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The Ancient Celts: Archaeology & Identity in Iron Age Europe - ARC00099M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Ian Armit
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

This course will introduce students to the social archaeology of Iron Age of Europe from around 800 BC to the 1st century BC, with an emphasis on the debates surrounding the nature, origins and development of the ‘ancient Celts’, and their various encounters with the Greek and Roman world. It will focus on the interplay between developments in Mediterranean and temperate Europe, the study of identity and ethnicity in prehistory, and on the nature of social change during this period. A particular focus will be on the ways in which different forms of evidence (e.g. archaeological, textual, linguistic and genetic) have been deployed to construct and debate past and current interpretations.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

  • Provide an introduction to the archaeology of Iron Age Europe, with a focus on identity, social relations, and encounters between the ‘barbarian’ world and the urbanising societies of the Mediterranean. 

  • Introduce students to the origins and development of the concept of the ‘ancient Celts’. 

  • Allow students to understand how different forms of evidence (including material culture, textual sources, art history, linguistics and genetics) have been variously combined and deployed to formulate ideas concerning past social and cultural identities.

  • Introduce students to formative and current debates underlying studies of Iron Age communities in Europe.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module the students will be able to:

  • Discuss with confidence the origins and evolution of the concept of the ‘ancient Celts’ and situate this within the broader development of Iron Age studies in Europe;

  • Debate the merits and contribution of archaeological, textual and linguistic sources to our understanding of Iron Age societies;

  • Evaluate critically the different interpretative and methodological approaches to understanding Iron Age societies in Europe;

  • Understand the broad outline of social development in European societies between the end of the Bronze Age and the expansion of the Roman world;

  • Present ideas confidently in discussion and debate;

  • Work with a team to create projects;

  • Convey complex ideas in an analytical framework through essay-writing.

Module content

This course will introduce students to the social archaeology of Iron Age of Europe from around 800 BC to the 1st century BC, with an emphasis on the debates surrounding the nature, origins and development of the ‘ancient Celts’, and their various encounters with the Greek and Roman world. It will focus on the interplay between developments in Mediterranean and temperate Europe, the study of identity and ethnicity in prehistory, and on the nature of social change during this period. A particular focus will be on the ways in which different forms of evidence (e.g. archaeological, textual, linguistic and genetic) have been deployed to construct and debate past and current interpretations. 

Teaching will be via lectures, seminars and discussion groups, based on particular readings. Students can expect to become confident in understanding the evidential basis of knowledge claims concerning the nature of Iron Age societies; become familiar with the strengths, weaknesses and potentials of various techniques for understanding past social identities; and be able to understand the complexities of integrating archaeological and textual evidence. In seminars, students will be expected to contribute to discussion, as well as participating in short group and individual presentations. The module will be taught thematically,with topics including: the concept of the Celts; art and identity; gender and power; trade, mobility and migration; headhunting, violence and exploitation; religion and social change; cultural encounters with Greece and Rome; the treatment of human remains; state formation; and Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. 

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay 3500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written and verbal feedback will be available within 6 weeks.

Indicative reading

Aldhouse-Green, M. 2015. Bog Bodies Uncovered. London: Thames and Hudson.

Armit, I. 2012. Headhunting and the body in Iron Age Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Collis, J. 2003. The Celts: Origins, Myths and Inventions. Stroud: Tempus.

Cunliffe, B. 2003. The Celts: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cunliffe, B. 2011. Europe Between the Oceans. 9000 BC-AD 1000. Harvard: Yale University Press.

Cunliffe, B. 2018. The Ancient Celts. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2nd edition).

Farley, J., Hunter, F. (eds) 2015. Celts, Art and Identity. London, British Museum.Fernandez-Götz, M. and Krausse, D. 2013. Rethinking Early Iron Age urbanisation in Central Europe: the Heuneburg site and its archaeological environment. Antiquity 87, 473-87.

Fernández-Götz, M. 2017. Urbanization in Iron Age Europe: Trajectories, Patterns, and Social Dynamics. Journal of Archaeological Research 26, 1–46.

Fernández-Götz, M., Wendling, H., Winger, K. (eds.) 2014. Paths to Complexity: Centralisation and Urbanisation in Iron Age Europe. Oxford, Oxbow.

Haselgrove, C., Rebay-Salisbury, K. & Wells, P. S. (eds). 2018. The Oxford Handbook of the European Iron Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Garrow, D., Gosden, C. 2012. Technologies of enchantment? Exploring Celtic art: 400 BC – AD 100. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

James, S. 1999 The Atlantic Celts - Ancient Peoples or Modern Invention? London: British Museum.

Knüsel, C. 2002. More Circe than Cassandra: the princess of Vix in ritualized social context. European Journal of Archaeology 5:3, 275-309.

Kristiansen, K. 1998. Europe before History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Megaw, R. and Megaw, V. 1989. Celtic art: from its beginnings to the Book of Kells. London: Thames and Hudson. 

Moore, T., Armada, X.-L. (eds) 2011. Atlantic Europe in the first millennium BC: Crossing the divide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Popa, C., Stoddart, S (eds) 2014. Fingerprinting the Iron Age. Approaching identity in the European Iron Age. Integrating south-east Europe into the debate. Oxford: Oxbow.

Raaflaub, K. A. (2017) The Landmark Julius Caesar: The Complete Works. New York: Pantheon Books. 

Rebay-Salisbury, K. 2016.. The Human Body in Early Iron Age Central Europe. London:Routledge.

Stoddart S (ed) 2018. Delicate urbanism in context. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

Wells, P. S. 2012.  How Ancient Europeans Saw the World: Vision, Patterns, and the Shaping of the Mind in Prehistoric Times. New Jersey: Princeton 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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

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