The Green Book 2023-2024

The Green Book

Course syllabus handbook for candidates taking BA Archaeology & Anthropology in 2023-2024. For previous years see the link to the archive (below right). 

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As the Heads of the School for Archaeology and the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, it is our pleasure to congratulate and welcome you as the newest members of our dynamic community here within the University of Oxford. We hope that the next three years will be fulfilling and enjoyable.

You have chosen to study human cultures, past and present. Our two disciplines are fundamental to gaining an understanding of who we humans are. Our BA programme in Archaeology and Anthropology is unusual in the way it combines both subjects throughout the course, offering a comprehensive and broad guide to the richness and diversity of human cultural experience through space and time. Six institutions at Oxford are involved: the Institutes of Archaeology and of Social and Cultural Anthropology, the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, the Ashmolean Museum, the Pitt Rivers Museum, and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. If you haven’t visited any of these museums yet, don’t worry, you’ll be taking lessons and practical sessions in them throughout the course and you may even get to work as an intern in one.

Whilst studying with us you will also take advantage of Oxford’s world-leading libraries - the Bodleian, the  Art, Archaeology and Ancient World, the Balfour and Tylor libraries, and of course your college libraries. But it’s not all reading! At the end of your first year the world is your oyster as you undertake your own four-week archaeological or anthropological project (subject to approval, of course!).

The ‘Green Book’ serves as the syllabus for the course, detailing each module and option. Its sister publication ‘The Yellow Book’, focuses on guidelines for good practice. If you have any questions our administrative and academic staff are ready to hear from you and look forward to supporting you throughout your degree.

We wish you all the best in your studies, and for your time at Oxford!

Prof Christopher Bronk Ramsey and Prof David Pratten

map of sites in Oxford used by arch and anth students


The ‘Green Book’ serves as the syllabus for the course, detailing each module and option. Its sister publication ‘The Yellow Book’, focuses on guidelines for good practice.

This is a guide for the convenience of students and staff. The definitive record of the course can be found in the Examination Regulations ( Should there be, or appear to be, any conflict between statements in this handbook and the Examination Regulations then the latter shall prevail.

This Handbook is only for those taking BA Archaeology and Anthropology in 2023-2024. We have tried our best to make it accurate. Any corrections to this Handbook will be circulated to the Archaeology and Anthropology mailing lists.

Comments and corrections should be addressed to You should also consult Essential Information for Students (Proctors’ and Assessor’s Memorandum), which can be found at covers welfare matters; safety and security; the students’ union; sport, clubs, and recreations; transport; the rules for residence; disciplinary procedures; guidance on conduct; and a more general account of examinations, libraries, the Language Centre, and Computing and Careers Service.

Although the information in this handbook is accurate at the time of publication, aspects of the programme and of department practice may be subject to modification and revision. The University reserves the right to modify the programme in unforeseen circumstances, or where the process of academic development and feedback from students, quality assurance processes or external sources, such as professional bodies, requires a change to be made. In such circumstances, revised information will be issued.


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Michaelmas 2023 

Sunday 8 October

Saturday 2 December 

Hilary 2024

Sunday 14 January

Saturday 9 March

Trinity 2024

Sunday 21 April

Saturday 15 June

The BA in Archaeology and Anthropology offers an integrated undergraduate degree in archaeology and anthropology (social, cultural and biological), sustained over the entire three years, taking advantage of the lively centres of teaching and research which Oxford maintains in each of these complementary areas. Its temporal scope extends from human origins in the Palaeolithic period down to modern society, and its geographical scope includes communities across the entire globe. Within this broad span, it offers multiple complementary perspectives on human diversity that include the biological study of the human species and the cultural interpretation of social and material life in its historical and comparative aspects. Whilst no single academic institution can offer an encyclopaedic study of all human cultures, the detailed understanding of a diverse range of ancient societies and more recent overseas communities offers a unique intellectual experience which is of direct relevance to understanding important aspects of the contemporary world.

Oxford offers two principal areas of expertise. One, centred around the Ashmolean Museum and the emerging Humanities Complex, is concerned with the cultural development of the Old World, from the beginnings of complex societies in Mesopotamia and China, through the classical civilisations and their prehistoric neighbours, down to the Islamic and early medieval period. The other, located in the science area (including the Pitt Rivers Museum and Banbury Road), covers the diversity of peoples and cultures in Africa, the New World and the Pacific region, as well as the small-scale societies of Eurasia which have survived in the interstices of larger states. Their study involves a wide variety of complementary disciplines. From genetics and radiometric dating to the study of social structures and the interpretation of many forms of artistic creativity the comparative approach adopted in this course emphasises the common principles underlying these regional and temporal manifestations. Although some of these topics can be studied as part of other subjects (such as Human Sciences or Classics), together they provide a coherent perspective on human existence which complements that of more traditional courses centred on particular cultures or periods. Their integration within a single course provides a valuable educational experience.

It is evident, then, that this course places a premium on the ability to integrate different forms of evidence in terms of a set of biological, cultural and social principles. This combines a local understanding of the complexities of individual human groups with a comprehension of their wider setting in time and space. The course has been designed to maintain a balance between these two objectives: a broad interpretative perspective and a detailed command of how particular societies work and how they use their material environment.

While some relevant aspects of the Honour School may have been covered in subjects studied at school, most parts of it will be largely unfamiliar. The Honour Moderations course (Mods), taken in the first year, thus offers a broad introduction which assumes no prior knowledge of the constituent disciplines.

Paper 1 (Introduction to World Archaeology) offers a synoptic view of human development from the beginnings of farming in several parts of the world through the origins and spread of urban societies, and the establishment of empires and inter- continental systems of trade.

Paper 2 (Introduction to Anthropological Theory) looks at the principal approaches to understanding human societies and the role of anthropology in relation to them, and especially at ways of understanding the diversity of cultures and their symbolic structures

Paper 3 (Perspectives on Human Evolution) examines the biological basis of human existence, including human evolution, demography, nutrition and health, and the variety of human subsistence systems in a diversity of environments.

Paper 4 (The Nature of Archaeological and Anthropological Enquiry) complements Paper 1 with an account of the growth of knowledge of past cultures and a consideration of the basic principles involved in reconstructing their ways of life using material evidence.

Assessment Method

These subjects are examined in the Trinity Term of the first year by four three-hour papers of three questions each.

The FHS continues the principle of balancing detailed knowledge of particular periods and areas (or scientific topics), which are explored as option subjects, with broadly comparative courses which strive to integrate the insights of the different disciplines. Where possible, these include both an archaeological and an anthropological dimension, and candidates are encouraged to mobilise their knowledge of each of these disciplines in understanding the others. Material from option subjects and from the dissertation should also inform wider questions.


Paper 1 (Social Analysis and Interpretation) examines forms of social and political structure and economic transactions, within a framework which includes historical analysis and a consideration of gender-related aspects.


Paper 2 (Cultural Representations, Beliefs and Practices) considers symbolic systems, including moral and religious aspects as well as performative and aesthetic ones, and a consideration of the nature of ritual action.


Paper 3 (Landscape and Ecology) examines human cultural and biological adaptations within the related context of ecology and landscape and against a background of climatic and environmental change.


Paper 4 (Urbanism and Society) involves a historical and comparative study of the characteristics of urban networks and their economic interactions, principally in the Old World from 3500 BC to AD 1000, in the light of anthropology and historical sociology.


Paper 5 (Fieldwork and Methods) 


Option Papers. Three option subjects, either anthropological or archaeological, are chosen from a schedule of specified topics which give the opportunity to develop expertise in particular areas and/or periods.


It is intended that candidates should gain a broad knowledge of the organisation and dynamics of human societies, their biological and subsistence bases, and the way in which symbolic systems are expressed both in ideas and in material culture. Although such topics are exemplified in the course principally in the study of ancient and small- scale societies, they can be very widely applied, and theses offer the opportunity to investigate them in sometimes unexpected contexts and combinations.


The course demands sustained effort across a wide diversity of fields, but provides rewarding insights into fundamental aspects of human existence.


