MSc In Archaeology - All Modules/Streams

The 11-month Master of Science Degree in Archaeology provides an opportunity for students to build on their knowledge from undergraduate studies and to specialise in a particular area of archaeology, while also offering an excellent foundation for those wishing to continue towards research at doctoral level.

The MSc in Archaeology allows subject specialisation, but also flexibility, by combining core modules with your option module, and topics chosen for your dissertation and summative essays. The dissertation allows you to develop a larger piece of research in which you can more fully explore a topic. It will allow you to develop your research skills and undertake self-directed and independent research that is a necessary basis for future doctoral research, and highly desirable in non-academic employment.

You will take two core modules offered within your stream, one List A taught in the first term, and the other from List B taught in the second term. The fourth module is your option module (also from List B), also taught in the second term; this is chosen from all available List B modules in any stream, or a module from the MSt in Classical Archaeology. In some circumstances a subject taught in the MSc in Archaeological Science may be taken as your option module, however this is taught over two terms. You will also take the mandatory Archaeological Principles: Data & Theory.

Please note, not all modules are offered in all years.
In 2022/23, modules marked with a cross (†) will NOT be running. 
In 2023/24, modules marked with an asterisk (*) will NOT be running. 

Subject listing

List A Modules

You will take one List A subject, which must come from your stated Stream.

(C) Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

This course provides a survey of the archaeology of Ancient China from the Palaeolithic to the middle Bronze Age. Each lecture is arranged around a particular set of questions as well as a time period and/or region. In this fashion, this course explores the major cultural developments, focusing on the most important finds in greater detail, while at the same time discussing general archaeological questions and approaches.

The class commences by providing an overview of the environmental back ground as well as the history and organizational structure of archaeological work in China. After setting the stage in this fashion, the course will proceed chronologically, simultaneously covering questions of the emergence of agriculture, settlement patterns, burial practices, beliefs and ritual, complex societies, and early cities.

Module Co-ordinator: Dr. Anke Hein

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module will run in 2023/24. 

Mammoth Bones

Lectures cover the principles of palaeoenvironmental reconstruction as well as exploring examples of how these data are used in archaeological site investigations, and in documenting broad shifts in past climates and landscapes and human behaviour. Examples are drawn from Old and New World settings. Teaching is based around seminars which consider the methods and theories relating to the discipline and its role within the field of archaeology. These themes are then further explored in the field or laboratory as appropriate.

Convenor: Dr. Mike Charles

(C) Susan Silberberg-Peirce, Canyonlights World Art Slides

This course provides and overview of the key issues in landscape archaeology, highlighting the approaches and methods employed in the recording, management and interpretation of the archaeological landscape.  It will explore the theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches which have furthered our understanding of the development of the cultural and physical landscape. 

 

Topics will include:

  • space vs. place
  • funerary landscapes
  • designed landscapes
  • landscape and identity
  • aerial archaeology
  • archaeological prospection
  • historic landscape characterisation

This course will provide students with a robust understanding of the approaches that are used in landscape archaeology, enable them to critically evaluate the datasets that are used to study past landscapes and apply appropriate methods to their own research.

Convenor: Dr. John Pouncett

Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Approaches to maritime archaeology often concentrate on ships and their material remains and while this is an entirely legitimate approach, it can largely ignore the people and the communities that created, sustained and sailed on them.

This paper will provide an overview of key theoretical and conceptual issues relevant to maritime archaeology, and will explore a broad range of social, cultural, technological and environmental issues relating to the creation of maritime societies both on land and at sea. It will examine the development of maritime cultural landscapes and port towns, shipboard societies, and maritime subcultures, alongside themes such as maritime economies, warfare, technological change, and religion, ritual, and superstition. 

The paper will stress archaeological perspectives on maritime societies, but will also draw upon anthropological, palaeoenvironmental, documentary, and other sources of information to offer a holistic approach. In covering this range of themes, the paper will address maritime societies and seafaring through time, from the earliest records of coastal subsistence and movement across the sea through to maritime activities documented in textual sources.

Convenors: Dr. Damian Robinson and Dr. Linda Hulin

Please note: Only one List A Module for 2023/24 for Medieval Archaeology will be running. Either Emergence of Medieval Europe (AD 400 - 900) OR Archaeology of Later Medieval Europe.

This course examines the diverse societies of Europe from the end of the Western Empire in the fifth century to the Viking Age.  It offers an overview of material culture change over a wide geographical region over a period of some 500 years, although the emphasis is on western and northern Europe, including Britain.  

