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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: 2024-25

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.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

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
  • Enable students to access and assess published scientific research
  • Provide some hands-on experience with examining archaeological material

Module learning outcomes

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

  • demonstrate an understanding of the range of science-based techniques applied in archaeology
  • identify and locate appropriate scientific literature
  • appreciate the potential and limitations of the major science-based techniques for exploring archaeological questions
  • 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, human and animal bones, ancient DNA, isotopes and residue analysis. This module will also assist students in reading, understanding and evaluating archaeological science articles, as well as providing hands-on experience with archaeological materials. Students will undertake a series of seminars surrounding accessing and reading academic scientific articles and will write an essay which explores how different scientific methods can be applied to an archaeological topic. Workshops will give students the opportunity to handle bones and other archaeological samples under the direction of experts in the field.


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 leaders

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Richards, M.P. and Britton, K. eds., 2020. Archaeological Science: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press.

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.

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.