Assessment Method

The second and third years are occupied in preparation for the five core papers and three optional papers of the Final Honour School, and the writing of a 15,000-word dissertation (double weighted) on a subject approved by the Standing Committee. The first Long (i.e. summer) Vacation includes a period of compulsory fieldwork


  • To build and encourage intellectual confidence in students, enabling them to work independently but in a well-guided framework.
  • To use the study of key texts, artefacts and issues to examine systematically other cultures in a multidisciplinary way.
  • To provide for students a sustained, carefully designed and progressively structured course which requires effort and rigour from them and which yields consistent intellectual reward and satisfaction.
  • To train and encourage students in appropriate analytical, research and presentational skills to the highest possible standards.
  • To equip students to approach major issues in their own as well as other cultures with a thoughtful and critical attitude.
  • To produce graduates who are able to deal with challenging intellectual problems systematically, analytically and efficiently, and who are suitable for a wide range of demanding occupations and professions, including teaching our subject in schools and higher education. 


  • To provide expert guidance over a very wide range of options in challenging fields of study.
  • To help students to acquire the skills to assess considerable amounts of material of diverse types, and to select, summarise and evaluate key aspects.
  • To foster in students both the skills of clear and effective communication in written and oral discourse and the organisational skills needed to plan work and meet demanding deadlines.
  • To provide a teaching environment in which the key features are close and regular personal attention to students, constructive criticism and evaluation of their work, and continuous monitoring of their academic progress.
  • To provide effective mechanisms through which able students at different levels of experience can rapidly acquire the linguistic and other skills needed to achieve their potential in the subject.
  • To take full and effective use in our courses of the very wide range of research expertise in our Faculty and the excellent specialist resources and collections available in the University.
  • To offer courses which are kept under continuous review and scrutiny.


Course Co-ordinator: Prof. Peter Mitchell, (School of Archaeology)


          Phone: 01865 274951

This paper sets out to provide a basic introduction to the major cultural developments of the Holocene, roughly the last 10,000 years. It thus continues on chronologically from Paper 3. The emphasis of Paper 1 is partly chronological, ranging from the effects on human societies of post-glacial climatic amelioration to the consequences of European colonial expansion in and after the fifteenth century AD, and partly thematic, treating issues such as the relationship between environmental and cultural change and the role of trade in the emergence of social complexity. In Michaelmas Term the focus lies on the variety of food-production systems developed during the Holocene and the ways in which they evolved and spread. Then, in Hilary Term, the course examines the emergence of urban societies and the growth and collapse of early states and empires. Throughout the paper, examples are drawn from many different parts of the world in order to encourage cross-cultural comparisons. At the same time the lectures aim to provide a sense of the continuity of historical developments in key regions of both the Old and New Worlds.

Some of the analytical techniques or theoretical approaches applied to these questions are examined in greater depth in Paper 4. Students are also encouraged to develop some familiarity through tutorials and reading with the archaeology of those parts of the world not covered in lectures. 


Michaelmas Term [16 lectures]

Lecturers: S. Arlt, Dr M. Ergun, Dr A. Hein, A. Holguin, Prof. R. Schulting. Dr A. Weide

1.       Coping with the Pleistocene-Holocene transition (SA)

2.       Understanding agricultural origins (SA)

3.       Farming and its alternatives (SA)

4.       Alternatives to farming: intensification in northwestern North America (RS)

5.       The origins of farming in Western Asia (AW)

6.       First farmers of Western Asia (AW)

7.       Çatal Höyük: a Neolithic village of Western Asia (ME)

8.       Established farming communities of western Asia (AW)

9.       The spread of farming in Europe (A Holguin)

10.      Established farming communities in Europe (A Holguin)

11.      Origins of agriculture and sedentism in China (A Hein)

12.      Early food-production in Africa (SA)

13.      Early farming communities in southern Africa (SA)

14.      Pathways to food-production in Mesoamerica (SA)

15.      Pathways to food-production in South America (SA)

16.      Pathways to food-production in North America (SA)

Hilary Term [16 lectures]

Lecturers: S. Arlt, Dr L. Bendall, Prof. M. Charles, Dr A. Hein, Dr L. Hulin, Dr C. Namura, Dr E. Standley, Prof. A. Wilson

17.      Understanding state formation and urban origins (LH)

18.      The emergence of complex societies in Mesopotamia (MC)

19.      The emergence of complex societies in Egypt (LH)

20.      The emergence of social complexity in early China (AH)

21.      The emergence of complex societies in the Aegean (LB)

22.      Bronze to iron in the Mediterranean and continental Europe 1100-500 BC (CN)

23.      Core, periphery and the coming of Rome 500 BC - AD 100 (CN)

24.      Rome and the archaeology of Empire (AW)

25.      Themes in Roman archaeology (AW)

26.      Towns and trade in early medieval Europe (ES)

27.      Heterarchy, trade and world religions: Africa’s Sahel (SA)

28.      Social complexity in southern Africa: Great Zimbabwe (SA)

29.      Complex societies in the Americas: Teotihuacan (SA)

30.      Complex societies in the Americas: the rise and fall of the Classic Maya (SA)

31.      Complex societies in the Americas: the Inka and the archaeology of empire (SA)

32.      Europe and the world: an archaeological perspective (SA)

Note - Lectures are an integral part of the examined syllabus and your attendance is expected at all of them. YOU WILL FIND YOURSELF AT A SEVERE DISADVANTAGE IN HONOUR MODERATIONS IF YOU ATTEMPT TO RELY SOLELY UPON TUTORIAL READINGS


Recommended Reading:

General Texts

Cunliffe, B., 2008, Europe Between the Oceans, New Haven: Yale University Press.

Cunliffe, B., 2015, By Steppe, Desert and Ocean, Oxford: OUP.

Fagan, B. & Durrani, N., 2018, People of the Earth (fifteenth edition), London: Collins.

Graeber, D. & Wengrow, D., 2021. The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, London: Penguin.

Reichs, D., 2018, Who We Are and How We Got Here, Oxford: OUP.

Scarre. C. (ed.), 2018, The Human Past (fourth edition), London: Thames & Hudson


You are encouraged to keep abreast of some of the major journals of relevance to the course, particularly Antiquity ( and World Archaeology, copies of which can be found online and in both the Balfour and the Bodleian Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Libraries. You should also make sure to visit the Ashmolean Museum, especially in relation to Lectures 17-27.

Suggested Tutorial Topics

Tutorials for Paper 1 should focus on the key questions tackled by the various case studies presented in the lectures. A primary aim should be developing an understanding of general processes of sociocultural development and it may be helpful for at least some tutorials to be framed in comparative terms (e.g. between Old World and New World or temperate and tropical examples, or between other selected case studies). Key themes that may be suitable for discussion include:

  • Coping with the environmental opportunities of the Pleistocene/Holocene transition.
  • The development and expansion of systems of food production.
  • Competing explanations for agricultural and non-agricultural pathways to intensification during the Holocene.
  • The emergence of social stratification in early farming communities.
  • The archaeological identification of civilization, urbanism and the state and the processes leading to the development of urban and state-level societies.
  • The usefulness and limitations of core-periphery models.
  • The roles of monumental architecture, iconography, writing, prestige goods and other forms of material culture in the establishment and maintenance of elite power.
  • Civilisational collapse and strategies for the growth and survival of imperial systems.
  • The role of archaeology in understanding European colonial expansion.


Course Co-ordinator: Prof. David Gellner

Phone: 01865 (2)74674 

This paper sets out to provide a broad introduction to the field of social and cultural anthropology, covering both the organization of society and the relationship between society, culture, and environment. The emphasis is primarily on theory and method: thus the course focuses on the sorts of questions anthropologists ask, and how they go about answering them. Such issues can only be tackled by reference to ethnography – the detailed description of actual social relationships in the world, whether of urban Indians, East African pastoralists, North American gatherer-hunters, or bureaucrats at the EU headquarters in Brussels. The main aim is to help students acquire the ability to think anthropologically. Since styles of anthropological thought have varied over the last century and a half, some awareness is required of the history of the discipline.  The course is taught through a series of 16 lectures and 8 tutorials; students should also make use in their own time of ethnographic films available online: for example, if you log in to SOLO, you will be able to access the Central Television Series, ‘Strangers Abroad’, detailing the life and work of Baldwin Spencer, Rivers, Boas, Mead, Malinowski, and Evans-Pritchard, all key figures in the history of the discipline.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the paper students will:

  • have a basic understanding of the development of anthropological theory and of some key debates and topics in the discipline; and how anthropology can contribute to the understanding of the contemporary world;
  • be familiar with ethnography from a broad range of contemporary human societies, with reference both to human social relationships and human relationships to their diverse material environments.

Transferable skills

Students should have learned to guard against making ethnocentric assumptions in assessing the life courses of non-Euro-American peoples.


