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Assessed Seminar: Debates in Archaeological Science - ARC00086H

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jessica Hendy
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module will explore some of the groundbreaking, topical or controversial topics in archaeological science, for example, the evolution and dispersal of anatomically modern humans, the origins and spread of domestic animals and plants, as well as reconstructions of human diet and disease. Students will be expected to dive into some of the debates in the field and lead a seminar. Students say of this module that they enjoy the opportunities to discuss their topics and work with the module leader and with their peers.

Related modules

A directed option - students must pick an Assessed Seminar module and have a choice of which to take

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

Assessed Seminars seek to develop an understanding of a specialist topic (particularly a critical understanding of the key themes, approaches and opinions). In doing so students should be able to improve their knowledge of the subject area (through reading and preparation for their own seminar, their seminar contributions and involvement in the seminars) and also have the opportunity to develop their skills in chairing a seminar, presenting material and being involved in discussion (including thinking on their feet about the topic being discussed, how to engage interest in the topic and stimulate debate).

Specifically this module aims to:

  • Develop knowledge and understanding of the progressive nature of archaeological science, with research building upon previous investigations, and the extent of discourse between scholars.

  • Develop a critical perspective of scientific methods within archaeology and the potential (or otherwise) for broadening archaeological discourse.

Module learning outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate that they are familiar with the archaeological science literature and the degree of controversy within the field
  • Exhibit a firm understanding of the theoretical, methodological and ethical issues related to the study of archaeological science
  • Explore a range of case studies and the interpretations of them
  • Prepare a worksheet which sets out key reading and issues for presentation, debate and discussion
  • Chair a seminar, engage interest in a topic, stimulate debate and structure discussion
  • Present on other subjects within the general theme and contribute informed ideas and information to the other seminars

Module content

In a series of lectures and workshops, students will become familiar with the theme of the module. Students will then choose a topic around which they will design and chair a seminar. Seminars and class discussion will encourage a critical approach to the literature and provide preparation for chairing and presenting.

Development of new biomolecular methods is currently opening up new sources of information and controversy about a wide range of archaeological issues across the whole prehistoric and historical time span of archaeological interest. The most interesting issues are those where different scientific methods produce contradictory results or where the scientific results are in conflict with other sources of archaeological information or established preconceptions. How these controversial or ground-breaking results are communicated beyond an academic environment to the wider public is also key to consider. All of this makes for a lively and rapidly developing field of study with a growing number of case studies.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 25
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
1 hours 25
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Contribution to seminars
N/A 10
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation 1
0.17 hours 20
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Presentation 2
0.17 hours 20

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will hand in worksheets before consolidation week (in Week 5) so staff can work out a schedule for students chairing and delivering presentations. Students will need to hand in presentation slides by week 8, either with pre-recorded narration or without if they opt to do it live. Student-run seminars will run from Week 9 to Week 11 where students will chair a 1hr session. Within these seminars, contributions from students will be assessed.


Task Length % of module mark
Short report on best practice in chairing
N/A 25
N/A 25
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Pre-recorded presentation 1
0.17 hours 25
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Pre-recorded presentation 2
0.17 hours 25

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders in class

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Richards, M. P. et al. (2019) Archaeological Science: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press.

Racimo, F. et al. (2020) ‘Beyond broad strokes: sociocultural insights from the study of ancient genomes’, Nature reviews. Genetics, 21(6), pp. 355–366.

Warren, M. (2019) ‘Move over, DNA: ancient proteins are starting to reveal humanity’s history’, Nature. 570(7762), p. 433.

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.