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Critical Approaches to Archaeological Practice - ARC00131M

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

Module summary

This module will thematically explore disciplinary approaches to fieldwork by critically evaluating the methodological, logistical and analytical challenges, as well as the various values, legal requirements and ethical responsibilities which underpin our archaeological practice. We will situate them within their historical context and the overall development of the discipline by exploring the implications of a range of global case studies, fields of practice and theoretical issues and consider how these elements intersect and have a bearing on the design and implementation of modern archaeological projects.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims:

  • To explore current and historical global approaches to archaeological practice.
  • To critically engage with the key methodologies and analytical techniques employed within modern fieldwork.
  • To understand the range of theory, ethics and values that underpin modern archaeological practice.

Module learning outcomes

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

  • Critically evaluate a range of archaeological field practice and situate it within wider theoretical, methodological, geographic and temporal contexts.
  • Demonstrate a systematic understanding of disciplinary standards, legislative values and best practice.
  • Communicate complex ideas in an analytical framework through essay writing

Module content

This module will adopt a thematic approach to explore disciplinary practice in Archaeology. With a strong emphasis upon understanding modern approaches to fieldwork, we will consider a wide range of issues that we all need to consider and address when we design and implement our projects. We will begin by thinking about some of the political issues which explicitly and implicitly affect our practice, such as the structural fault-lines related to the discipline’s colonial legacy, as well as the ethics and values that underpin the legislative frameworks which guide the management of archaeological projects. We will think about the tensions between ‘salvage’, or ‘commercial archaeology’ and ‘research-led archaeology’. We will also consider the ways in which we acquire data, and how we construct and disseminate archaeological knowledge and narratives from our fieldwork. Throughout all this we will try to frame these things within an outward facing global context, reflecting upon our responsibilities as ‘gatekeepers of the past’, and try to keep one eye on the future of the discipline and its field practice.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Harris, O. J. T., & Cipolla, Craig N., (2017). Archaeological theory in the new millennium: introducing current perspectives. London: Routledge.

Lucas, G. (2001). Critical approaches to fieldwork: contemporary and historical archaeological practice. London: Routledge.

Roskams, S. (2001). Excavation. Cambridge: Cambridge 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.