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Introduction to Archaeological Science - ARC00006C

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jessica Hendy
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

Archaeological science is an exciting and rapidly growing area of archaeology, and is revealing new information about the past, as well as informing current heritage practices. In this module we will explore how archaeological science helps us to understand past cultures, drawing on case studies from around the world. Students say they find this module gives them a friendly introduction to scientific applications in archaeology.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • Demonstrate how archaeology uses a range of techniques adapted from the physical, biological and earth sciences to better understand the human past, by examining case studies from around the world 

  • Introduce some of the most recent and exciting scientific methods employed in archaeology and provide background information on techniques students may later wish to study in greater detail.

  • Prepare students to access and assess published research 

Module learning outcomes

  • understand the range of science-based techniques applied in archaeology
  • Identify and locate appropriate scientific literature
  • appreciate the potential and limitations of the major dating, molecular and conservation methods
  • be able to read research papers in 'science-based archaeology' with greater confidence and to understand the major implications of the research

Module content

This module will be taught through lectures by specialists in the relevant fields, with each week focusing on a different archaeological science technique or theme, such as scientific dating, forensic archaeology, palaeodiets, animal bones and artefact conservation. This module will also assist students in reading, understanding and critiquing archaeological science articles. Students will undertake a series of VLE activities surrounding accessing and reading academic scientific articles and will write a critique of a journal article for their formative and summative assessments. Workshops alongside the lectures will help students to develop their skills in reading and interpreting articles and help students prepare for their assessments. 


Task Length % of module mark
Journal Critique
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Journal Critique
N/A 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

Brown, T.A. & Brown, Keri, 2011. Biomolecular archaeology, Malden, MA ; Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.


Renfrew, C. & Bahn, Paul G, 2016. Archaeology: theories, methods and practice 7th ed., London: Thames & Hudson.

Gokcumen, O. and Frachetti, M., 2020. The Impact of Ancient Genome Studies in Archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 49.


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.