The objective of the course is to understand the social structure and economies of early medieval societies, the complex cultural interactions of in the period and the early stages of state formation.  How did the influences of the late Roman Empire, the early Church, and the 'barbarian' Iron Age peoples of Europe together shape the culture, especially the material culture, of the early Middle Ages?

Although this is a period for which written sources are frequently scarce, it is essential to build up an historical framework from the reading lists provided.

The course is structured thematically and chronologically: the first two lectures provide an overview of ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ societies; Lectures 3-5 deal with social structure (as expressed in votive deposits and mortuary practices), and Lectures 6-8 with socio-economic development (the rural economy; the revival of towns and trade; the impact of the conversion to Christianity and of Viking incursions).  The course also addresses the problems and potential of comparing written sources and material culture.

Convenor: Professor Helena Hamerow

(C) Ashmolean Museum

Please note: Only one List A Module for 2023/24 for Medieval Archaeology will be running. Either Emergence of Medieval Europe (AD 400 - 900) OR Archaeology of Later Medieval Europe.

The option will focus on the period of c.AD 1100 – 1600 in Europe, with an emphasis on western and northern Europe, including Britain. Through the material remains we will investigate this period of dramatic economic, religious and social change, to develop our understanding of daily life and death for medieval populations. The module will cover the following topics: development of historical archaeology, medieval identities, economy, religion & belief, settlements & households, and material culture.

Convenor: Dr. Eleanor Standley

In this module we critically examine the archaeology of Mesolithic-Bronze Age Europe with reference to a series of themes, including:

  • the development of hunter-gatherer societies after the Ice Age
  • the spread and nature of early farming and herding practices
  • changing funerary practices  
  • the increasing application of scientific methods, including 14C dating, stable isotopes and DNA
  • the long-term consequences of farming/herding
  • shifting materialities and identities

This paper aims to engage the student critically with the evidence for human societies of Mesolithic-Bronze Age Europe and the history of thought informing their interpretation. The student should gain a critical grasp of key shifts and themes in European prehistory and their role in the development of archaeological method and theory. The student should also develop a good grounding in the chronology and culture-history of later prehistoric Europe, and recent advances in the application of scientific methods.

Convenors: Prof. Amy Bogaard & Prof. Rick Schulting

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

Convenor: TBD

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module will NOT run in 2023/24. 

Despite the extensive research conducted there over the last three decades, the archaeology of Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa is still largely unknown to most western audiences. This course focuses on two key processes in world prehistory over the last 10,000 years; the development and spread of systems of food-production and the formation of state societies. These processes are examined using data from several regions of Africa in order to illustrate the diversity of the African experience. In addition to this comparative focus, particular themes examined will include the relevance of oral tradition and linguistics to reconstructions of prehistory, the symbolic role of metallurgy in many African societies and the extent to which influences from outside Africa were of importance to the continent's development.

A course of eight lectures provides a chronological and thematic framework for this option, with tutorials offering an opportunity to explore particular issues in greater depth.

All the basic reading for this course is in English, but some knowledge of French is necessary for those wishing to investigate original papers on some aspects of West and Central African prehistory.

Convenor: Prof. Peter Mitchell

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module will NOT run in 2023/24. 

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

Loosely following a chronological line, this option will first survey later 20th century archaeological thought, starting with the notions of culture history, processual and post-processual archaeology. This survey of theories and methods will then form the backdrop to a more detailed engagement with theoretical developments since the late 1990s and leading up to the state of archaeological thinking today.

Convenor: Prof. Christopher Gosden (2022/23), Dr. Alexander Geurds (2023/24)

List B Modules

You will take two List B subjects, one of which must come from your stated Stream. In some circumstances, the second can be taken from modules from other post-graduate taught degrees at the School of Archaeology. 

(C) Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida

This course provides a survey of the archaeology of Ancient China from the Shang to the Qin Period (c. 16,000-208 BC). Each lecture is arranged around a particular set of questions as well as a time period and/or region. In this fashion, this course explores the major cultural developments, focusing on the most important finds in greater detail, while at the same time discussing general archaeological questions and approaches.

The course will proceed chronologically, simultaneously covering questions of the settlement patterns, burial practices, beliefs and ritual, complex societies, craft production, development of writing, urbanization, and finally political unification.

For students within the stream of Asian Archaeology, taking Chinese Archaeology I is a prerequisite, but for students from other streams this prerequisite does not apply.

Convenor: Dr. Anke Hein

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module will run in 2023/24.

