ARCH30720 Archaeology of Food

Academic Year 2022/2023

What foods did people eat in the past, how were these foods prepared, and what does this tell us about daily lives, cultural values and social interactions? This module will investigate the archaeology, anthropology and history of food through a range of disciplinary perspectives around the world. Food waste recovered from archaeological excavations provides key evidence for changing resources at different times and locations. Biomolecular and osteoarchaeological analyses can enable insights into longer-term dietary choices and evolutionary patterns, while social anthropology studies highlight the importance of food in shaping social identities and behaviour. This module will consider strengths and drawbacks of each approach, and demonstrate how investigations of diet can contribute to wider archaeology research questions. The module will be taught through lectures, student-led seminars (interactive discussions based upon recommended reading) and practical sessions, enabling students to gain new insights into ancient foods.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students will be able to:
1. Understand the key methodological and theoretical approaches towards investigating food in archaeology.
2. Critically review key debates concerning food in archaeology from a multi-disciplinary perspective.
3. Through group seminar discussions and poster production, effectively communicate research issues relating to food in archaeology.
4. Construct an essay on food in archaeology.

Indicative Module Content:

Topics may include:
Introduction to sources of evidence
How to produce a group poster
Identifying food ingredients in the archaeological record
Biochemical, lipid and isotope analyses
Human osteology
Hunting, gathering, fishing and farming
Cultural approaches – social relations, identity, gender
Food storage and feasting
Food processing
Migration and colonisation
Alcohol, drugs and food taboos
Developing a multi-disciplinary approach

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Small Group


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Weekly lectures include active/task-based learning.
Weekly seminars and practical sessions, including peer and group work, and reflective learning. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Group Project: Poster: group work Week 6 n/a Graded No


Essay: Critical Essay: 3000 words Week 12 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

UCD School of Archaeology uses a standard format to provide feedback in all modules. This format also contains feed forward details. This will help you think about how you could improve your approach in future assignments. POSTER: Individual written feedback within 4 weeks of submission deadline. ESSAY: Individual written feedback within 4 weeks of submission deadline. Individual feedback also available up to Week 10 on draft outline of essay.

Jones M (2008) Feast: why humans share food. Oxford University Press, Oxford [Joyce Library, Short Loan and General 394.12 JON]

Counihan C and van Esterik P (eds) (2013) Food and culture: a reader. Routledge, New York [Library e-book]

Hastorf C (2017) The social archaeology of food: thinking about eating from prehistory to the present. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge [394.12 HAS]

Twiss, KC (2019) The archaeology of food: identity, politics, and ideology in the prehistoric and historic past. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge [394.1209 TWI]

Steel L and Zinn K (eds) (2017) Exploring the materiality of food "stuffs": transformations, symbolic consumption and embodiment(s). Routledge, Abingdon [Library e-book]

Metheny KB and Beaudry MC (2015) Archaeology of food: an encyclopedia. Rowman & Littlefield, Washington DC [Joyce Library, Reference R394.12 ARC Volume 1 and Volume 2]

Miracle PT and Milner N (eds) (2002) Consuming passions and patterns of consumption. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge [Joyce Library, Short Loan 930.10285 CON]

Parker Pearson M (ed.) (2003) Food, culture and identity in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Archaeopress, Oxford [Joyce Library, Short Loan 930.1 BRI]

World Archaeology (2003) volume 34(3) [Library e-journal]

Kelly F (1997) Early Irish farming. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin [Joyce Library, Short Loan 630.9415 KEL]

Murphy EM and Whitehouse NJ (eds) (2007) Environmental archaeology in Ireland. Oxbow, Oxford [Joyce Library, Short Loan 936.15 MUR]
Name Role
Dr Jess Beck Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Miss Karen O'Toole Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Robert Power Lecturer / Co-Lecturer