Landscape Archaeology Stream

Taught Masters Programme for Archaeology (MSt/MPhil)


Coordinator: Prof Chris Gosden

The main Landscape Archaeology component of this stream will cover the basic elements of landscape study through a series of case-studies. These will include methodological aspects such as aerial photography, geophysics and surface survey as well as recent theoretical approaches based on humanising landscapes through notions of being. Emphasis will be on the interaction of different sites, monuments and places within local and regional scales and the ways these both shape and reflect social structures and cultural understandings. Other options can be taken that allow the development of particular regional and temporal interests of the student.

See the main page for the MSt/MPhil in Archaeology for more options.


Topics assessed by examination or essay (List A) Coordinator(s)
Archaeological method and theoryProf Chris Gosden and Dr Dan Hicks
Environmental ArchaeologyDr. Michael Charles
Europe in the Early Middle Ages: AD400-900
European Prehistory from the Mesolithic to the Bronze AgeDr Rick Schulting and Prof. Amy Bogaard
Landscape Archaeology and Spatial TechnologyDr Rick Schulting and
Transformation of the Celtic World 500 BC-AD 100Prof Chris Gosden
Topics assessed by essay (List B)
Archaeology and Geographical Information Systems and Dr Rick Schulting
Archaeology and Material CultureDr Dan Hicks
Archaeology of ColonialismProf Chris Gosden and Dr Dan Hicks
Archaeology of Early Anglo-Saxon England
Archaeology of Late Anglo-Saxon England
Farming and States in Sub-Saharan AfricaProf Peter Mitchell
Hunter-gatherers in world perspectiveProf Peter Mitchell
Palaeolithic and Mesolithic EuropeProf Nick Barton
Palaeolithic ArchaeologyProf Nick Barton
Practical ArchaeobotanyProf. Amy Bogaard and Dr. Michael Charles
Regional studies in Australian and Pacific prehistoryProf Chris Gosden
Topics from Archaeological Science MSt/MSc

Not all the courses listed may be available every year.

Academic staff



  • required to study three subjects for examination
  • at least one subject must be assessed by examination with an unseen 3 hour written paper offering a choice of questions
  • the second subject will normally be examined by a pair of 5,000 word preset essays or the candidate may chose to substitute a 10,000 word dissertation on an approved topic
  • the third subject will normally be examined by a further pair of 5,000 word pre-set essays
  • at least two of the subjects studied should be from the 'Main' and 'Additional' lists above.
  • a viva voce examination may be held


  • in the first year, the candidate takes the same examination as the MSt and must pass it to qualify for the second year
  • in the second year, the candidate presents a 25,000 word dissertation on an approved topic and
  • is examined in one further subject chosen from those listed for the MSt, normally by a pair of 5,000-word pre-set essays

The dissertation

For the one-year MSt degree a thesis of up to 10,000 words on an approved topic is optional. For the two year MPhil degree submission of a thesis of up to 25,000 words on an approved topic is required. A supervisor is appointed to guide the student but the work must be the student's own original work.


Topics assessed by examination or essay (List A)

Archaeological method and theory
Coordinators: Prof Chris Gosden and Dr Dan Hicks

One of the most vital areas within archaeology over the last forty years has been the debate concerning method and theory. Archaeological theory has shifted from the attempts to generalise about human life developed by the New or Processual archaeologists from the 1960s onwards. In the late 1970s there was a reaction against grand theory and a greater concentration on local prehistoric sequences and the fine details of people's lives by the so-called post-processualists. Today there is a huge range of archaeological theories in use, focussing on issues of identity, gender, mind, material culture, art and aethetics, as well as the more traditional questions of technology and subsistence. Archaeology has drawn on a huge range of theory from outside the discipline, ranging from evolutionary and ecological theories, post-modernist and post-colonial theories, feminist and gendered perspectives and theories of history and change. How relevant any or all of these theories are to archaeological subject matters and problems is debatable, but these are subjects that need debating if we are to decide the most profitable and productive directions for archaeology. Recently, archaeological method has become a source of intense debate, looking at how social and intellectual factors influence the ways in which archaeological sites are excavated and interpreted. Excavation and analysis are not purely technical matters, but have great influence on how we create our basic forms of evidence and make sense of them.

