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Life & Death in Iron Age Britain & Ireland - ARC00100M

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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 archaeology of Iron Age Britain and Ireland from around 800 BC to the Roman incursions of the 1st century AD (continuing to around AD 400 in northern Britain and Ireland, beyond the Roman frontier). It will focus on the study of identity, cosmology and social relations, examining the ways in which different communities across the British Isles express these ideas through objects, landscapes, monumental domestic architecture, and treatments of the dead. Students will become familiar with the evidence from key areas, including the hillfort-dominated landscapes of Wessex; the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland, with their monumental broch towers; and the uplands of East Yorkshire with their rich barrow cemeteries.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

Module aims

  • Provide a critical examination of the archaeology of Iron Age Britain and Ireland, with a focus on identity, social relations and mortuary practice. 

  • Allow students to critically examine the key forms of archaeological evidence (including monumental domestic architecture, hillforts, art styles and funerary practices) that have been variously deployed to formulate ideas concerning past social and cultural identities.

  • Introduce students to formative and current debates underlying studies of Iron Age Britain and Ireland.

Module learning outcomes

  •  Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the nature and development of Iron Age societies in Britain and Ireland
  • Critically evaluate the evidence for Iron Age domestic and funerary activity in Britain and Ireland with a focus on key regions
  • Critically evaluate the different interpretative and methodological approaches used to understand the Iron Age
  • Synthesise research and scholarly debates concerning Iron Age Britain and Ireland through written work and in-class discussions and debates.

Module content

This course will introduce students to the archaeology of Iron Age Britain and Ireland from around 800 BC to the Roman incursions of the 1st century AD (continuing to around AD 400 in northern Britain and Ireland, beyond the Roman frontier). It will focus on the study of identity, cosmology and social relations, examining the ways in which different communities across the British Isles express these ideas through objects, landscapes, monumental domestic architecture, and treatments of the dead. Students will become familiar with the evidence from key areas, including the hillfort-dominated landscapes of Wessex; the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland, with their monumental broch towers; and the uplands of East Yorkshire with their rich barrow cemeteries. 

Teaching will be via lectures, seminars and discussion groups, based on particular readings. 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 creation and expression of individual and collective identities; the social role of art and religion; changing gender roles; technological innovation, including iron-working and rotary technology; the complex and varied treatments of the dead; gift-giving, trade and exchange; and the role of conflict and violence.

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 given within 6 weeks.

Indicative reading

Armit, I. 2003. Towers in the north: the brochs of Scotland. Stroud, Tempus.

Armit, I. 2006. Anatomy of an Iron Age Roundhouse: the Cnip Wheelhouse Excavations, Lewis. Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Armit, I. 2007. Hillforts at war: from Maiden Castle to Taniwaha pa. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 73, 25-38.

Armit, I. 2016. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Birlinn. (3rd edition).

Bradley, R. 2007. The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2nd ed. 2019).

Creighton, J. 2000. Coins and power in late Iron Age Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Cunliffe, B. 2004. Iron Age Britain. London: English Heritage.

Cunliffe, B. 2009. Iron Age Communities in Britain. London: Routledge (4th edition). 

Giles, M. 2012. A Forged Glamour: Landscape, Identity and Material Culture in the Iron Age. Oxford: Windgather.

Gwilt, A., Haselgrove, C. (eds.) 1997. Reconstructing Iron Age societies: new approaches to the British Iron Age. Oxford, Oxbow.Harding, D. W. 2009. The Iron Age Round-house: Later prehistoric building in Britain and beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Harding, D. W. 2012. Iron Age hillforts in Britain and beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Harding, D.W. 2017. The Iron Age in Northern Britain. 2nd edition. London: Routledge.

Harding, D. W. 2015. Death and burial in Iron Age Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Haselgrove, C., Armit, I., Champion, T., et al. 2001. Understanding the British Iron Age: an agenda for action. Salisbury: Wessex Archaeology.

Haselgrove, C., Moore, T. (eds.) 2007. The later Iron Age in Britain and beyond. Oxford, Oxbow.

Haselgrove, C., Pope, R (eds.), 2007. The earlier Iron Age in Britain and the near Continent. Oxford: Oxbow.

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

Moore, T. 2017. Beyond Iron Age "towns": examining oppida as examples of low-density urbanism. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 36.3, 287–305.

Pope, R. E. and Ralston, I. B. M. 2011. Approaching sex and status in Iron Age Britain with reference to the nearer continent. 375-414. In L. Armada and T. Moore (eds.) Atlantic Europe in the first millennium BC: crossing the divide. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 375-414.

Sharples, N. 2010. Social Relations in Later Prehistory: Wessex in the First Millennium BC. 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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

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