(C) Colby College Museum of Art

The tendency, even today, to refer to high quality translucent white wares as ‘china’ harks back to a period where this rarefied material was only obtainable from the East. Yet, the production of Chinese porcelain, with all its global impact, is only one late episode in a complex social relationship between humans and clay that

stretches back almost 20,000 years. This course focusses on the emergence and development of ceramics in prehistoric and historic China, providing both general training in ceramic analysis and the specific context needed by students wishing to specialize in the study of Eastern Asia.

From the first modern archaeological excavations in China—which uncovered remarkable prehistoric assemblages of elaborately painted earthenware—to long-standing research on Imperial kiln sites and the recent discovery of the earliest pottery in the world, archaeological ceramics research has played an important part in uncovering China’s past. Traditional archaeological approaches will, therefore, form the foundations of the course. However, students will also be shown how archaeological interpretations of pottery in the past can be shaped within frameworks drawn from ethnographic, ethnoarchaeological, and historical research. In addition, by connecting Archaeological Materials component of the MSt course, students will be given a general introduction to suitable techniques for the analysis of both high- and low-fired ceramics.

The course will introduce China’s early relationship ceramics and consider how geography and climate help us to contextualize early finds and understand the character of later production. Focusing on concrete examples from the Chinese Neolithic to the Qing Dynasty, the course will show how ceramics can help us to explore innovation, specialization and centralization in production, to both define and transgress the boundaries of cultural units, and to investigate the character of long-distance exchange.

Convenor: Dr. Anke Hein

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module will run in 2023/24.

(C) The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

Please note, there will be changes to this module. 

The forests, grasslands, and deserts of Eurasia create an ecological corridor across the northern half of the continent, bridging an apparent divide between East and West. Understanding the patterns of social connectivity, mobility, and human-environment interaction in this region is currently a major focus of interdisciplinary research.

Addressing itself to students seeking a broader context for developments in China, Europe or the Classical world, this course introduces the archaeology of northern Eurasia from the beginning of the Holocene to the rise of the first nomadic empires. It explores the transformation of Eurasian societies, the transmission of technologies and ideas, and the challenges of working between grand narratives and archaeological realities.

Convenors: Dr. Dylan Gaffney (TBC) and Dr. Anke Hein

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module will run in 2023/24.

 

This module presents the latest (bio)archaeological research into the origins and establishment of agriculture in western Asia, focussing on the Epipalaeolithic-Neolithic but also considering case studies from subsequent periods to illustrate the long-term development of farming. Through lectures, tutorials and museum-based classes we set out the chronological and material culture framework to assess the direct archaeobotanical and archaeozoological evidence for domestication relationships and management ecology in different ecological settings and through time. Geographically we focus not only on the ‘Fertile Crescent’ (the arc of relatively high rainfall extending from the southern Levant in the south-west through Syria, SE Turkey and N Iraq in its central zone and down through the Zagros mountains of Iran in the east) but also on adjacent regions (e.g. central Anatolia) that are proving equally important to the origins story and/or to its longer term consequences.'

Convenors: Prof. Amy Bogaard and Dr. Mike Charles

Seeds

Many current debates in archaeology, ranging from the origins of agriculture to the rise and collapse of urban centres and empires, rely on ideas concerning the production and consumption of plants. This paper introduces the theory and methodology that underpin the analysis of macroscopic plant remains from archaeological deposits. Core topics include the identification of charred and waterlogged plant remains, issues of preservation and recovery, analytical approaches to the interpretation of archaeobotanical data and presentation of results. The practical component of the paper consists of eight laboratory-based classes (2-3 hours each) and covers the key stages of archaeobotanical investigation, from on-site recovery to sample sorting, identification, quantification and data analysis. The tutorial component (five sessions) focuses on principles underlying analytical techniques and broader issues of interpretation.

Convenor: Dr. Mike Charles

  

This module presents the latest (bio)archaeological research into the origins and establishment of agriculture in western Asia, focussing on the Epipalaeolithic-Neolithic but also considering case studies from subsequent periods to illustrate the long-term development of farming. Through lectures, tutorials and museum-based classes we set out the chronological and material culture framework to assess the direct archaeobotanical and archaeozoological evidence for domestication relationships and management ecology in different ecological settings and through time. Geographically we focus not only on the ‘Fertile Crescent’ (the arc of relatively high rainfall extending from the southern Levant in the south-west through Syria, SE Turkey and N Iraq in its central zone and down through the Zagros mountains of Iran in the east) but also on adjacent regions (e.g. central Anatolia) that are proving equally important to the origins story and/or to its longer term consequences.'

