The Green Book 2022-2023

The Green Book

Course syllabus handbook for candidates taking BA Archaeology & Anthropology in 2022-2023. For previous years see the link to the archive (below right). 


*While we hope that everything indicated herein will go ahead as planned some aspects (such as fieldwork requirements and practical classes) may need to be reassessed depending on the public health situation prevailing in the UK and globally.

Expand All


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 Sackler, 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 Amy Bogaard 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 2022-2023. 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.


Data Protection Act 1998                                                                     

You should have received from your College a statement regarding student personal data, including a declaration for you to sign indicating your acceptance of that statement. Please contact your College’s Data Protection Officer if you have not. Further information on the Act can be obtained at



Michaelmas 2022 

Sunday 9 October

Saturday 3 December 

Hilary 2023

Sunday 15 January

Saturday 11 March

Trinity 2023

Sunday 23 April

Saturday 17 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 mobilize 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 organization 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: Dr Jade Whitlam, (School of Archaeology)

          Phone: 01865 (2)78261

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.

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.


Michaelmas Term [16 lectures]

Lecturers: Prof. S. Chirikure, Dr A. Geurds, M. Leadbetter, Prof. R. Schulting, Dr J. Whitlam

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

2.       Understanding agricultural origins (JW)

3.       Farming and its alternatives: Holocene Sahul (JW)

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

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

6.       First farmers of Western Asia (JW)

7.       Çatalhöyük: a Neolithic village of Western Asia (JW)

8.       Established farming communities of Western Asia (JW)

9.       The spread of farming in Europe (JW)

10.      Established farming communities in Europe (JW)

11.      Origins of agriculture and sedentism in China (ML)

12.      Pathways to food-production in Mesoamerica (AG) [Lecture to be given remotely]

13.      Pathways to food-production in South America (AG)

14.      Pathways to food-production in North America (AG)

15.      Early food-production in Africa (SC)

16.      Early farming communities in southern Africa (SC)


Hilary Term [16 lectures]

Lecturers: Dr L. Bendall, Prof. M. Charles, Prof. S. Chirikure, Dr A. Geurds, Prof. C. Gosden, Dr G. Green, Prof. H. Hamerow, Dr L. Hulin, M. Leadbetter, Dr L. McNamara, Dr J. Whitlam

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 (LM)

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 (CG)

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

24.      Rome and the archaeology of Empire (GG)

25.      Themes in Roman archaeology (GG)

26.      Towns and trade in Early Medieval Europe (HH)

27.      Complex societies in the Americas: Teotihuacan (AG)

28       Complex societies in the Americas: the rise and fall of the Classic Maya (AG)

29.      Complex societies in the Americas: the Inka and the archaeology of empire (AG)

30.      Social complexity in southern Africa: Great Zimbabwe (SC)

31.      Heterarchy, trade and world religions: Africa’s Sahel (SC)         

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

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. Allen Lane

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

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


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.
  • Civilizational 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: athus 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, from urban Indians, to East African pastoralists, to North American gatherer-hunters. However, the main aim is to help students towards an 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 the ethnographic films in the ISCA Video Library (housed at the Pitt Rivers Museum). Catalogues are available in the Tylor and Balfour Libraries. The Video Library also contains copies of the Central Television Series, “Strangers Abroad”, detailing the life and work of Baldwin Spencer, Rivers, Boas, Mead, Malinowski, and Evans-Pritchard, which may prove useful in giving an overview of 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;
  • be familiar with the ethnography of a broad range of contemporary human societies, with reference both to human social relationships and human environmental relationships;
  • have acquired a conception of society as a unit of analysis.

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), Ina Zharkevich (IZ).

  1. Introduction: What is anthropology? (DG)
  2. Where did it come from? (DM)
  3. Egalitarian Societies (RA)
  4. Kinship and Relationality (RA)
  5. Personhood and Gender (RA)
  6. State, Power and Resistance (RA)
  7. Religion and Ritual (IZ)
  8. Witchcraft and Rationality (IZ)

Hilary Term (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Charlotte Linton (CL), Elizabeth (Liz) Hallam (EH), Ina Zharkevich (IZ), Inge Daniels (ID), Dolores (Lola) Martinez (DM).