Environmental Archaeology
Coordinator: Dr. Michael Charles

The course investigates various types of geoarchaeological and bioarchaeological evidence for the past environment and human interaction with it. Three main areas are covered: soils and sediments; biological remains; and historical ecology. It includes biological evidence for ancient economies (e.g. that given by bones of domestic animals) but not the exploitation of geological resources (e.g. mining). Teaching is based around lectures which consider particular lines of evidence which are then demonstrated in practical classes or field trips as appropriate. Classes and tutorials are used to develop themes which cut across or link the lines of evidence and to provide a theoretical basis for the subject.

Europe in the Early Middle Ages: AD400-900

This course considers the development of European societies as reflected in their material cultures from the demise of the Western Empire to the Viking Age. It offers an overview of a wide geographical region during some 500 years; although the emphasis is on western and northern Europe, including Britain, consideration is also given to central and eastern Europe and in particular the impact of nomadic peoples on these regions. The main components of the course examine the interaction between the late Roman world and 'barbarians'; the role of material culture in the construction of post-Roman identities; mortuary ritual and votive deposition; the emergence of kingship; rural settlements and their economies; the rise of towns; and the archaeology associated with the conversion to Christianity.

European Prehistory from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age
Coordinators: Dr Rick Schulting and Prof. Amy Bogaard

This course surveys the dramatic social changes that emerged from the end of the last Ice Age to the end of the second millennium BC in Europe, including the agricultural transition, the spread of monuments and metallurgy, and the emergence of remarkably stable 'egalitarian' social systems alongside intermittent developments of lasting social inequality. This course is suitable for students without prior advanced training in later European prehistory.

Landscape Archaeology and Spatial Technology
Coordinators: Dr Rick Schulting and

This course provides and overview of the key issues in landscape archaeology, highlighting the role of spatial technology in the management and interpretation of the archaeological landscape. It will be delivered through a series of seminars and practical classes which outline the theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches which have furthered our understanding of the development of the cultural and physical landscape. Seminars will explore a wide range of topics, including the tensions between the formal economic models central to spatial archaeology and the discourse on space and place characteristic of more recent humanistic approaches to the landscape. Practical classes will include working with spatial data, archaeological prospection, modelling artefact distributions and analytical GIS.

Transformation of the Celtic World 500 BC-AD 100
Coordinator: Prof Chris Gosden

This course will focus on issues of long term change and continuity in Europe between the late Bronze Age and the Roman periods. We will focus on the changing relationships between people and material culture, settlement and landscape, together with the issues of identity they raise. As well as considering issues of both continuity and change, we will look at the nature of connections across Europe including those running east west as well as between the Mediterranean and Europe north of the Alps. We will also explore new approaches to material culture and to the manner in which time and space can be categorised and understood in Europe at the end of prehistory. The course will have a basic chronological structure, ending with considerations of the coming of the Roman Empire and issues of so-called 'Romanization'.

Topics assessed by essay (List B)

Archaeology and Geographical Information Systems
Coordinators: and Dr Rick Schulting

This course provides a practical introduction to the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in archaeology. Since it's adoption in the late 1980s, GIS has become an essential part of the archaeological tool kit and has revolutionised the way in which archaeologists manage spatial data and think about spatial relationships. Whilst the use of GIS has been widely criticised for encouraging retrogressive positive approaches, the potential of GIS for enabling a 'humanised' approach to the archaeological landscape was recognised early in the adoption process. Seminars and practical classes will highlight the principal trends in GIS-based archaeology, from early applications grounded in formal models and economic theory, including Site Catchment Analysis and Thiessen Polygons, to more recent humanistic approaches based on modelling movement and visibility, including viewshed analysis and Least Cost Pathways. The analytical potential of GIS will be explored within the broader context of spatial archaeology, highlighting the methodological and theoretical implications of GIS-based approaches with reference to key case studies. Practical classes will be based on the topics covered in the seminars and will provide hands on training in the use of ArcGIS and ancillary software including SPSS and Landserf.

