ARCH30930 Archaeology of Communities

Academic Year 2022/2023

What makes a community? What binds human groups together and rends them apart? How do people engage traditions, narratives, landscapes, and material culture to generate notions of heritage, solidarity, or distinction? Does the belonging and inclusion of ‘community’ always rely on the exclusion of some ‘other?’ How do we succeed or fail at developing collaborative responses to collective challenges? This module explores how materials, places, practices, and ideas work together to create and maintain communities. We will examine how notions of communal identity and belonging rely upon material infrastructure – monuments, landscapes, and objects – the evoke the past, engage the senses, and frame shared meanings. By exploring archaeological and ethnographic examples from around the world, students will learn to pose critical questions of their own communities and to view them within a broader comparative framework.

Readings, case-studies, and discussions will cover: ritual and religion; environmental and economic logistics; local face-to-face interactions vs. supra-local identities; reciprocity and gift-giving; shared craft practices and embodied experiences; and the cultivation of linguistic, narrative, and material heritage. Throughout, we will grapple with a recurring theme: the interaction of ideology and materiality in the creation and maintenance of communal formations.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1. To appreciate and assess how material culture acts as infrastructure for ideas and social formations

2. To understand and apply archaeological and anthropological theories of community to past and present case-studies

3. To critically evaluate the erasures and exclusions often embedded in notions of ‘community’ and to think creatively about strategies for generating novel forms of belonging

4. To write, discuss, and present arguments that are both framed within generalizing theory and well-grounded in empirical data

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Approaches to teaching and learning may include: lectures; in-class group activities, discussions, and debates; peer feedback. Assigned materials to be engaged outside of class may include academic articles and book chapters, film clips, and documentaries. 
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
Attendance: Students are expected to attend class and participated actively in class discussions and activities. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Presentation: A pre-recorded 5-minute powerpoint presentation submitted on Brightspace. Students will present an auto-ethnography that critically evaluates a community to which they belong. Week 4 n/a Graded No


Essay: Invent a Tradition: Building on their auto-ethnography and drawing from archaeological analogs, students will design a tradition meant to reproduce belonging among their selected community. Week 11 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn 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
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students will be given written feedback and assessment for the auto-ethnography presentation (week 5) and the final creative essay (week 11). Students will also be given opportunities to discuss and seek advice on their plans prior to submission of each assessment. Students can contact me via email, schedule meetings, or drop in during open office hours. Moreover, feedback and assessment on student presentations will be offered with the aim of helping students refine their thinking for the final essay. I expect students to attend class and participate in class discussions and activities with due diligence and respect for their peers. Students will be notified via email if enhancing or adjusting their participation would be appropriate.