Note – Lectures are an integral part of the examined syllabus and your attendance is expected at all of them.

Michaelmas Term (8 lectures)

Lecturers: David Gellner (DG), Dolores (Lola) Martinez (DM), Rosalie Allain (RA), Miriam Driessen (MD).

  1. Introduction: What is anthropology? (DG)
  2. Where did it come from? (DM)
  3. Egalitarian Societies (RA)
  4. Gifts and exchange (MD)
  5. An introduction to economic anthropology (MD)
  6. Kinship and relationality (RA)
  7. Personhood and gender (RA)
  8. The state, power, and resistance (RA)

Hilary Term (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Susan MacDougall (SM), Dolores (Lola) Martinez (DM), Elizabeth (Liz) Hallam (EH), Inge Daniels (ID), Charlotte Linton (CL).

  1. Religion and ritual (SM)
  2. Witchcraft and rationality (SM)
  3. Identity and fandom (DM)
  4. Approaches to material culture (EH)
  5. Space and the built environment I: Architecture (ID)
  6. Space and the built environment II: Infrastructure (ID)
  7. Anthropology and art (CL)
  8. The past, present, and future of ethnographic museums (CL)

Suggested tutorial topics

  • In what sense can it be said that people in different cultures ‘think differently’?
  • How do rituals accomplish?
  • What can studies of contemporary gatherer-hunter peoples tell us about the past?
  • How can ethnographic museum collections be brought alive?
  • How has colonialism affected people’s relationship with the landscape?
  • Do models of society have to choose between an emphasis on ‘conflict’ and an emphasis on ‘consensus’?
  • Beauty in art is just a matter of personal opinion. Discuss.
  • Are landscapes natural?
  • How can accusations of witchcraft promote social order?
  • Is there a radical difference between giving/receiving gifts and buying/selling commodities?
  • Can the competing claims of biology and sociology in the study of gender be reconciled?
  • Is the study of kinship important for societies or just for anthropologists?

These are just suggestions, to provoke ideas following lectures and to aid tutors in devising a tutorial scheme. Students should also consult recent past examination papers on OXAM.


Course Co-ordinator: Dr Dylan Gaffney (School of Archaeology)



To gain an appreciation of how human cultural and biological diversity are patterned across the globe today, we need to go back in time, really far back… In this course, consisting of sixteen formal lectures and practical sessions, you will use the anthropological and archaeological records to chart the evolution of humans and our close relatives.

In Michaelmas term, you will explore the exceptional diversity of our human ancestors that emerged during periods of dramatic climatic fluctuations in Africa and Eurasia over tens of millions of years. You will examine the kinds of fossil remains and cultural artefacts left behind by these hominins, including the Australopithecines, Homo erectus, the Neanderthals and Denisovans, and the earliest representatives of our own species — Homo sapiens. These rare glimpses on our very deep past help us to appreciate our shared human ancestry and what we all have in common as a species.

In Hilary Term you will uncover how our species moved into a wide array of new and challenging environments across the planet after 200,000 years ago. Each lecture will initially focus on a distinct environmental zone — hot deserts, isolated islands, freezing tundra, and humid rainforests — which became the setting of human migration, adaptation, and social diversification. You will then begin to move towards present-day, examining how humans have shaped their ecologies and coevolved with multiple species of animals, plants, and microorganisms. You will learn about the ways in which humans have shaped their own niches and genetic evolution. And you will find out about the ongoing processes of evolutionary change that transform our societies today. The final lecture will bring the course content together and prompt discussion and debate about how we can use our knowledge about the human evolutionary past to understand our possible futures. We will ask, why are we the only species of human left on the planet, and what is our long-term future as the sole representatives of our genus in the face of impending existential risks?

Each one-hour lecture will be followed by a 30-minute hands-on practical. These sessions are designed to cement and extend your knowledge gained in the classroom. In Michaelmas, you will examine the anatomy of hominin fossils and the kinds of material culture associated with these remains. At the end of the term, you will learn to make and use your own stone tools. In Hilary Term you will go behind the scenes at the Pitt Rivers museums to study stone artefacts, bone tools, and megafaunal remains from different times in our human past. And you will work in groups to simulate processes of evolutionary change driven by kinship, migration, and language learning.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you will…

  • Understand important biological, cultural, and ecological transformations that have occurred throughout the human past. 

  • Be familiar with material culture produced by human foragers in different parts of the world (Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Americas) in the deep past.

  • Understand ongoing evolutionary processes operating amongst human groups today.

  • Be able to use your knowledge about the deep past to think about possible futures for the human species and our wider ecologies.

Transferable skills

You will learn to critically evaluate how anthropological and archaeological information has been produced in the past, and how it continues to be reproduced today. For instance, you will be able to critique how academics have assigned fossils to a hominin species, and how they have associated material culture and faunal remains to those hominins.

You will also learn to use your ‘deep time’ perspective to contextualise later periods of human history and contemporary social life. As an example, you will be able to look at the distribution of human cultures and biological variation in the present and think about in which ways this variation has been shaped by long term processes of migration, interaction, and diversification.

Methodologically, you will develop a basic understanding of museum collections and laboratory analyses relating to stone tools and other artefacts. These skills can be applied to archaeological objects from other time periods and to ethnographic material culture.


Michaelmas Term

Location: School of Anthropology





Introduction to human evolutionary studies

Dylan Gaffney and Thomas Püschel


Primates: biology, cognition, and culture

Thomas Püschel


Miocene apes and the earliest Pliocene hominins

Thomas Püschel


Archaic and transitional hominins

Thomas Püschel


The emergence and dispersal of the genus Homo

Thomas Püschel


Middle Pleistocene hominins

Dylan Gaffney


Neanderthals and Denisovans

Dylan Gaffney


Our species — Homo sapiens

Dylan Gaffney

Hilary Term

Location: Pitt Rivers Museum





Arid explorers

Dylan Gaffney


Islands over the horizon

Dylan Gaffney


Breaking frozen ground: high latitudes and high elevations

Dylan Gaffney


Rainforest pioneers

Dylan Gaffney


Multispecies evolution

Greger Larson (TBC)


Niche construction and gene-culture coevolution

Amy Bogaard (TBC)


The ongoing evolution of human social, technical, and biological systems

Laura Fortunato (TBC)


Human evolutionary futures

Dylan Gaffney, Eben Kirksey and Tim Clack

Tutorial suggestions

Michaelmas topics

1. What can primates (and other animals) tell us about being human?

2. How was the evolution of bipedalism linked to ecological flux in Africa?

3. How has endurance running influenced our understanding of early human behaviour and lifestyle?

4. How many species of hominin should there be? Discuss the ways that palaeoanthropologists classify fossil specimens and how this shapes our understanding of hominin diversity.

5. Can the effects of cooking on human encephalisation be distinguished from other factors that may have influenced human brain evolution, such as social interactions or changes in the environment?

6. How would the potential deliberate burial of their dead by Homo naledi influence our understanding of our own species’ cognitive capacities?

7. When and how did humans begin to incorporate aquatic foods in their diets and what effects might this have had on hominin brains and cognition?

8. Today there is one species of humans – Homo sapiens – but there were periods in the past when three or four early hominin species lived at the same time, even in the same place. What types of interactions occurred between these different species, and what factors might elucidate why only our own lineage persisted into the present day?

Hilary topics

1. Does complex technology reflect complex cognition? Discuss, drawing from the archaeological record of Africa and Australia

2. Was climate change critical in shaping the biological and social diversity of Homo sapiens?

3. “Ceci n’est pas un mammouth” – What is Palaeolithic art and what constitutes the earliest instances of what might be considered art?

4. Is our species unique because of our behavioural modernity, flexibility, or something else?

5. How did other organisms shape the evolution of our own species?

6. Do societies and cultures evolve? If so, how?

7. What contributions can archaeology and anthropology make to our understanding of the Anthropocene?

8. What does the human evolutionary past tell us about possible futures for our species?

General texts

Some basics

Galway‐Witham, J., Cole, J. and Stringer, C., 2019. Aspects of human physical and behavioural evolution during the last 1 million years. Journal of Quaternary Science34(6): 355-378.

Scarre, C. (ed.), 2018. The Human Past: World Prehistory & the Development of Human Societies. 4th edition. London: Thames & Hudson. [Chapters 2–5].