Archaeology and Material Culture
Coordinator: Dr Dan Hicks

This paper examines the historical development of the study of material culture in archaeology since the late 19th century, and introduces current debates. It traces the changing status of the study of objects from antiquarianism through the 20th century in culture-historical archaeology, processual and post-processual archaeologies, and in the present. The paper addresses key themes in the archaeological study of material culture, including materiality, museums, technology, aesthetics, material agency, heritage, the built environment, landscapes, consumption and historical change. It introduces contemporary relationships between archaeology and allied disciplines in the study of materiality: including anthropological material culture studies, Science and Technology Studies (STS), Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and non-representational theory. Through two extended essays, students draw upon these theoretical approaches to explore a particular body of material culture of their chosing. The textbook for the paper is The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies (Dan Hicks and Mary Beaudry, eds, Oxford University Press 2010).

Archaeology of Colonialism
Coordinators: Prof Chris Gosden and Dr Dan Hicks

Colonialism has been the dominant element of world history for the last five hundred years and an important aspect of world history for the last 5000 years. Archaeology has much light to throw on colonial forms past and present, complementing written accounts and oral histories. A comparative approach to colonial past and present is taken, drawing on perspectives from post-colonial theory, anthropology, world-systems theory as well as archaeology. Material culture from archaeological sites is an important source for the study of colonialism, but so too are museum collections and archival materials. Through its concentration on the material aspects of human existence archaeology has a unique perspective complementing those drawn from many elements of post-colonial theory which do not consider the material world in any great detail. Case studies which can be considered range from early Mesopotamia, Greek settlements, the Roman Empire, the Incas and Aztecs and colonialism post-1492.

Archaeology of Early Anglo-Saxon England

This course covers roughly the period from 450-750 and examines current debates in several areas of the subject, including migration theory and the nature of post-Roman Britain; death and burial; the links between material culture and identity; settlements and settlement patterns.

Archaeology of Late Anglo-Saxon England

This course, which covers the period roughly from 750-1050, considers key areas of Late Saxon studies to which archaeology has made particular contribution, namely: the development of towns and the economic basis of kingdoms; the nature of the Scandinavian presence in Danelaw; the way in which the art and the architecture of the 10th century reflect cultural contacts as well as political and religious developments; the origins of castles and of the manor; the development of trade and industry. Students will become familiar with specific case-studies as well as current academic debates.

Farming and States in Sub-Saharan Africa
Coordinator: Prof Peter Mitchell

Despite the extensive research conducted there over the last three decades, the archaeology of sub-Saharan Africa is still largely unknown to most western audiences. This course focuses on two key processes in world prehistory over the last 10,000 years: the development and spread of systems of food-production and the formation of state societies. These processes are examined using data from several regions of Africa south of the Sahara in order to illustrate the diversity of the African experience. In addition to this comparative focus, particular themes examined will include the relevance of oral tradition and linguistics to reconstructions of prehistory, the symbolic role of metallurgy in many African societies and the extent to which influences from outside Africa were of importance to the continent's development. Potential students should note that it is also possible within this option to concentrate specifically on the archaeology of farming societies and early states in southern Africa. This provides a more tightly focused complement to Archaeology of Southern African hunter-gatherers, but both courses can be taken independently of the other. All the basic reading for this option is in English, though some knowledge of French is necessary for those wishing to investigate original papers on some aspects of West and Central African prehistory.

