Oxford has outstanding resources for the study of visual cultures in the ancient world. This stream of our masters course allow students to take advantage of these resources and develop their skills to engage in research in this area. There is a special option on Visual Cultures of the Ancient World which forms the core of this stream which can be combined with other topics which allow the development of regional specialisation, or develop additional skills.
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
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.
Maritime societies have become a major research interest in archaeology, as the terrestrial bias of much traditional archaeological research has gradually been recognised. This paper will provide an overview of key theoretical and conceptual issues relevant to maritime archaeology, and in particular the study of coastal, island and other maritime societies. It will explore a broad range of social, cultural, technological and environmental issues relating to human ancient coastal and island occupation and seafaring, including ethnographic aspects of maritime societies, social aspects of seafaring and voyaging, developments in maritime technology, and the ecology of island colonisation. The paper will stress archaeological perspectives on maritime societies, but will also draw upon anthropological, palaeoenvironmental, documentary, and other sources of information to offer a holistic approach. In covering this range of themes, the paper will address maritime societies and seafaring through time, from the earliest records of coastal subsistence and movement across the sea through to maritime activities documented in textual sources.
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.
The forests, grasslands, and deserts of Eurasia create an almost continuous ecological corridor across the northern half of the continent, bridging an apparent divide between East and West. Understanding the patterns of social connectivity, mobility, and human-environment interaction in this vital interstitial zone is currently a major focus of interdisciplinary research.
Addressing itself to students of China, Western Europe, and the Classical World who are seeking to contextualize their research foci, this course introduces the archaeology of northern Eurasia from the beginning of the Holocene to the rise of the first nomadic empires. It explores transformation of Eurasian societies, the transmission of technologies and ideas, and the challenge of analytical scales which can make the archaeology of Eurasia appear simultaneously homogeneous and highly variable.
The lecture part of this course is geared to graduate and undergraduate students alike, providing them with a general overview of the major archaeological phenomena in this region from the early 3rd to the late 1stmillennium BCE. Additionally, the tutorials provide an opportunity for graduate students to discuss case studies and develop a greater awareness of the methodological problems of defining identity groups, investigating cultural contact and human movement in the archaeological record, and assessing the relationships between humans and their natural environment.
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.
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.
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'.
This is a truly inter-disciplinary option that crosses traditional boundaries between Archaeology and Art. Taken with other options in the Masters' programme, it can integrate the expertise of three departments in separate faculties (Archaeology, History of Art, Oriental Studies), a research laboratory (Research Laboratory for Archaeology and Art), two museums (Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers), many research archives and specialist libraries. The geographical range spans many continents, the chronological many millennia, mainly BC. Over eight weeks the option will cover The Beginnings (1); Urban Societies in Egypt, the Mediterranean and Near East (2), Asia, with India and China (2), and the Americas (1); Nomads in Asia, Europe and North America (1); and the Tropics of South America, Africa and Australasia (1).
The second millennium BC saw the emergence in the Aegean of the complex, palatial societies of Minoan Crete, their increasing relations with the rest of the Aegean world and with the wider eastern Mediterranean. Around the middle of the second millennium similar societies appeared on the Greek mainland and they too expanded their relations within and beyond the Aegean so that by the 13th century BC the Aegean was linked in to long-distance networks that extended from Sardinia to Egypt. By 1100 BC, the region had experienced a series of destructions that ushered in a period of political collapse shared with much of the eastern Mediterranean. This course explores the complex societies of Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece and their material culture, their relationships with each other and with the wider Mediterranean world and their collapse.