Further reading… a non-exhaustive list of recent titles

Cirotteau, T., Kerner, J. and Pincas, E. 2022. Lady Sapiens: Breaking Stereotypes about Prehistoric Women. London: Hero.

Higham, T. 2021. The World Before Us: The New Science Behind Our Human Origins. Dublin: Penguin.

Lee, S.H., 2018. Close Encounters with Humankind: A Paleoanthropologist Investigates Our Evolving Species. New York: WW Norton & Company.

Oyama, S. 2000. Evolution's Eye: A Systems View of the Biology-Culture Divide. Duke University Press.

Porr, M. and Matthews, J.M. (eds.), 2019. Interrogating Human Origins: Decolonisation and the Deep Human Past. London: Routledge.

Sykes, R.W., 2020. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art. London: Bloomsbury.




Paper Co-ordinator: Prof. Amy Bogaard (School of Archaeology) 


Phone: 01865 (2)78281 


The aim of this paper is to introduce students to key methods of enquiry in archaeology and anthropology. Lectures in Michaelmas Term typically take a historical perspective to show how disciplinary questions and methodologies have built up and changed over time. Historical and present links between archaeology, anthropology and cognate disciplines (such as geology and history) are explored. In Hilary Term lectures explicitly survey conceptual developments, with a particular focus on contemporary themes in archaeological and anthropological theory. 

The aim of the course is to provide an understanding of the practice and possibilities of these disciplines, past and present; the main methodologies practitioners use; the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches and an overview of some of the main questions addressed by archaeologists and anthropologists today. 

The paper complements both Introduction to World Archaeology, which covers the results of archaeological fieldwork and the pictures we can build of world prehistory, and Introduction to Anthropological Theory, which focuses on understandings of society from ethnography. 

The course is also linked with a series of practical classes running in Hilary and Trinity Terms (see Practical classes for Honours Moderations) that build on archaeological topics and methodologies introduced in the Michaelmas term lectures. 


Learning Outcomes 

Students will gain a good understanding of the major issues confronting contemporary archaeology and anthropology, and how the history of these disciplines has shaped the questions asked; they should also gain an appreciation of the methods available to the practitioner and their genesis, including both field and analytical methods. 


Transferable Skills 

Students will develop their powers of critical thought when evaluating competing approaches to archaeological and anthropological enquiry; they should also start to develop some practical appreciation of the disciplines and their methodologies. 



Note – Lectures are an integral part of the examined syllabus and attendance at all of them is strongly recommended. 


Michaelmas Term (16 lectures) 

Lecturers: Prof. C. Bronk Ramsey, Prof. S. Chirikure, Prof. M. Clarke, Prof. I. Daniels, Dr L. Fortunato, Amy Holguin, Prof. G. Larson, Dr Z. Olszewska, Dr A. Styring, Dr L. van Broekhoven


1. Introduction to archaeology, part 1: emergence of the discipline (AH) 

2. Introduction to archaeology, part 2: what/where/how/why? (AH) 

3. Relative chronology (AH) 

4. Absolute chronology (CBR) 

5. Approaches to the production and exchange of objects (AH) 

6. Scientific analysis of materials (SC) 

7. Bioarchaeology, part 1: plants, fauna, humans, diet and stable isotopes (AS)  

8. Bioarchaeology, part 2: ancient DNA (GL) 

9. Introduction: what is anthropology and what are its methods? Fieldwork (MC) 

10. Participant observation (ZO)

11. The status of ethnography (MC) 

12. Space and material environments (ID)

13. The ethics of anthropology (MC) 

14. Visual and material culture - the Role of the Museum (LvB)

15. Theory and comparison in social anthropology (MC) 

16. Systematic comparison in anthropological and archaeology - interdisciplinary approaches (LF)


Contemporary themes at the intersection of archaeological and anthropological enquiry

Hilary Term (8 lectures) 

Lecturer: Dr L. Malafouris 

17. Understanding material relations

18. Making, creativity and innovation

19. Technology, skills and techniques

20. Art and aesthetics

21. Time and temporality    

22. Social and material memory

23. Personhood

24. Modes of human becoming


Key readings (additional readings will be given in lecture handouts): 

Ellen, R. (ed.) 1984, Ethnographic research: a guide to general conduct. London: Academic Press.

Ingold, T. 2013, Making: Anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. London: Routledge

Johnson, M.H., 2019, Archaeological Theory: an introduction (third edition). Chichester: Wiley Blackwell 

Monaghan, J. and Just, P. 2000, Social and cultural anthropology: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Renfrew, C. 2007, Prehistory: the making of the human mind. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Renfrew, C., & Bahn, P. 2020, Archaeology: theories, methods and practice (eighth edition). London: Thames and Hudson  

Trigger, B.G., 2006, A History of Archaeological Thought (second edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 


Suggested tutorial topics – archaeology: 

  • Assess the ongoing colonial legacies of archaeology as a discipline.
  • Using case studies, consider how preservation conditions and site formation processes both constrain and inform interpretation of archaeological evidence. 
  • Compare and contrast the historical relationship between geology and archaeology, on the one hand, and anthropology and archaeology, on the other.  
  • Problematise the definition and conceptualisation of archaeological ‘cultures’. 
  • What are the different ways in which we might approach landscape archaeology? How do these approaches challenge the traditional notion of ‘archaeological sites’? 
  • Assess the potential and limitations of different methodologies for reconstructing production techniques and movement of objects. 
  • Using case studies, assess how new dating techniques and applications have led to re-interpretation in archaeology. 
  • Why is food important in archaeological accounts of the past, and how can we infer the nature of diet and food-related practices? 


Suggested tutorial topics – anthropology: 

It would be advisable to undertake at least two anthropological tutorial topics, one focusing on ethnographic methods, the other on the place of material culture in anthropological enquiry. Examples include: 

  • What is ethnography and what are its strengths and weaknesses as a source of anthropological data? 
  • What role does material culture have in anthropological analysis?  


Suggested tutorial topics – contemporary themes in archaeological and anthropological enquiry: 

  • Critically review the agency debate in archaeology and anthropology. 
  • How can we document skill from an archaeological and anthropological perspective?  
  • Does the body, as a cross-culturally applicable concept, exist?
  • Critically review temporality as a theoretical concept and how it is understood and employed in contemporary archaeology and anthropology.


Paper Co-ordinator: Prof. Amy Bogaard (School of Archaeology)


          Phone: 01865 (2)78281


Attendance at the practical classes is compulsory and will be monitored; if you do not attend any class without good reason, you may lose up to 10% of the marks for this paper. (Please see the Yellow Book for the excusal procedure in case of unavoidable absence).

These classes provide a practical aspect to some of the teaching for Paper 4, and usually take place across Hilary and Trinity term.

Chronometric Dating

The class will be based mainly around radiocarbon and luminescence dating. Students will be shown the main laboratories and instruments used in these two techniques.

 Diet and Bioarchaeology

Students will cover the basic practical aspects of studying past diets through isotopic measurements. Students will be able to analyse their own diet by examining strands of their hair.

Environmental Archaeology

An introduction is given to environmental archaeology including soils and sediments, preservation of biological remains and interpretation of the evidence. Students will have the opportunity to handle specimens and sort samples for biological remains.

Materials and Technology

Students will be introduced to the main approaches to analysing archaeological materials. The students will be given a short, hands-on, introduction to the classification of specific materials using microscopic and chemical techniques.

Animal Bones

This practical introduces students to the types of archaeological information that can be gleaned through the study of animal bones and to the basic principles of animal bone identification. Handling of animal bones is an important component of the course. The aim of the class is to help students make connections between the animal bones and other aspects of their archaeological course, and to introduce the field of zooarchaeology, its relevance and potential, should they wish to pursue it further.

Human Bones for Archaeologists

This class provides the opportunity to explore and consider the great plasticity found within and between modern human population groups.  The two-hour class allows a fully ecological approach to an understanding the variation and similarities found between different hominins as well as members of the same species.

Learning Outcomes

  1. To obtain direct experience of the skills involved in the acquisition and interpretation of scientific data relating to archaeology.
  2. To extend understanding gained from lectures on archaeological science.

Transferable skills

The ability to interpret and support an argument with a range of experimental scientific data.

Recommended reading:

Aitken, M., 1990, Science-based dating in archaeology, London: Longman.

Brothwell, D.R. & Pollard, A.M. (eds), 2001,  Handbook of Archaeological Sciences, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Davis,S.J.M. 1987. The Archaeology of animals. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd.