  1. Anthropology of art (CL)
  2. Approaches to material culture (EH)
  3. The past, present, and future of ethnographic museums (CL)
  4. Gifts and exchange (IZ)
  5. An introduction to economic anthropology (IZ)
  6. Space and the built environment I: Architecture (ID)
  7. Space and the built environment II: Infrastructure (ID)
  8. Ethnography in digital environments: Identity and Fandom (DM)

Suggested tutorial topics

  • In what sense can it be said that people in different cultures ‘think differently’?
  • How is the notion of ‘transition’ useful in analysing ritual?
  • What do studies of contemporary gatherer-hunter peoples tell us about the past?
  • How can ethnographic museum collections be brought alive?
  • How has colonialism affected peoples’ relationship with the landscape?
  • Explore the contrast between ‘conflict’ and ‘consensus’ models of society.
  • Beauty in art is just a matter of personal opinion.
  • Are landscapes natural?
  • How can accusations of witchcraft possibly promote social order?
  • The differences between giving/receiving gifts and buying/selling commodities.
  • Evaluate biology versus sociology in the study of gender.
  • 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: Prof. Nick Barton (School of Archaeology)


Phone: 01865 (2)78240


This is an interdisciplinary course that offers archaeological, biological and palaeoanthropological perspectives on the evolution of the human species.  Beginning in Africa the lectures will consider biological and cultural variation in early African hominins leading to the emergence of our own genus Homo. Themes to be considered include notions of ‘culture’ and tool use, as well as ideas concerning brain size expansion over the last 2.0 million years and the great regional diversity in early hominin behaviour. Topics relating to the successive human dispersals from Africa into Asia and Europe will also be explored as well as the origins of language and the appearance of symbolic and artistic expression in Homo sapiens. Emphasis will likewise be placed on examining the variability of humans across the globe and how some forms such as the Neanderthals became extinct. The adaptation of humans to new environments at the end of the last ice age will form the final part of this lecture series.

Students are encouraged to visit the University Museum, which displays material relating to human evolution.

Learning outcomes

The aim of this paper is to provide an understanding of the broad outlines of hominin evolution using the combined perspectives of fossil and archaeological data, as well as the genetics and ecology of modern human populations.  At the end of the course you should have acquired a knowledge of the major contemporary debates in these fields, have an appreciation of the potential of archaeology and biological anthropology for answering the questions raised and have developed an awareness of the ways in which these different, but related, disciplines complement each other.

Transferable skills

Critical assessment and evaluation of the potential and limitations of archaeological and anthropological evidence.



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

Michaelmas Term (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Prof N Barton, Dr P Ditchfield, Dr R Bobe Quinteros, Dr T. Clack 

1. Culture and cognition across species (TC) 

2. Hominoids and Miocene hominin origins (RBQ) 

3. Pliocene hominin diversity (RBQ) 

4. Australopithecines and early Homo (PD) 

5. Hominin lifeways and site formation (PD) 

6. Interpreting Oldowan tool users (NB) 

7. Homo moves out of Africa: early dispersals towards Eastern Asia (NB) 

8.Origin and dispersal of Anatomically Modern Humans (NB) 

Hilary Term (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Prof N. Barton, Dr T. Clack, Dr R. Schulting & Dr J Whitlam

9.   Populating Europe: early Homo in middle and northern latitudes (NB) 

10. The emergence of Neanderthals and adaptations (NB) 

11. Homo and concepts of behavioural modernity (TC)  

12. The demise of the Neanderthals (TC) 

13. Art and ideology in modern humans (TC) 

14. Cultural transitions and climatic change during the Upper Palaeolithic (NB) 

15. Human adaptations into the Holocene of Europe (RS)  

16. Evolution and the Holocene (JW) 

Suggested tutorial topics:

  • What can animal culture tell us about the human past?
  • Archaeology is not the only tool for understanding human evolution. Discuss.
  • Who were the earliest hominins?
  • What are the dietary niches of early hominins?
  • Were Oldowan hominins like chimpanzees?
  • When did hominins first colonise Asia?
  • When did hominins first colonise Europe?
  • Did early hominins hunt?
  • What can stone tools tell us about past hominin societies?
  • How do we best explain Upper Palaeolithic art?
  • How did humans cope with the changing environments of northern Europe at the end of the Last Ice Age?
  • What is the place of Neanderthals in human evolution?
  • Regional continuity or replacement –which model best explains modern human origins?
  • How do we explain the origins of language?
  • What is the most convincing evidence for the movement of modern humans along the Indian Ocean rim?


