ARCH41170 Material Culture

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module will provide students with an in-depth introduction to the identification, analysis, and interpretation of archaeological material culture (i.e. objects produced and used by past peoples). While standard approaches to object analysis and interpretation have tended to emphasise their finished form or aesthetic characteristics, this module will add to this by examining the evidence for production and use. By incorporating these elements, a more holistic understanding of material culture can be gained, allowing us to better research and understand how and why these objects came to be made / used.

The overall objective in this module will be for you to learn how researchers have sought to describe, analyse and think about some of the more common archaeological artefact types. You will be introduced to specific terminologies, methods for data capture and some of the more common analytical techniques used by specialists and researchers, including microscopy, lipid analysis, archaeometallurgy, spectroscopy and 3D modelling. A key focus of this module will be assessing various approaches taken by researchers to answer specific research questions and their application of analytical techniques.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to:
1. Identify and clearly describe some of the more common archaeological materials and objects.
2. Identify and critically assess the use of various approaches to material culture in different research projects
3. Have introductory practical experience in some analytical methods.

Indicative Module Content:

We will have 12 (2 hour) contact sessions that will combine formal lectures and discussion-based seminars with practical tutorials. You will also have a number of practical sessions over the trimester, usually held on Friday morning. Notifications of changes to this timetable will be provided through Brightspace and so please do check your page continually during the year. Please note, some of the lectures in this module will be provided by specialist researchers in particular fields and typically change year-on-year.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning


Seminar (or Webinar)




Field Trip/External Visits




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The main teaching and learning approaches of this module are

- Active learning
- Experiential learning
- Class based lectures/seminars
- Practical materials engagement
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 In Module Component Repeat Offered
Presentation: You will select an article from the list below and prepare a conference style poster about it. Week 4 n/a Graded No


Project: You will write a research paper answering an artefact/material related question from the list provided in the module handbook. 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, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

You will receive mandatory one-to-one feedback with the module coordinator after your first assessment. This will help guide you towards making improvements for your second assessment and will be targeted specifically at structure, formatting and writing style. Feedback for your second assessment is optional, but highly recommended, and will focus on project design, expression and content.

Name Role
Professor Joanna Bruck Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Ryan Lash Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Brendan O'Neill Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Aidan O'Sullivan Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Anita Radini Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Graeme Warren Lecturer / Co-Lecturer