Dimbleby, G.W., 1977,  Ecology and archaeology, London: Arnold.

Henderson, J. (ed), Scientific analysis in archaeology, Oxford: Committee for Archaeology.

O’Connor,T.P. 2000. The archaeology of animal bones. Stroud: Sutton.Hodges, H., 1989, Artefacts, London: Duckworth.

Pollard, A.M. and Heron, C. (2008). Archaeological Chemistry (2nd edn). Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge.

Wilkinson, K. and Stevens, C., 2003, Environmental archaeology. Approaches, techniques and applications, Stroud: Tempus.


FHS 1: Social Analysis and Interpretation 2023-24

Course Co-ordinator: Prof. Morgan Clarke


This paper is intended to introduce students to principal issues in understanding social relations and identity. It aims to review major archaeological and anthropological approaches to these issues and to show the links between them.  The main topics covered include domestic structures and their reproduction, kinship, sex and gender, personhood, economic systems, exchange, social and political systems, forms of community and identity, law and warfare, ethics, heritage and the relevance of the past in the present. There is a considerable overlap with FHS2; all the readings for one paper are highly relevant to the other.

The bulk of the teaching for this course should take place in the student’s second year and this is therefore the most appropriate time for the relevant tutorials. The lectures will refer to the readings in the accompanying lists, which can be found on Canvas and will be handed out at the start of each lecture. Tutorial readings should ideally include some titles from this list. The accompanying list of tutorial topics indicates appropriate topics, although tutors and students will need to make their own selections and modifications.  Students should prepare up to eight tutorials for this course.

Students are reminded that the examined syllabus for this paper covers both lectures as well as tutorials.

Learning outcomes

To acquire an appreciation of the forms and meanings of social organization and domestic arrangements as they relate to personal and collective identity and to understandings of biology and the environment. To gain an understanding of the mutually intertwined nature of ethnography and theory, both in contemporary contexts as well as in the history of social anthropology. To gain an appreciation of different perspectives on the past and the relevance of heritage in the contemporary world.

Transferable skills

Social and cultural anthropological knowledge of social variation. Critical reading and analytical skills. The ability to evaluate and deploy ethnographic evidence in pursuit of particular arguments.



Note – Lectures are an integral part of the examined syllabus and in-person attendance at all of them is strongly recommended.

Michaelmas Term (16 lectures)

Comparing Cultures Part I (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Dr Elizabeth Ewart, Prof. Morgan Clarke, Prof. Inge Daniels, Dr Zuzanna Olszewska, Dr David Pratten, Prof. David Gellner, and Dr Susan MacDougall

Convenor: Dr Elizabeth Ewart

1. Comparing Cultures (EE)

2. Kinship (MC)

3. Exchange (ID)

4. Gender & Personhood (ZO)

5. Colonialism & Post-colonialism (DP)

6. Ethnicity & Nationalism (DG)

7. Religion & Ritual (DG)

8. Anthropological Approaches to the Environment (SM)

[NB: Week 7 relates to topics falling largely under FHS 2; Week 5 is relevant to both papers]

Theories and Approaches to Social Anthropology (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Dr Morgan Clarke and Dr David Pratten

1. Theories and approaches (DP)

2. Deep History and 'the primitive' (MC)

3. Structure, function and fieldwork (MC)

4. From function to meaning (MC)

5. Interpretive anthropology and postmodernity (MC)

6. The past in the present (DP)

7. The practice of everyday life (DP)

8. Power and ‘dark anthropology’ (DP)


Hilary Term

Comparing Cultures Part II (6 lectures)

Lecturers: Prof. Inge Daniels, Prof. Harvey Whitehouse, Prof. Morgan Clarke, Prof. David Gellner, Prof. David Pratten, and Dr Thomas Cousins

Convenor: Dr Elizabeth Ewart

Anthropology of Religion

1. Anthropology of Religion (ID)

2. Cognitive approaches to ritual (HW)

Kinship and Social Reproduction

3. New Kinship and the New Reproductive Technologies (MC)

4. Kinship, Globalisation and the Nation State (MC)

Ethnicity and Identity

5. Nationalism and Identity (DG)

6. ‘Race’, Indigeneity, Transnationalism, Cosmopolitanism (DG)

Economic Anthropology

7. Economic Anthropology I (ID)

8. Economic Anthropology II (ID)

[NB: Weeks 1-2 relate to topics falling under FHS 2]


Anthropology in the World (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Dr David Pratten, Prof. Morgan Clarke, Dr Zuzanna Olszewska, Dr Elizabeth Ewart, Dr Miriam Driessen, Prof. David Gellner, Dr Rosalie Allain, Prof. Inge Daniels

Convenor: Dr David Pratten

1. Uncertainty (DP)

2. Ethics and morality (MC)

3. Emotion and Affect (ZO)

4. Ontology (EE)

5. Corporations (MD) 

6. Modernity (DG)

7. Technology (RA) 

8. Architecture and Infrastructure (ID)

NB: This series is relevant to both FHS1 and FHS2


Suggested tutorial topics:

  • How does anthropology distinguish the biological and social in kinship?
  • What can anthropology contribute to understanding new reproductive technologies?
  • Is a consideration of gender relations important to the analysis of kinship?
  • Consider with the aid of examples what difference the increase in gender awareness over recent decades has made to archaeology and/or anthropology.
  • Economics is sometimes called ‘the dismal science’.  Using empirical data argue the case that economic anthropology is an exciting and attractive field.
  • How helpful is it to think of human behaviour in terms of individual maximisation?
  • Identities come in many forms, ranging from member of the human race down to spouse (or the like).  Choose some intermediate level of identity and consider how it can best be conceptualised.
  • ‘The nation-state is an idea that transcends politics.’  Discuss.
  • What differences would you expect to find between the views of the past held by lay members of a society and those held by an archaeologist/anthropologist studying the same society?
  • What attitude should we nowadays adopt towards ‘evolutionism’?
  • How would you set about constructing a typology of modes of social organisation?
  • Can people ever hope to escape the power structures that govern society?
  • Select one theory or theoretical approach that relates to the analysis of society and that you either particularly favour, or particularly dislike, and justify your attitude.
  • Discuss some ways in which male and female patterns of discourse may vary.
  • To what extent is sexuality, like gender, a social construct?
  • How may the moral implications of exchange vary from society to society?
  • What links may there be between ideas of parenthood and social structure?
  • Discuss some common metaphors of community other than that of the ‘house’.
  • Discuss the relevance of boundaries for maintaining ethnic identity.
  • What is the utility of the notion of ‘ethnicity’?
  • Who owns the past?
  • What challenges does globalisation introduce to archaeology and/or anthropology?
  • How do notions of the human person vary?
  • In order to understand the present you need to know about the past. How true is this with regards to our understanding of anthropology?


Course Co-ordinator: Dr Chihab El Khachab

The aim of the course is to give students a qualitative understanding of how social and cultural anthropologists approach the study of knowledge, values and beliefs, made manifest in artistic and religious practice and other embodied realms, both through field investigation and in analysis. While there is a primary focus on religion and representation, the paper also explores topics such as classification (of space, time and person); conceptions of the past; ritual practice and religious experience; the transformations wrought (or perhaps not) by literacy and other communication technologies; moral ideas and values, aesthetics and symbolism; arguments over how to represent ‘a culture’; language, translation problems, truth claims and relativism.  The course combines ethnography and theory, building on exemplary first-hand studies from different parts of the world. It also presents some archaeological approaches to history and representation, suggesting how the disciplines can interact in this area.

The course is generally followed in the second year of the BA. Most of the recommended lectures are given each year, but some may only be available within a two-year cycle, so students should check the lists carefully in their third year for new lectures.  Some of the lectures, and much of the reading, are also relevant to FHS Paper 1, and vice versa. Anthropology is an inherently holistic discipline, and students should expect material and arguments to flow across the Paper borders! The Paper is normally supported by eight tutorials with a socio-cultural anthropologist in the course of the second or, occasionally, third year, but – again – expect to benefit from tutorials for Paper 1.

Learning outcomes

To gain a critical appreciation of the variations in human culture as expressed in forms of knowledge, values and beliefs, as well as artistic and religious practice.

Transferable skills

Awareness of the possibilities and limitations of social and cultural anthropological explanation of these topics.