Convenors: Prof. Amy Bogaard and Dr. Mike Charles

(C) Mark Weber, World Monuments Fund

This Module provides a practical introduction to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in archaeology.  GIS has transformed the way in which archaeologists manage spatial data, think about spatial relationships and engage the public in research.  The analytical, interpretative and communicative potential of GIS will be explored within the broader context of spatial archaeology, highlighting the methodological and theoretical implications of GIS-based approaches with reference to key case studies.

This module introduces the concepts of space, tools of representation and processes of reasoning which underpin archaeological applications of GIS.  Students will learn how to critically evaluate the methods employed by other researchers and apply appropriate methods to datasets created during practical classes and their own research.

Convenor: Dr. John Pouncett

Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Maritime archaeology can be a very technical discipline and consequently the purpose of the course is to provide an up-to-date overview of the current methods and techniques in maritime archaeology and its allied sub-disciplines of maritime history and anthropology.

The module can include sessions on ethics, survey and excavation techniques, wetland archaeology, approaches to deepwater, interpreting nautical architecture, maritime object biographies, maritime ethnography, presenting maritime archaeology to different audiences.

There are no temporal or geographical limits upon the examples of best and worst practise that will be used in this course.

Convenor: Dr. Damian Robinson

(C) 2006, SCALA, Florence / ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

The course examines the development of seafaring through material cultural and maritime history. It will generally concentrate on the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean and connected regions, although other places and time periods can be investigated if there is sufficient interest.

The main trends in the historical development of seafaring cultures will be examined, including the technological development of both military and merchant ships and their cargoes, the growth of ports and nautical architecture, as well as more synthetic approaches to issues such as the maritime economy, naval warfare, the spread of knowledge, and the growth of polities.   

The nature of the archaeological, textual and iconographic evidence will be discussed in order to understand the limitations and opportunities inherent in each form of evidence.

Convenor: Dr. Damian Robinson

(C) Ashmolean Museum

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

Convenor: Professor Helena Hamerow

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module is still to be confirmed for 2023/24. 

 

(C) Ashmolean Museum

Current estimates and characterisations of religion in Late Antiquity are still largely based on what texts tell us. Yet, ‘material religion’ – one of the most exciting developments in the contemporary field of religious studies – stresses that religion is not something one does with speech or reason alone, but also with the body, the objects it touches and the spaces it inhabits. Moreover, material culture in the form of objects, images and landscapes shaped religion. Consequently, archaeology is an extremely promising resource to gain insight into how people in the past induced experiences of supernatural power. This course scrutinizes seemingly inconsequential archaeological contexts to evaluate how religious considerations were expressed and how salient they were in various aspects of daily life in Late Antiquity. The incredibly rich archaeological record for this topic includes small finds and architecture with religious imagery or texts, as well as unmarked items of which the state of preservation (e.g., unusual traces of wear or fragmentation) or only the archaeological context suggests an extraordinary usage (e.g., as is often the case with building offerings). In-depth study of this material is combined with archaeological theory and theory from religious studies.

Convenor: Dr. Ine Jacobs

(C) Ashmolean Museum

This course investigates the material culture of mainland Britain, focusing on objects that were worn and adorned clothing during the period c.AD 1200-1600. Using archaeological material, and other sources of evidence, the course will examine how these artefacts were used in the daily lives of people, and how their context of use was affected by major social events, such as the Black Death, the Wars of the Roses, and the Reformation. Themes covered will include the history of artefact studies, fashion and consumption, courtship, sexuality, devotion and pilgrimage, magic and protection, and death and burial. A multidisciplinary approach will be taken to understand the themes fully, drawing predominantly on archaeological evidence, but also using material from history, art history, anthropology and related disciplines. Material from the Ashmolean Museum's medieval collections will be made use of, and how medieval material evidence is collected and disseminated will also be investigated.

Convenor: Dr. Eleanor Standley

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module is still to be confirmed for 2023/24. 

 

(C) Ashmolean Museum

The Late Saxon period (c 950-1066) saw England emerge as a unified nation and by the eleventh century its productivity and wealth made it worth conquering – not once, but twice. This course considers key areas of Late Saxon studies to which archaeology has made a major contribution, namely: the development of towns and the economic basis of kingdoms; the nature of the Scandinavian presence in the Danelaw; the origins of the manor; the development of trade and industry; and the exercise of power.  Classes will be seminar-based and will consider specific case-studies as well as current academic debates. Topics covered are:

  • The archaeology of civil defence and frontiers in Mercia and Wessex
  • Scandinavian Impact I:  Economy and Urbanism
  • Scandinavian Impact II:  Identity, rural settlement and burial
  • Exploitation of the Land: Farmers, Lords and the Medieval ‘Agricultural Revolution’.
  • Towns, trade and Industry
  • Archaeology of Governance: Assembly places and execution cemeteries

Convenor: Professor Helena Hamerow

This module will run in 2022/23. This module will NOT run in 2023/24. 

