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Assessed Seminar: Funerary Archaeology - ARC00095H

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Penny Bickle
  • 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 provide you with a broad overview of studying social and cultural responses to death through archaeological evidence. You will become familiar with a broad range of funerary behaviours and traditions, upskilling in funerary terminology, gaining confidence in discussing important chronological events in the human funerary record. Diverse types of empirical evidence, such as body treatment, pathology, landscape, grave goods and ritual practice will form the basis of debates about mortuary behaviours.

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 varied sources of evidence for how death was dealt with and understood in the past
  • Develop a critical perspective on interpretations of funerary archaeology from an interdisciplinary perspective and through study of a range of problems from different time periods and funerary traditions

Module learning outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate that they are familiar with the literature on funerary archaeology
  • Exhibit a firm understanding of the theoretical, ethical and methodological issues in funerary archaeology
  • 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.

Across the globe, variation in people’s attitudes and behaviours towards burying their dead provides insights into the diverse cultural traditions that existed and helps inform our own sense of humanity. In this module, through case studies, we will explore this varied evidence to examine what can be learnt about past societies by studying death and burial in the past. You will draw on diverse types of archaeological evidence, including burial location (e.g. cemeteries, monuments etc), the treatment of the body (inhumation, disarticulation, mummification, cannibalism etc), grave goods (e.g. different objects placed with the body) and ritual practices (cremation, funerals, feasts, secondary burial rites etc). Example key debates include Neanderthal burial rites, Neolithic monuments, why the dead are mummified in some contexts, gender and Anglo-Saxon grave goods, and deviant burial rites.


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

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
Pre-recorded presentation 1
0.17 hours 25
Pre-recorded presentation 2
0.17 hours 25
Short report on best practice in chairing
N/A 25
N/A 25

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders in class

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Duday, H. (2009). The Archaeology of the dead: lectures in archaeothanatology. Oxford: Oxbow.

Parker Pearson, M. (1999). The archaeology of death and burial. Stroud: Sutton.

Tarlow, S. and Nilsson Stutz, L. eds. (2013). The Oxford handbook of death and burial. Oxford: Oxford University Press

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.