Note - Lectures are an integral part of the examined syllabus and attendance at all of them is strongly recommended

Michaelmas Term

Cultural Representations (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Paul Basu (PB)Chihab El Khachab (CEK), Liz Hallam (LH), Clare Harris (CH), Emily Stevenson (ES)



Cultural Representations MT23

Wk 1

Histories of Visual Anthropology (CEK)

Wk 2

Social Lives of Things (LH)

Wk 3

Anthropology, Museums, and Material Culture (PB) 

Wk 4

Colonialism, Collecting, and Contemporary Debates (PB)

Wk 5

Art, Aesthetics, and Agency (CH)

Wk 6

Anthropology, Film, and Cinema (CEK)

Wk 7

Photography and Anthropology (ES)

Wk 8

Digital Anthropology (CEK)


Hilary Term

Cultural Representations Part II (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Inge Daniels (ID), Liz Hallam (LH), Charlotte Linton (CL), David Zeitlyn (DZ)


Cultural Representations HT24

Wk 1

Text and Materiality (LH)

Wk 2

Bodies in Anthropology (LH)

Wk 3

Materials: Anthropological Debates (LH)

Wk 4

Consumption (ID)

Wk 5

Transnational Artworlds (CH)

Wk 6

Anthropology and Archives (DZ)

Wk 7

Rethinking Museums and Collections in the Digital Era (CH)

Wk 8

Anthropology and Design (CL)


Comparing Cultures Part I (1 lecture)

Lecturers: Prof. David Gellner

17.    Religion and Ritual (DG)

Comparing Cultures Part II (2 lectures)

[NB. These FHS2 topics are covered in Weeks 1-2; the remaining weeks of this series fall under FHS1]

Lecturers: Prof. Harvey Whitehouse

18.    Anthropology of Religion (TBC)

19.    Cognitive approaches to ritual (HW)

Anthropology in the World (4 lectures)

Lecturers: Dr David Pratten, Dr Morgan Clarke, Dr Zuzanna Olszewska, Dr Rosalie Allain

20.      Uncertainty (DP)

21.      Ethics and Morality (MC)

22.      Emotion and Affect (ZO)

23.     Technology (RA)

Trinity Term (4 lectures)

Perspectives on the Past (4 lectures)

[NB. This course is relevant to all the subjects covered in FHS]

Lecturer: Dr Jade Whitlam

23.      The early tangled history of archaeology and anthropology

24.      Understanding time in archaeology and anthropology

25.      Understanding human relations in archaeology and anthropology

26.      Human relations with the material world


Essential readings

  • Durkheim, Emile. 1915. The elementary forms of the religious life.
  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1978. Myth and meaning. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Miller, Daniel. 1987. Material culture and mass consumption. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Lambek, Michael. 2008. A Reader in the Anthropology of Religion. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell.
  • Banks, Marcus and Jay Ruby (eds). 2011. Made to be seen: perspectives on the history of visual anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.    
  • Bouquet, Mary. 2012. Museums: a visual anthropology. London: Berg.
  • Sansi, Roger. 2014. Art, Anthropology and the Gift, London: Bloomsbury.

Suggested tutorial topics

  • What defines a ‘world’ religion?
  • Does ‘protestantism’ have an ‘elective affinity’ with modernity?
  • What are the essential differences between oral and written discourse?
  • What are the benefits of seeing literacy as simply one among many communication technologies that humanity has developed?
  • In your reading on the ethnography of religion, why is it important to pay attention to problems of translation?
  • Are rituals conservative?
  • Compare two representations of the ‘spirit world’ noting in each case how it impinges on human affairs. How have anthropologists interpreted such phenomena?
  • Write an assessment of theoretical approaches to one of the following: myth, genealogies, oral history, social memory.
  • Examine the connection between religious/medical ideas and therapeutic practice in one or two societies of your choice.
  • Are photographic technologies socially neutral?
  • What advantage does one enjoy when studying the arts of a living culture as distinct from those of a past civilization?
  • Is aesthetics a cross-cultural category?
  • How do the visual and material properties of things exchanged influence the nature of exchange?
  • Do things [or works of art] have agency?
  • What role do images and objects play in maintaining social memory?
  • How can collaborations between anthropologists and artists, filmmakers or photographers advance anthropological theory?
  • What approaches have anthropologists taken to understanding the built environment?
  • Is there an ethnographic future for objects and images in the world of social media?
  • Compare and contrast Bird David’s and Descola’s theories of animism.
  • Are ethnographic museums inherently museums of colonial history?
  • What do sacred landscapes reveal about human/nature interactions?
  • Explore the similarities and differences between archaeological and anthropological approaches to material culture.
  • How far do religions offer alternatives for women and how far do they constrain or oppress them?
  • What can an anthropologist learn from a society’s classification of space and/or time?
  • The language we speak entirely determines our experience of the world. Discuss.

These are just suggestions, to provoke ideas following lectures and to aid tutors in devising a tutorial scheme. Students should also consult recent past examination papers on OXAM.


Course Co-ordinator: Prof. Rick Schulting (School of Archaeology)

The aim of this paper is to examine human cultural adaptations within the related contexts of ecology and landscape and against a background of climatic and environmental change. Themes running through the course consider theoretical and practical aspects of how we consider people, landscapes, and the environment in archaeology. You will be able to explore the methods of collecting field data and how this information is integrated and used, for example, to construct models of social and cognitive landscapes, as tools for understanding life in prehistoric and early historic societies. The colonisation of new landscapes, and its effects on people, as well as flora and fauna, provides a series of case studies. Finally, the last part of the course considers funerary archaeology, with an emphasis on the placing of the dead in the landscape. 

Learning outcomes

Primary learning outcomes are:

  • to understand the principles and procedures of landscape studies and environmental archaeology;
  • and thus, to gain an appreciation of the potential and limitations of these methods

Secondary learning outcomes are to be able:

  • to apply the results of landscape and environmental studies to real world archaeological projects; 
  • and to assess realistically the usefulness of their contributions 

Transferable skills

To be able to assimilate diverse information sources; to write about complex issues associated with them and to discuss them; to be able to use and assess quantitative data. 


Note – Lectures are an integral part of the examined syllabus and attendance at all of them is strongly recommended.

Michaelmas Term (16 lectures)

Lecturers: Dr J. Pouncett, & Prof R. Schulting 

Section 1.  Landscape, Material Culture and Society

The section is designed to demonstrate how archaeological data is generated and how it is used to build up a picture of the systems at work in society. Stress will be placed on structured data gathering within carefully formulated research designs and upon the importance of understanding (and accepting) the limitations of archaeological evidence. Examples will be chosen largely, but not exclusively, from prehistoric Europe. 

1.       Approaches to landscapes and landscape archaeology (RS)

2.       Sites, non-sites and sampling (RS)

3.       Landscape archaeology case study: the Avebury World Heritage site (RS)

4-5      Material culture studies and spatial distributions (RS) 

These lectures outline different approaches to material culture studies, including spatial patterning, the use and abuse of distribution maps, and the nature of trade and means of its detection in the archaeological record.

6-7.    Landscape and GIS (JP)

Spatial technologies and building a spatial database, types of data. History of GIS in archaeology. Theoretical approaches, representing space and time, social and economic models, landscape perception, case studies

8.       Contested landscapes: anthropological approaches (RS)

Lecturers: Dr M. Charles

Section 2.  Environmental archaeology of sites and landscapes

  1. Historical and theoretical background to environmental archaeology (MC)
  2. Environmental methods 1: sediments and soils (MC)
  3. Environmental methods 2: plants (MC)
  4. Environmental methods 3: faunal remains (MC)
  5. Glacial to postglacial Britain and Ireland (MC)
  6. Britain and Ireland from the 4th to 1st millennia BC (MC)
  7. Roman Britain (MC)
  8. Britain and Ireland until the Little Ice Age (MC)

Hilary Term (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Dr Elizabeth Ewart, Dr Tom Maltas, Svenja Arlt

Section 3. Food in anthropological perspective 

17.      What is food? (EE)

18.      Food and identity (EE)

19.      Identifying food archaeologically (TM)

20.      Archaeological case studies in food and identity (TM)

Lecturers: Svenja Arlt

Section 4. Colonisation of new landscapes 

21.      The colonisation of islands (SA)

22.      Colonising Australasia (SA)

23.      Colonising the New World (SA)

24.      Uncolonising landscapes: the Norse North Atlantic (SA)

Trinity Term (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Prof. R. Schulting and Prof H. Hamerow