 

(C) 2006, SCALA, Florence / ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

The course covers the urban development of Constantinople from its foundation by Constantine in 324 until its fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Combined archaeological and written evidence forms the basis for study of utilitarian infrastructure (defence, water supply, commercial and harbour facilities, etc.), ceremonial/imperial architecture (palace, hippodrome, honorific monuments), and cult buildings. Key written texts to consult include the Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae (ca. 425), the Miracles of St. Artemius (ca. 650), the Parastaseis syntomoi chronikai (8th c.), the Book of the Eparch (912) and the Book of Ceremonies (6th-10th c.). Material evidence is provided by surviving structures (circuit walls, cisterns, churches, etc.), and excavated sites (Great Palace, Saraçhane, Zeuxippos Baths, etc.). Consideration will be given to the character of the city during its initial period of expansion (4th-6th c.) and in the following periods of recession (8th c.) and economic recovery (from the 9th c.) until its fall to the Fourth Crusade (in 1204) and its final period (1261-1453).

Convenor: Dr. Ine Jacobs

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module will NOT run in 2023/24. 

 

(C) Shmuel Magal, Sites and Photos

The course provides an overview of architectural development from the 4th to the14th century, covering buildings belonging to the secular and religious, public and private spheres. Individual types include urban honorific monuments, administrative buildings, baths, defensive installations, communal accommodation (barracks, inns, hospitals, monasteries), habitation, tombs, churches (basilical and centralized) and synagogues. Building and decorative materials are studied.

Convenor: Dr. Ine Jacobs

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module will NOT run in 2023/24. 

 

viking coins

Viking-Age archaeology has seen tremendous change over recent years: a result of a wealth of new archaeological discoveries, the application of advanced scientific techniques (aDNA, stable isotope analysis, material provenancing techniques), and the field’s embrace of new theoretical and geographic perspectives, all of which has developed alongside growing public engagement with the subject. These developments have challenged established narratives concerning the social structure, landscape and economy of the Viking Age. This course provides students with an opportunity to consider and debate the field’s most dynamic and controversial topics.

Through a combination of lectures, small group discussion, and museum-based classes, students will discuss topics including:

- the timings and motivations of the Viking expansion;

- the construction of gendered and other social identities;

- urban networks and outland resources

- the slave and fur trades

- migration in the Viking Age

- the silver economy

- the materiality of belief

We will evaluate evidence from urban and rural settlements, burials, monuments and portable antiquities, both from within Scandinavia and the Scandinavian overseas settlements. We will assess the latest archaeological and scientific discoveries, developing a source-critical awareness of the limitations of different strands of evidence.

Convenor: Dr Jane Kershaw

This module will run in 2022/23. This module will NOT run in 2023/24. 

Southern Africa has not only produced some of the oldest fossils of anatomically modern humans, but is now producing significant evidence for the origins of recognisably modern forms of behaviour long before the start of Europe’s Upper Palaeolithic. The subcontinent also boasts a rich and well-understood rock art tradition, research on which has produced powerful new insights into rock engravings and paintings elsewhere in the world. In addition, anthropological research in southern Africa has made a significant contribution to both the development of general models of hunter-gatherer economic and social organization and their ongoing critique.

This course provides a broad overview of some of the main recent developments in the archaeology of southern Africa’s hunter-gatherers. The overall treatment is chronological, from the first anatomically modern humans to the current situation of Bushman communities in the Kalahari. Within this framework, the emphasis is placed on changing paradigms in the explanation of the Later Stone Age past and on the relationship between archaeological and anthropological data for understanding social and economic change among hunter-gatherer societies.

In addition to lectures, tutorials provide an opportunity to explore particular issues in greater depth. Some sixteen tutorial topics have been developed so far and students can choose from among these, or request others not yet taken. All the literature recommended for reading for this option is in English and no prior knowledge of African archaeology is assumed.

Convenor: Prof. Peter Mitchell

This module will NOT run in 2022/23. This module will NOT run in 2023/24. 

This course will focus on cultural changes that saw the emergence of our own species: Homo sapiens. Traditionally, it has been accepted that major cultural innovations appeared suddenly during the European Upper Palaeolithic and were initiated by the first anatomically modern humans to arrive in this region. However, such a view has increasingly come under challenge in the light of evidence that Neanderthals may already have had the capacity for modern culture before the appearance of the Upper Palaeolithic, and similarly it has been argued that examples of cognitively complex behaviour can be recognised in the earlier African archaeological record, implying a longer and more gradual development overall. 

