting and analysing primary excavation data, for many people the defining archaeological method (although it is really just one part of that whole).

In this way, we hope you will be able to appreciate how the process of reconnaissance and evaluation allows the development of an excavation strategy, and to understand the main excavation techniques, including recording archaeological features and associated stratification and taking environmental samples. Finally, after the excavation has finished, you will gain a grasp of how artefacts are sorted and cared for, environmental samples are processed and sorted, and the records made in the field checked.

This excavation element is looked forward and enjoyed by most students, something that many look back on fondly long after their degree has ended. Yet our excavations always involve a strong research element - we never excavate a site just for the sake of training students. So you will be involved in a project which will make a real contribution to our understanding of the past, and will help different audiences gain understanding of ‘their heritage’ into the bargain. For many of you this will be a voyage of discovery, of finding new evidence, trying new techniques and discovering new things, both about the past and, often, yourself.


Task Length % of module mark
Assessment of Learning Outcomes
N/A 50
Team PowerPoint
N/A 50

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Assessment of Learning Outcomes
N/A 50
Individual PowerPoint
N/A 50

Module feedback

The on-site supervisors will provide continuous feedback to the students in order for them to achieve all of the learning outcomes. PowerPoint posters will be marked on the day and feedback given.

Indicative reading

Drewett, P (1999)  Field Archaeology: an introduction  (gives the basics, esp. Chs 4 and 7, plus Ch.8 on post-excavation matters)

Harris, E (1989) Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy (Chs. 3 and, especially, Ch.5)

Lucas, G (2001)  Critical Approaches to Fieldwork (esp. Ch.1 for history, plus the rest for a more theoretical positioning than Drewett)

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.