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, Prof. G. Larson, Dr Z. Olszewska, Dr A. Styring, Dr L. van Broekhoven, Dr J. Whitlam


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

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

3. Relative chronology (JW) 

4. Absolute chronology (CBR) 

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

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

7. Approaches to the production and exchange of objects (JW) 

8. Scientific analysis of materials (SC) 

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. 

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

Students are required to attend all practical classes, including laboratory work. 

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.


Course Co-ordinator: Prof. Morgan Clarke


Phone: 01865 (2)


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 Weblearn 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 attendance at all of them is strongly recommended.

Michaelmas Term (16 lectures)

Comparing Cultures Part I (7 lectures)

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

Convenor: Dr Zuzanna Olszewska

1. Comparing Cultures (ZO)

2. Kinship (MC)

3. Gender & Personhood (ZO)

4. Ethnicity & Nationalism (DG)

5. Colonialism & Post-colonialism (DP)

6. Exchange (ID)

7. Religion & Ritual (DG)

8. Anthropological Approaches to the Environment (TC)

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

Comparing Cultures Part I (7 lectures)

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

Convenor: Dr Zuzanna Olszewska

1. Comparing Cultures (ZO)

2. Kinship (MC)

3. Gender & Personhood (ZO)

4. Ethnicity & Nationalism (DG)

5. Colonialism & Post-colonialism (DP)

6. Exchange (ID)

7. Religion & Ritual (DG)

8. Anthropological Approaches to the Environment (TC)

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


Theories and Approaches (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Dr Morgan Clarke and Dr David Pratten

1. Theories and approaches. What is theory? (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. History: continuity vs change (DP)

7. Practice: structure vs agency (DP)

8. Power - 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 Zuzanna Olszewska

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

Convenor: Dr David Pratten

1. Uncertainty (David Pratten) 

2. Ethics and Morality (Morgan Clarke) 

3. Emotion and Affect (Zuzanna Olszewska) 

4. Politics and the Political (Gwen Burnyeat) 

5. Multispecies Ethnography, Disaster and Hope (Eben Kirksey)

6. Social Suffering and Dark Anthropology (Ina Zharkevich) 

7. Modernity (David Gellner) 

8. Technology (Rosalie Allain)

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: Inge Daniels (ID), Chihab El Khachab (CEK), Liz Hallam (LH), Charlotte Linton (CL), Emily Stevenson (ES)

Cultural Representations MT22

Wk 1

Histories of Visual Anthropology (CEK)

Wk 2

Social Lives of Things (LH)

Wk 3

Anthropology, Museums, and Extraction (CL)

Wk 4

Consumption (ID)

Wk 5

Photography and Anthropology (ES)

Wk 6

Anthropology, Film, and Cinema (CEK)

Wk 7

Sound and Mediation (CEK)

Wk 8

Digital Anthropology (CEK)


Hilary Term

Cultural Representations Part II (8 lectures)

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

Cultural Representations HT23

Wk 1

Text and Materiality (LH)

Wk 2

Bodies in Anthropology (LH)

Wk 3

Materials: Anthropological Debates (LH)

Wk 4

Material Environments and Spatial Phenomena (ID)

Wk 5

Colonialism, Collecting and Contemporary Debates (TBC)

Wk 6

Anthropology and Archives (DZ)

Wk 7

Anthropology, Art, and Aesthetics (ES)

Wk 8

Anthropology and Design (CL)

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, Dr Inge Daniels

17.      Anthropology of Religion (ID)

18.      Cognitive approaches to ritual (HW)

Anthropology in the World (4 lectures)

[NB. FHS2 topics are covered in Weeks 1-4. Weeks 5-8 fall under FHS1, but you can expect much crossover between the two papers in this series.]

Lecturers: Dr David Pratten, Dr Morgan Clarke, Dr Zuzanna Olszewska, Dr Gwen Burnyeat

19.      Uncertainty (DP)

20.      Ethics and Morality (MC)

21.      Emotion and Affect (ZO)

22.      Politics and the Political (GB) 

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: Dr. Rick Schulting (School of Archaeology)


Phone: 01865 (2)78309

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, & Dr 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: the Hillforts of the Ridgeway. (RS)

4-5      Material culture studies and spatial distributions.

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. (RS)

6-7.    Landscape and GIS.