A combination of museum-based seminars and tutorials will focus on recent debates on ‘modern behaviour’: how and where did it arise and what were the potential mechanisms for change and innovation that led to more sophisticated tool use, language, self-awareness and group identity in modern humans. Amongst the topics covered will be:

  • Pleistocene human dispersals;
  • The study of Palaeolithic technologies and the use of stone artefacts,
  • Human diet and subsistence,
  • The origins of language
  • The rise of symbolic and artistic expression.

Convenor: Prof. Nick Barton (2022/23), Dr. Dylan Gaffney (2023/24 - Please note, there will be changes to this module).

Cognitive archaeology is a fast-growing field of research dedicated to the comparative study of human cognition from a material culture-perspective. In particular, cognitive archaeology brings together three major related specializations: 1) the study of the biosocial origins and evolution of human intelligence (broadly known as Evolutionary Cognitive Archaeology ECA), 2) the study of the unity and diversity of the human mind (past and present), and 3) the anthropological and experimental study of the interaction between cognition and material culture. The proposed option integrates all three major specializations bringing together the archaeological, the anthropological and the evolutionary dimensions of cognitive archaeology. It offers a critical synthesis of major issues related to the social and bodily dimensions of human intelligence and especially the effects that the changing socio-material environment (artificial or natural) has on humans and upon their minds. The major aim of the option is to explore the nature of the relationship between cognition and material culture—what it is, how it changes, and what role observed transformations in human societies play in forging those links. Using a variety of archaeological and anthropological themes and case studies the option will offer a comparative examination of the impact of material culture on the making and evolution of human intelligence (brain and body) from its earliest beginnings to the present day.

Convenor: Dr Alex Aston

Colonialism has been the dominant element of world history for the last five hundred years and an important aspect of world history for the last 5000 years. The legacy of colonialism is pervasive in today’s societies and archaeology has much light to throw on colonial forms past and present, complementing written accounts and oral histories. A comparative approach to colonial past and present is taken in this module, drawing on perspectives from post-colonial theory, anthropology, world-systems theory as well as archaeology. Material culture from archaeological sites is an important source for the study of colonialism, but so too are museum collections and archival materials. Through its concentration on the material aspects of human existence archaeology has a unique perspective complementing those drawn from many elements of post-colonial theory which do not consider the material world in any great detail. The case studies considered cover diverse geographical areas and time periods. These range from (and are not limited to) early Mesopotamia, Greek settlements, the Roman Empire, the Incas and Aztecs, colonialism in Latin America post-1492, evolution of Swahili settlements in East Africa post AD900, European settlement along the Atlantic coast of Africa and colonialism in Africa post-Berlin Congress of 1884/5. (Please note, there may be changes to the content of this module). 

Convenor: Dr Ashley Coutu

The module ‘Archaeology and the Contemporary World’ considers the place of the discipline of Archaeology in our contemporary world. 

This module will introduce aspects of the history of Archaeology, read through the lens of contemporary global, social, intellectual and political concerns. Through lectures and seminars, the paper explores the discipline’s past not so much as history but as tradition, and not as changing theories or methods but as enduring practices and structures. The aim will be to undertake close readings of significant texts from the disciplinary past and to bring them to bear upon contemporary social and cultural questions facing universities, heritage bodies, museums, and the world today.  

Themes such as Humanity and Objectivity; Decolonisation and Anti-colonialism; Museums and Visuality; Conflict and Violence; Landscape and the Environment; Time and Duration will be covered during the teaching.

Convenor: Prof Dan Hicks

This module will run in 2022/23. This module is still to be confirmed for 2023/24. 

Modules Offered Other Degrees
Archaeological Science Modules

Please note: Archaeological Science Modules are taught across two terms. If you wish to take an Archaeological Science module please contact admissions_masters@arch.ox.ac.uk.

Image of a Macedonian Bronze Age Spectacle Brooch

This course explores the use of scientific analysis of archaeological artefacts to elucidate questions of archaeological interest. We will cover a broad introduction to the study of materials, and specifically materials in archaeological science. We will discuss the fundamentals of material structure for each of the major classes of materials exploited by people across the past (metals, stone, ceramics, glass, organics), the how, where and why of the sourcing of raw materials, as well as the complexity and variation of production processes. Through this, we will also cover the major techniques used in the analysis of archaeological materials, and their strengths and weaknesses, and their usefulness for different kinds of materials and question. At the heart of this course will be the why of analysis, and what it can bring to archaeology.  