Section 5. Placing the dead in the landscape: funerary archaeology 

25.      An introduction to funerary archaeology (RS)

26.      The dead do tell tales (RS)

27.      Gathering the dead: the origins of cemeteries (RS) 

28.      Monumentalising the landscape: the British Neolithic funerary record (RS)

29.      Landscape and Identity (RS)

30.      From many to one: the shift to individual burial (RS)

31.      Contested landscapes: battlefield archaeology (RS)

32.      Placing the dead in the Anglo-Saxon landscape (HH)

Suggested tutorial topics

  • What is an archaeological site? Discuss how best to approach and study a ‘virgin’ archaeological landscape. 
  • Are distribution maps of artefacts of any value? Discuss with fully presented examples.
  • Compare GIS models of site location with phenomenological approaches to landscape.
  • What do changes in the character of the Avebury landscape during the fourth and third millennium tell us about social change?
  • Contrast the different types of environmental information that can be obtained from, for example, well-drained calcareous, well-drained acidic and waterlogged sites.
  • Compare the environmental archaeology of rural settlements and towns.
  • What happens when humans first arrive in a new landscape?
  • In what ways did the Greenland Norse adapt to their environment, and how can their eventual failure be explained?
  • What caused Late Pleistocene mammalian extinctions?
  • Traditional peoples live in harmony with nature. Discuss.
  • How can studies of landscape history become politicised?
  • How can the origins of cemeteries be explained?
  • What does the change from communal burial in the British Neolithic to individual burial in the Early Bronze Age signify?
  • What does a landscape approach have to contribute to the study of both ancient and modern battlefields? 
  • How do earlier prehistoric or early historic cemeteries and funerary monuments reference the landscape, and how does this change over time? 
  • How does landscape link with identity? What can scientific approaches to ‘identity’ contribute to this discussion? 


Course Co-ordinator: Dr. Damian Robinson (School of Archaeology)


          Phone: 01865 623791

This paper offers the opportunity to make a comparative study of urban or state-organized) pre-industrial societies, using archaeological evidence for their origins and patterns of development, and anthropological insights into their character. It investigates the character and organisation of these societies and asks in what ways power structures of power and inequality have been maintained across a range of early states. The paper explores state formation and political geography; production, consumption, trade and their roles in the working of state economies; power, political exploitation, and how elite and non-elite identities are established and maintained.  There is an emphasis on the common characteristics of towns and cities, such as their role in local and long-distance trading networks and as centres of cultural life.   Particular emphasis is paid to certain periods and regions, such as early Mesopotamia, the eastern Mediterranean in the Bronze Age, the Roman Empire, Late Antique and Medieval Europe, and China, but the questions asked are of general relevance to all pre-industrial societies, and indeed have resonance for societies of today.

Learning outcomes

  • To acquire a broad overview of societies in the Old World and of the social, economic and political systems which underlay them;

  • To understand the processes leading to the emergence and spread of urban centres and networks;

  • To develop a sufficient knowledge of urban morphology to allow comparative studies to be undertaken diachronically and cross-culturally;

Transferable skills

Students will develop their critical ability when assessing archaeological evidence of ‘urban’ development and the use of definitions in the discipline. Students will also learn to evaluate and analyse material culture evidence within the practical sessions.

Recommended reading - general texts

Bang, P. F. and Scheidel, W. 2013. The Oxford Handbook of the State in the Near East and Mediterranean. Oxford.

Broodbank, C. 2013. The Making of the Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean from the Beginning to the Formation of the Classical World (2 million to 500 BC). London.

Clark, P. (ed.) 2013. The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History. Oxford: OUP.

Gates, C. 2003. Ancient Cities: The Archaeology of Urban Life in the Ancient Near East and Egypt, Greece, and Rome. London: Routledge.

Reader, J., 2005. Cities. London: Vintage.

Trigger, B. G. 2003. Understanding Early Civilisations. Cambridge.

Nichols, D.L. & Charlton, T.H. (eds) 1997. The Archaeology of City-States. Smithsonian Institution Press.

Renfrew, C. & Cherry, J.F. (eds) 1986. Peer Polity Interaction and Socio-Political Change. Cambridge.

Sherratt, A., 1993., What would a Bronze-Age world system look like? Relations between temperate Europe and the Mediterranean in later prehistory. Journal of European Archaeology 1:1-57.

Wallerstein, I. 2011. The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century, with a new prologue. University of California Press.

Wolf, E.A., 1982. Europe and the People without History. London and Berkeley.



Michaelmas Term (8 lectures)

The role of urbanization in state formation

Lecturers: Dr D. Robinson, Dr C. Bachhuber, Prof. S. Chirikure, Dr L. Hulin 

1. Urbanitas and city living: an introduction to the archaeology of urban life (DR) 
2. The political economy of the world’s first city-states in Iraq (CB)

3. African challenges to neoevolutionary models (SC) 

4. Secondary state formation: the case of Cyprus (LH) 

Ancient urban landscapes – scales, planning, density, demography 

Lecturers: Dr C. Bachhuber, Dr A. Hein, Dr L. Bendall

5. A question of scale: archaeological approaches to ancient urban landscapes (CB) 
6. Urbanism in pre-imperial China – ‘cities’ or ‘walled sites’? (AH) 
7. Political geography in Bronze Age Crete (LB)
8. Mobile capitals and walls in sub-Saharan Africa (SC) 


Hilary Term (8 lectures)

Production and Consumption 

Lecturers: Dr Tom Maltas, Dr A. Hein, Prof. M. Charles, Dr L. Hulin, Dr D. Robinson
9. Feeding the city (TM)

10. Ceramic production, usage, and exchange: painted pottery in Northern China (AH)  
11. Production, consumption, and disposal in northern Mesopotamia, 3800-3500 BC (MC) 
12. Economic production and social consumption of goods across the Late Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean (LH) 
13. Producing and consuming things in the Roman Empire (DR)

Transport and Trade 

Lecturers: Dr L. Hulin, Dr D. Robinson, Dr E. Standley
14. The maritime revolution: technology and transport in the Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean and Egypt (LH)
15. Maritime trade in and beyond the Roman world (DR)
16. Early medieval emporia and the revival of long-distance trade (ES)

Trinity Term (8 lectures – 2 per week)

Urban Identities 

Lecturers: Dr É. Page-Perron, Dr D. Robinson, Dr I. Jacobs, Dr E. Standley
17. Sumerian communities of the living and the dead (EPP) 
18. Roman urban identities (DR) 
19. Urban architecture and civic pride (IJ)  
20. Later medieval urban identities in Europe: religion, consumption, and households (ES)

Power and Performance 

Dr C. Bachhuber, Dr A. Shapland, Dr D. Robinson, Dr I. Jacobs, Dr E. Standley

21. Monuments and spectacle in the ancient Near East (CB) 
22. Feasting and festivals in the Mycenaean World (AS)
23. Public performance and the expression of power in the Roman city (DR) 
24. Imperial power and urban foundations in Late Antiquity (IJ) 
25. Medieval power and performance in Roman towns (ES)
26. Performance, piety, and place in later medieval urban settlements (ES)

Museum Classes

Three artefact handling classes will be held in the Ashmolean Museum. They are intended to underpin students’ understanding of the material culture of select key areas covered by the syllabus.