This course examines archaeological and documentary evidence for religion in the Aegean Bronze Age. It addresses issues such as what is meant by 'Minoan' as distinct from 'Mycenaean' religion with reference to problems of ethnicity and identity, how belief systems and cognition more generally can be approached through material culture alone, and how documentary and archaeological sources can be used in tandem. A broadly anthropological approach is adopted and close attention paid to debates in other areas of archaeological research, especially the ancient Near East.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Southern Africa has not only produced some of the oldest fossils of anatomically modern humans, but also has one of the richest and arguably best understood rock art traditions in the world. In addition, anthropological research here has made a significant contribution to both the development of general models of hunter-gatherer economic and social organization and, more recently, to their ongoing critique. This course provides a broad overview of some of the main recent developments in the archaeology of southern Africa's hunter-gatherers. The overall treatment is chronological, from the first anatomically modern humans at Klasies River Mouth to the impact of the Namibian liberation war on Bushman communities in the Kalahari. Within this framework, the emphasis will be placed on changing paradigms in the explanation of the Middle and Later Stone Age past and on the relationship between archaeological and anthropological data in understanding social and economic change. The relations between hunter-gatherers and the pastoralist, farming and settler societies with whom they have increasingly shared the southern African landscape over the past 2000 years form another major theme. The extensive southern African collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum are available for the teaching of this course, all the literature for which is in English.
This course investigates the material culture of mainland Britain, focussing on objects that were worn and adorned clothing during the period AD1000- 1500. Using archaeological material, and other sources of evidence, the course will examine how these artefacts were used in the daily lives of people, and how their context of use was affected by major social events, such as the Norman Conquest, the Black Death, and the Wars of the Roses. Themes covered will include the history of artefact studies, fashion and consumption, courtship, sexuality, family life, devotion and pilgrimage, magic and protection, and death and burial. Although the emphasis is on Britain, evidence and material from mainland Europe will be included to place the topics within their wider contexts. A multidisciplinary approach will be taken to understand the themes fully, drawing predominantly on archaeological evidence, but also using material from history, art history, anthropology and related disciplines. Material from the Ashmolean Museum's medieval collections will be made use of to allow the students to identify, handle and interpret archaeological material culture. How medieval material evidence is collected and disseminated will also be investigated, highlighting the importance of grey literature and electronic resources, such as the Portable Antiquities Scheme database.
The course in Chinese Archaeology covers a long-time period, from the early Bronze Age (circa. 1500BC) down to and including the 14th century AD. Students will undertake only one section of the course, according to their specific interests. China has produced some of the most remarkable excavated finds over the last fifty years, and special emphasis will be placed on the study of excavated sites, ranging from Anyang, the capital of the Shang Dynasty (circa 1200BC), to the tomb of the First Emperor (circa 221-210BC). In addition, the major tombs and their contents of the Han (200BC-AD221), Tang (AD618-906) and Song Dynasties (AD460-1279) will also be included. These later tombs present a unique opportunity to view the material ways in which the early Chinese sought to construct miniature universes in which they would live for eternity in the afterlife.
The course investigates the economic and other interaction of the city and the countryside during late antiquity, using evidence from field survey, excavation and written sources. Examination of urban life at Rome, Constantinople and major provincial cities in the western and eastern empires focuses on their varying roles as administrative and economic centres and on evidence of prosperity given by sustained building activity. Trade, particularly in the case of port cities, is considered on a local and an inter-regional basis, and as providing links to the countryside. The countryside, in turn, is viewed with regard to land tenure (with reference to Egyptian documents) and farming. Industrial activity is examined in city and countryside alike and sources of raw materials traced. Evidence for long-distance trade with northern Europe and the Far East is assessed, and the evident productivity of the eastern Empire is reviewed within the context of the future Arab conquest in the 630's.
Coinage can make an important contribution to debates surrounding our interpretations of ancient societies and economies, but can be under-utilised by many archaeologists and historians. This module looks at what coinage can tell us regarding society and economy in Anglo-Saxon England and provides an introduction to the identification of Anglo-Saxon coins through some handling sessions. In particular it looks at the evolution of coin-use in the period from its role in trade to its symbolic function, e.g. in graves, and iconography. In addition, it covers a range of issues such as appropriate methodological approaches to archaeological research on coinage, the use of data derived from metal-detecting, and processes for coin identification, all of which have broader applications than the period under study here.