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. (JP)

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 Jade Whitlam

Section 3. Food in anthropological perspective

17.      What is food? (EE)

18.      Food and identity (EE)

19.      Identifying food archaeologically (JW)

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

Lecturers: Dr J Whitlam

Section 4. Colonisation of new landscapes

21.      The colonisation of islands (JW)

22.      Colonising Australasia (JW)

23.      Colonising the New World (JW)

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

Trinity Term (8 lectures)

Lecturers: Prof. N. Barton, Dr 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 (NB)

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 recent phenomenological approaches to landscape.
  • How is long-term history emeshed in the landscape around Uffington Castle?
  • 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, Dr L. Hulin, Prof. S. Chirikure

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 L. Bendall, Prof. S. Chirikure, M Leadbetter

5. A question of scale: archaeological approaches to ancient urban landscapes (CB)
6. Urbanism in pre-imperial China – ‘cities’ or ‘walled sites’? (ML)
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 Jade Whitlam, Dr M Charles, Dr L. Hulin, Dr D. Robinson, M Leadbetter.

9. Feeding the city (JW)

10. Ceramic production, usage, and exchange: painted pottery in Northern China (ML)

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, Prof. H Hamerow
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 (HH)

Trinity Term (8 lectures – 2 per week)

Urban Identities

Lecturers: Dr E. Page-Perron, Dr D. Robinson, Dr I. Jacobs, Prof. H Hamerow
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 (HH)

Power and Performance

Dr C. Bachhuber, Dr D. Robinson, Dr I. Jacobs, Prof H Hamerow, Dr A. Shapland.
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 (HH)
26. Performance, piety, and place in later medieval urban settlements (HH)

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)


Phone: 01865 (2)81402


This paper is intended to consolidate the learning you have done and will continue to do 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 three practical session write-ups (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 practical classes for FHS 4, reports on which may be submitted as part of your portfolio. You must submit one practical report per term, choosing either the anthropological or the archaeological class – with at least one in each subject 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. You may receive feedback from your tutors on your fieldwork and practical reports from your tutors; please share your drafts with them in plenty of time to receive their comments.

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 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 independently 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. Students will work in small groups to present and discuss their projects and findings with each other, coming together at the end of the class with the instructor to summarise each group’s key findings of the practical experiences and challenges their projects brought to light.

  1. Michaelmas Term:

Interviewing (Dr. Zuzanna Olszewska)

In advance of this session, students will be asked to explore different interviewing techniques. Pairing up with a course-mate, they will interview each other, trying first a structured interview (a fixed list of questions), followed by a semi-structured or completely unstructured interview on a particular topic (e.g. the subject’s life history or a hobby or event). They will also be asked to experiment with open-ended vs. ‘leading’ questions to see what difference these can make. They will then be asked to transcribe the interviews in whole or in part to gain experience with transcription software. In the discussions, online interviews will also be discussed.

  1. Hilary Term:

Photo Elicitation: 'Working Things out Together' (plus introduction to Pitt Rivers Museum Photographic Collections (Dr. Emily Stevenson)

This session will introduce photo elicitation as a method for anthropological research and will involve a visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum. Established as a formal research method in the 1960s, photo elicitation can be simply explained as the use of photographs in an interview. 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 photo elicitation and come prepared to discuss them.

  1. Trinity Term:

Multimodal Research Methods (Dr. Zuzanna Olszewska and others)

This session introduces a number of multimodal research methods, including sensory ethnography, urban mapping, soundwalks, etc. Students sign up to carry out one of these methods, in order to ensure a mix of methods in each class discussion group. The focus will be on ways of enriching ‘classic’ ethnography by stimulating the generation of and gaining skills in engaging with other kinds of data. Discussions will include a consideration of appropriate situations in which each method might be used.



There are no lectures specifically for this paper. However, you may benefit from attending some lectures in the series Fieldwork: Theories and Methods, aimed primarily at postgraduates, or watching some of the lecture recordings later in the year (due to an unavoidable timetable clash, this series conflicts with another core paper lecture).

Michaelmas Term (8 lectures)

Fieldwork: Theory and Methods

Lecturers: Dr Zuzanna Olszewska, Dr Ina Zharkevich, Prof. Inge Daniels, Prof. David Zeitlyn, Prof. David Pratten, Dr Chihab El Khachab, Dr Thomas Cousins, Dr Charlotte Linton.

  1. History and Participant Observation (ZO)
  2. Ethics in the Field (IZ)
  3. Multi-Sited Fieldwork (ID)
  4. Digital Ethnography (DZ)
  5. Interviewing (DP)
  6. Audiovisual Methods (CEK)
  7. Fieldnotes and Writing (TDC)
  8. Working with Material Culture (CL)

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