Michaelmas Term
The Aegean Bronze Age (Dr A. Shapland

Hilary Term  
The Ancient Near East (Dr Christoph Bachhuber)

Trinity Term 
Medieval Europe (TBC) 

Suggested tutorial topics

  • What sort of significance should we attach to a long-distance exchange in the Bronze Age of the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean?
  • How much did Roman towns in temperate Europe owe to pre-Roman traditions of settlement?
  • What kinds of economic activity were associated with the Roman urban system?
  • What do changes in urban form and function between 200 and 700 AD contribute to understanding the transformation of ancient society?
  • Assess the importance of religion in influencing the forms, functions and development of towns in at least two different societies. 
  • Critically assess the definition of Urban.
  • What is a state? What is a city? What is the relationship between state societies and urbanisation? Is there a necessary link?
  • Secondary state formation: can the emergence of towns in Cyprus be linked to a single commodity?
  • Was there a distinctly sub-Saharan path to urbanism?
  • How are the methodologies of landscape archaeology being developed to study ancient urban landscapes?
  • Use at least two case studies to explain differences and overlaps between economic, phenomenological and spatial (remote) approaches to ancient urban landscapes.
  • Urban planning in early China: fiction or reality?
  • What were the roles and functions of a Minoan palace?
  • How were Minoan palaces and settlements different from or similar to Sumerian city-states? [or Chinese, or Roman]
  • How did patterns of long-distance trade shape ancient cities?
  • Why do rulers move?
  • How did donkeys transform the scale of Bronze Age trade?
  • How did changes in shipbuilding impact upon sailing routes?
  • How are terrestrial trade routes and maritime sea lanes related?
  • Cultures, identities, technologies: what can the distribution of painted pottery in China tell us?
  • Critique the methodologies being used to reconstruct systems of production in early Mesopotamian cities.
  • How far can the evidence for discard and waste management be used to reconstruct aspects of the social, economic, and political life of early Mesopotamian cities?
  • How does diplomacy regulate trade in the Late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean?
  • How do we identify taste in the material record?
  • Discuss the factors that led to the Roman consumer revolution.
  • Urban production was aimed at a local market: Discuss.
  • To what extent were the inhabitants of towns and the countryside consumers as well as producers? 
  • Do the patterns of production and consumption suggest that the Roman world was ‘globalised’? 
  • Use case studies from two Iron Age cities (and relevant plans and images) to explain the spatial and ideological relationship between monumentality, visual culture, and the performance of power.
  • What role did ceremonial banqueting play in the legitimization of political power in the Mycenaean world?
  • In what ways were feasting and festivals involved in the development of Mycenaean identity?
  • Use case studies from two cities (and relevant plans and images) to explain the spatial and ideological relationship between monumentality, visual culture, and the performance of power.
  • To what extent was the ‘performance of power’ in the towns of Late Antiquity in the East AND West merely an imitation of Roman practices?
  • To what extent was the layout of urban spaces designed to accommodate the performance of religious and/or secular power?  Discuss with reference to 3 case studies.
  • Compare and contrast the nature of elite housing with reference to towns from three different regions or time periods.



Course Co-ordinator: Dr Zuzanna Olszewska (SAME)


This paper is intended to consolidate your learning across a number of fieldwork, training and practical opportunities in archaeology and anthropology, including your first-year summer fieldwork and practical classes throughout your second year. It is assessed through a portfolio of written reports from these activities, including the 5,000-word fieldwork report and two practical class reports (each 1,000 words). It includes a series of workshops in ethnographic training methods, with exercises to be completed in advance, and is also linked to the Ashmolean Museum object-handling classes for FHS 4. You must submit one practical report at the end of Hilary Term and one at the end of Trinity Term, choosing to write up any of the practicals you have attended up to that point, as long as one is archaeological and one is anthropological over the course of the year. Attendance at the practical classes is compulsory and will be monitored; if you do not attend any class without good reason, you may lose up to 10% of the marks for this paper. (Please see the Yellow Book for the excusal procedure in case of unavoidable absence). Arrangements for receiving feedback on your fieldwork and practical reports will be communicated to you at the start of the year.

Please see the Yellow Book for submission deadlines for the components of the portfolio.

Learning outcomes

  • To acquire practical knowledge of different methods and approaches to ethnographic research and analysis of archaeological evidence and museum collections;
  • To evaluate the suitability of different methods and approaches to particular field settings and research aims;
  • To develop the ability to succinctly describe, analyse and evaluate the findings of this research in oral and written formats.

Transferable skills

Students will learn a number of methods of qualitative data collection, including interviewing, which may be applied in a wide range of life and professional situations. They will develop their critical ability when evaluating and assessing the quality of this information and different approaches to collecting it. Students will also learn to describe, evaluate and analyse material culture evidence within the practical sessions. They will develop their communication skills in presenting these analyses in group discussions and written form.


Recommended reading – general texts

Banks, M. & D. Zeitlyn. (2015) Visual Methods in Social Research, 2nd edition. London: SAGE

Dresch, P., W. James and D. Parkin (eds.) (2000) Anthropologists in a Wider World: essays on field research. New York; Oxford: Berghahn.

Faubion, J. and G. Marcus (2009) Fieldwork is not what it used to be: learning anthropology’s method in a time of transition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Ingold, T. (2014) That’s enough about Ethnography! In Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4 (1): 383–395.

Ingold, T., & Vergunst, J. (2008) Ways of walking: Ethnography and practice on foot. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Laplante, J., Gandsman, A., & Scobie, W. (2020) Search after method: Sensing, moving, and imagining in anthropological fieldwork. New York: Berghahn.

Pandian, A. (2019) A Possible Anthropology: Methods for Uneasy Times. Durham: Duke University Press.

Skinner, J. (ed.) (2012) The Interview: An Ethnographic Approach. London: Bloomsbury Academic.


Museum Classes

Three artefact handling classes will be held in the Ashmolean Museum, shared with FHS 4 (see listing for FHS 4) – one per term. Please note that although these are thematically linked with FHS 4, they are part of the assessment for FHS 5, and therefore attendance at them is compulsory.


Ethnographic Training Classes

Three ethnographic methods training classes will be held throughout the year, one per term. These will operate on a ‘flipped classroom’ basis, with the instructions/reading lists being released at the beginning of the term, together with a short video from the instructor highlighting main themes, approaches and practical issues that students may encounter. Students will then carry out exercises in pairs and come together to discuss them in the classes. Classes will last 1.5-2 hours and will be convened in Week 4 or 5 of each term.

  1. Michaelmas Term:

Interviewing (Dr. Zuzanna Olszewska)

This session introduces students to the art of ethnographic interviewing, with a particular focus on what makes an interview ethnographic, and embracing a critical approach that understands interviewing as a practice of joint knowledge production rather than simple extraction of objective data. In advance of the session, students will be asked to explore different interviewing techniques with a partner, and to transcribe the interviews in whole or in part to gain experience with transcription software. In the class discussion, we will reflect on the exercise and address the practical and ethical challenges posed by ethnographic interviewing in a variety of different circumstances, including the establishment of rapport and consent, issues of translation, power dynamics and positionality, and the adaptation of interviewing techniques to new technologies, such as online interviewing.

  1. Hilary Term:

Audiovisual Observation Methods (Dr. Chihab El Khachab)

This session introduces students to four audiovisual observation techniques: sketching, photography, filming, and sound recording. Students sign up to carry out one of these methods in pairs, to ensure a mix of methods in the discussion group. The main objective is to enrich ‘classical’ ethnographic observation techniques by generating other kinds of audiovisual data and gaining skills in producing and analysing them. Students will also be encouraged to reflect on any challenges, obstacles or limitations involved in using audiovisual methods, as well as their own positionality. The discussion itself will centre on the question of how spaces are socially constructed using audiovisual material.

  1. Trinity Term:

Photo Interviewing - plus introduction to Pitt Rivers Museum Photographic Collections (Dr. Emily Stevenson)

This session will introduce photo interviewing, or photo elicitation as it is also called, as a method for anthropological research. Established as a formal research method in the 1960s, photo interviewing can be simply explained as the introduction of photographs into an interview context. Whilst this may seem straightforward, more recent uses and discussions of the method have highlighted the complex, varied, and unexpected understandings and relations that it can lead to, as well as the ethical dimensions of using photographs in this way. In advance of the session, students will carry out interviews using personal photographs and come prepared to discuss them. The session will also include an introduction to the Pitt Rivers Museum photograph collections and a consideration of the specific issues involved in the use of archival photographs. 


While this is not primarily a lecture-based paper, you will likely benefit from attending the series Fieldwork: Theories and Methods.

Michaelmas Term (8 lectures)

Fieldwork: Theory and Methods

Lecturers: Dr Zuzanna Olszewska, Dr Susan MacDougall, Dr Charlotte Linton, Prof. David Pratten, Prof. David Zeitlyn, , Dr Emily Stevenson, Dr Miriam Driessen, Prof. Inge Daniels.

  1. Participant Observation (ZO)
  2. Ethics in the Field (SM)
  3. Apprenticeship and Making (CL)
  4. Interviewing (DP)
  5. Digital Ethnography (DZ)
  6. Audiovisual Methods (ES)      
  7. Fieldnotes and Writing (MD)   
  8. Multi-Sited Fieldwork (ID)


In Hillary Term of their first & second year students must choose (in discussion with their tutors) three of the following alphabetically listed options to study. One option is studied in the second year and two in the third year. The selected options shall be chosen in such a way that they constitute three independent, non-overlapping subjects to encourage a wide-ranging understanding of archaeology and anthropology.

For a full list of option papers click here