Cultural Heritage Law/History, like Visual Cultures of the Ancient World, takes a global perspective of sites, monuments and objects. It introduces students to: the discovery and appropriation of the past; changing attitudes to cultural heritage; the roles of nationalism and globalisation; man?s destruction of the past through environmental change, military conflict and looting; the art market and illicit trade; cultural heritage and cultural property; tangible and intangible cultural heritage; contemporary challenges of acquisition and display; and challenges presented by the future of the internet, cloud technologies, and web-based crowd sourcing.
Those taking this subject will study critically the evidence for the key sites and monuments of early Islam (c.550-c.900 AD), including its holy places (Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem), its first religious buildings and mosques (including the Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, and the mosques of Samarra), the so-called 'desert palaces' of the Umayyad caliphs (including Khirbat al-Mafjar, Qusayr `Amra, and the two Qasr al-Hayrs), and the capitals of the `Abbasid empire (Baghdad, Raqqa, and Samarra). Other subjects to be covered include: pre-Islamic Arabia; Umayyad and `Abbasid state formation; changes and continuities in urban settlement from late antiquity to early Islam; rural settlement, agriculture, and nomadism; early Islamic attitudes to figurative representation; changes in economic and commercial systems, and in technology. The approach is largely thematic, and the thrust of the course historical. The core lectures, tutorials, and graduate seminars are supplemented in most years by additional lectures (e.g. early Islamic monetary history).
The purpose of the course is to provide an up-to-date overview of the current methods and techniques in maritime archaeology and its allied sub-disciplines of maritime history and anthropology. It will also highlight the importance of contemporary issues in maritime archaeology such as the requirement for a robust legislative framework for the management and protection of submerged sites, the problems with treasure hunting and the necessity to document the fast disappearing traditional lifeways of maritime communities. There are no temporal or geographical limits upon the examples of best and worst practise that will be used in this course.
In collaboration with the university's museums (Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers) and its Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, this option gives students the opportunity to study four major object types (pottery, sculpture, coins, and engraved gems and cameos). The teaching will be by a mixture of tutorials, hands-on sessions in the museums with the curators, and sessions in the laboratory with research scientists. Weekly classes convened by the course coordinator introduce methods of visual analysis and recording, history of scholarship, major reference books and research tools, major collections and catalogues. The option is primarily based around classical collections but can also be adapted to non-classical objects for students with other interests.
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.
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.
The course involves in-depth study of selected, specific topics in Aegean Prehistory. It is not a general overview of Aegean Bronze Age, but asks students for detailed treatment of specific issues lying in three main areas: application of theory and method to specific problems; study of an individual site or class of sites; study of an individual artefact or class of artefacts.
Much of archaeology is about reconstructing human behaviour from material remains - either humanly-modified material (such as stone tools), or artefacts such as pottery, metals, or even buildings. The scientific analysis of such objects can yield a great deal of information, not only about the raw materials, manufacture, use and deposition of the object, but also about the technological choices made by the artisan. This course provides an introduction to materials science and the history of technology; and the theoretical and practical aspects of materials analysis. It focuses on common material types - stone, ceramics, vitreous materials and metals, as well as the provenance of raw materials, and provides some case studies of archaeological problems.
We need to be able to put past events onto a timescale if we are to understand them properly. Scientific dating allows us to explore the relationship between different sites and regions. Furthermore, chronologies built up from dating and other evidence enable us to understand processes at work in the archaeological record. This course looks at the scientific dating methods most commonly applied, including the practical aspects of radiocarbon, luminescence, tephrochronology and dendrochronology. It also provides an introduction to the use of statistical methods for combination of information from direct dating and other archaeological information. There is a strong emphasis on the critical evaluation of dating evidence.