This course is taught through lectures, seminars and tutorials, as well as practical laboratory teaching and experimental archaeology. 

Coordinator: Dr. Victoria Sainsbury

 

Bones

Scientific methods are playing an increasingly important role in archaeological research, and this is particularly true of organic materials. Developments in the analysis of stable isotopes, lipid residues, trace elements and ancient DNA are providing new lines of evidence for a host of central questions, including past subsistence and environmental change, migration and genetic origins. This course provides a detailed, critical overview of these topics, both in terms of the techniques themselves, and their archaeological applications. More traditional bioarchaeological analysis of human, faunal, and plant remains also feature.

The taught element of the course involves lectures and seminars that are complemented by interactive sessions involving the investigation of plant, animal and human remains as well as the generation and analysis of isotopic data. It makes use of the ongoing research of both members of staff and researchers to present the latest approaches.

Coordinator: Dr Amy Styring

 

chronology

We need to be able to put past events onto a timescale if we are to understand them properly. Scientific dating allows us to explore the relationship between different sites and regions. Furthermore, chronologies built up from dating and other evidence enable us to understand processes at work in the archaeological record. This course looks at the scientific dating methods most commonly applied, including the practical aspects of radiocarbon, luminescence, tephrochronology and dendrochronology. It also provides an introduction to the use of statistical methods for combination of information from direct dating and other archaeological information. There is a strong emphasis on the critical evaluation of dating evidence.

Coordinator: Professor Christopher Ramsey

 

Classical Archaeology Modules

Please note: Not all Classical Archaeology Modules are taught in compatible terms with the MSc in Archaeology. If you wish to take an Classical Archaeology module please contact admissions_masters@arch.ox.ac.uk.

With the collapse of the palatial system around 1200 BC, Aegean communities needed to adopt new social-economic structures to survive the crisis. The ones which achieved the fastest adjustment were also those which continued to be in contact with communities in the Eastern Mediterranean. The course examines the nature of their exchange with the East, both during the Late Helladic IIIC period and the Early Iron Age. It scrutinizes evidence of such exchanges, providing the essential background for understanding the period which led to the so-called 'Orientalizing revolution'. Study cases include: the revival of communication in the Late Helladic IIIC middle; Euboean enterprise in the East; Cyprus and the Aegean in the eleventh and tenth centuries BCE; Phoenicians and North Syrians in the Aegean; patterns of exchange, from gift-exchange to trade networks.

Course co-ordinator: Professor Irene Lemos

Writing is often seen as a fundamental characteristic of 'civilisation'. When Arthur Evans discovered clay documents at Knossos on Crete, the prehistoric societies of the Aegean joined their western Asian counterparts as 'truly civilised'. This course offers an introduction to the writing and administrative systems used in the Aegean in the second millennium BC, with an emphasis on the Linear B script of Crete and mainland Greece. Major topics include: a cross-cultural examination of the uses of writing and administration; the predecessors to Linear B in the Aegean (Cretan Hieroglyphic and Linear A); the discovery of Linear B and its decipherment; the nature of the Linear B script, its history and pattern of use; what Linear B can tell us about the internal organisation of the major Mycenaean palaces (Pylos and Knossos); what Linear B can tell us about their external organisation; other scripts in use in the Mediterranean. There will also be a practical class using the Linear A and B materials in the Ashmolean Museum.

Course co-ordinator: Dr Lisa Bendall

Although in the fringe of the Greek poleis, Macedonia figures prominently in Greek affairs from the late 6th century BC (during the period of Persian control of the region), because of its resources (timber, gold and silver mines) and its position along trade routes. From the 4th century BC and especially during the reigns of Archelaos and Philip II, it becomes a region fully involved in Greek culture and in the Hellenistic period it was one of the major kingdoms in the Aegean. Following the discovery of the royal burial mound at Vergina, ancient Aigeai, in 1978, there has been a drastic increase in the archaeological exploration of Macedonia and in publications about the history, epigraphy, archaeology and art of the region. Many new sites have been investigated both in the heartland of Macedonia, west of Axios, and in the territories that were annexed by Philip II (Aigeai, Pella, Dion, Veroia, Pydna, Aiani, Thessaloniki, Amphipolis, Philippi, Demetrias in Thessaly and smaller centres, such as Petres). The very rich body of archaeological material from the region gives insight into domestic architecture, the emergence of palatial architecture and administration (palaces at Pella, Aigeai and Demetrias), civic life, funerary iconography and architecture, minor arts (gold jewellery, glass manufacture, terracottas), economic activity, local cults and the representation and self-promotion of Macedonian kings within Macedonia and in the Greek world. In many cases it is also possible to trace developments to the 6th and 5th centuries BC, when Temenid control of the heartland of Macedonia became tighter but also to comprehend the impact of Rome in the region, and the transformation of certain cities such as Veroia, Thessaloniki, Dion into vibrant economic centres in the Late Hellenistic and Roman periods.