Hunter-gatherers in world perspective
Coordinator: Prof Peter Mitchell

Humans, it has been famously said, have depended on the exploitation of wild plant and animal resources for more than 99 % of their evolution. But hunter-gatherers are defined by more than how they obtain food. This course examines diversity in the organization of hunter-gatherer societies using examples from both the archaeological and anthropological records. Particular themes include mobility and land use patterns, the organization of technology, diet, exchange, gender relations and similarities and contrasts between egalitarian and non-egalitarian hunter-gatherers. In addition, the range of theoretical perspectives from which hunter-gatherer societies have been explored will also be considered. Prominent here are social evolution, middle range theory, optimal foraging, Marxist and structural-Marxist perspectives and neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. Opportunities also exist for making use of the rich archaeological and anthropological collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum in teaching this course.

Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Europe
Coordinator: Prof Nick Barton

A study of the earliest arrival of humans in Europe more than a million years ago, and subsequent developments during the Pleistocene and the earlier Holocene (to 4000 BC). Archaeological evidence is used to explore the behavioural responses of archaic and modern humans to climatic and environmental change, and to trace technological, social, economic and cognitive development. Direct study of artefacts supplements the written sources

Palaeolithic Archaeology
Coordinator: Prof Nick Barton

This course covers the Palaeolithic period in outline on a world-wide scale, but encourages the development of students' particular interests by treating in greater detail a selection of the most important current themes. Examples of these include: the origins of humans in sub-Saharan Africa; their first spread to other areas of the Old World; the subsequent dispersal of physically 'modern' humans; the technological, social and cognitive developments which characterize the Upper Palaeolithic; and the responses of humans in different regions to the major environmental changes brought about by the rapid ending of the Last Glaciation. Teaching, by lectures, classes and tutorials, is spread over all three terms. The direct study of actual archaeological material is an important supplement to the literature as a source of learning, right through the year.

Practical Archaeobotany
Coordinators: Prof. Amy Bogaard and Dr. Michael Charles

Many current debates in archaeology, ranging from the origins of agriculture to the rise and collapse of urban centres and empires, rely on ideas concerning the production and consumption of plants. This paper introduces the theory and methodology that underpin the analysis of macroscopic plant remains from archaeological deposits. Core topics include the identification of charred and waterlogged plant remains, issues of preservation and recovery, analytical approaches to the interpretation of archaeobotanical data and presentation of results.

The practical component of the paper consists of ten laboratory-based classes (2-3 hours each) and covers the key stages of archaeobotanical investigation, from on-site recovery to sample sorting, identification, quantification and data analysis. The tutorial component (five sessions) focuses on principles underlying analytical techniques and broader issues of interpretation.

Regional studies in Australian and Pacific prehistory
Coordinator: Prof Chris Gosden

The archaeology of Australia and the Pacific spans some 50,000 years of human prehistory and history. These regions are of interest in themselves but also for the light they throw on broader themes of world prehistory, notably: colonization; hunter-gatherer lifestyles, the origins of farming, systems of gift exchange and ritual; and colonialism. Australian prehistory exhibits considerable continuity with attachment to landscape and the longevity of ritual systems being notable elements. Levi-Strauss called Australian Aboriginal people 'the virtuosos of the human mind' due to the complexity of their structures of kinship and ritual. However, only limited elements of these complex structures find expression in material culture, posing considerable challenges for the archaeologist. The Pacific represents the last major area of the earth to be colonised by humans, between 3500 and 1000 years ago. Archaeological, genetic and linguistic evidence throw light on how this colonisation took place. The more recent prehistory of Papua New Guinea and the Pacific sees the rise of sophisticated agricultural forms and complex forms of trade and exchange. Archaeological and anthropological evidence can be combined in understanding the nature of these forms and their changes over time. Colonialism by Europeans and Asians has brought about considerable restructuring of ways of life and archaeology is a vital means of studying these changes, and again needs to be combined with anthropological and historical evidence.

Topics from Archaeological Science MSt/MSc