The aim of the option will be: a) to examine the material culture of the region from roughly the 6th century BC to the late 2nd c BC and compare it with that of other Greek regions; b) to identify, when possible, what are, local, Macedonian, features in the material record.

Themes that can be explored in depth include: Macedonian cities; funerary archaeology; religion and cult; economic activity; art in Macedonia; Demetrias as a Macedonian city.

Course co-ordinator: Dr Maria Stamatopoulou

This course will focus on the topography and archaeology of Athens and Attica, from the 6th century BC, the period when Athens began dominating international markets to the aftermath of Sulla's destruction. Athens is the single best documented ancient Greek polis: the rich literary, archaeological, and epigraphic evidence allow us to examine the internal changes and the ways in which the city developed over time and negotiated its place in relation to other Greek communities, either as an imperial power in the 5th century BC or as part of the Hellenistic world. Themes that will be studied are: the topography of Athens and major demes such as Rhamnous, Aixonides Alai; the organization of civic space; cemeteries in the city and in the demes; defense systems for the city and the demes; economy and trade (silver mines; pottery production); administration (emphasis on the Athenian Agora); sanctuaries (Athenian acropolis; Rhamnous; Eleusis; Brauron; Sounion); art and iconography.

Coordinator: Dr Maria Stamatopoulou

This option will examine what archaeology can tell us about the life of women in the Greek world. The period covered is roughly from the 8th century BC to the end of the Hellenistic period. The close study of literary, archaeological, epigraphic evidence and the visual imagery regarding women will aim to appraise and occasionally challenge paradigms about women's life and position in ancient Greek society. Themes that will be explored are: the role of women in cult and festivals; women and burial; working women; the adornment of women; education of women; images of women in classical Athens (pottery, grave reliefs); Hellenistic statuary of women; terracottas.

Coordinator: Dr Maria Stamatopoulou

Current estimates and characterisations of religion in Late Antiquity are still largely based on what texts tell us. Yet, ‘material religion’ – one of the most exciting developments in the contemporary field of religious studies – stresses that religion is not something one does with speech or reason alone, but also with the body, the objects it touches and the spaces it inhabits. Moreover, material culture in the form of objects, images and landscapes shaped religion. Consequently, archaeology is an extremely promising resource to gain insight into how people in the past induced experiences of supernatural power. This course scrutinizes seemingly inconsequential archaeological contexts to evaluate how religious considerations were expressed and how salient they were in various aspects of daily life in Late Antiquity. The incredibly rich archaeological record for this topic includes small finds and architecture with religious imagery or texts, as well as unmarked items of which the state of preservation (e.g., unusual traces of wear or fragmentation) or only the archaeological context suggests an extraordinary usage (e.g., as is often the case with building offerings). In-depth study of this material is combined with archaeological theory and theory from religious studies. Themes that can be explored in depth include: decoration of game boards; location and content of building offerings; graffiti applied at entrances; late antique burials; decoration of household utensils; co-existence of artefacts associated with ‘competing’ religions within one context.

Course co-ordinator: Dr Ine Jacobs

 

In exploring the development of towns and their related territories in the first three centuries AD, this course provides an introduction to Roman urbanism and the lively modern debate over how it worked and whom it served. The study of the physical design of the city, its public and private buildings, and its infrastructure, along with the objects of trade and manufacture, is placed in the broader context of the types and patterns of rural settlement, agricultural production, transport and communications. This allows various themes to be investigated, including what it meant to live in a Roman town, and in its countryside, and what contributed to the remarkable prosperity of urban centres before the widespread retrenchment of the third century. Those taking the course will become familiar with the physical character of Roman cities based on representative sites, and with major landscape studies in Italy, Greece and North Africa. Particular attention is paid to problems and biases in assessing the character of the physical evidence; and in testing theoretical models against hard data.

Coordinator: Prof. Andrew Wilson

The Greek polis began to emerge in the eighth century BC as settlements and populations became more concentrated, but the public buildings and sophisticated appearance we might associate with the idea of a city was slower to develop than the initial ideas about statehood. The course studies the material evidence relating to Greek cities from c. 750 to 50 BC, and analyses their physical evolution in relation to the changing conception of a polis. The aim is to relate the physical remains to the political, social and economic developments in ancient Greek societies, and to see how these developed in response to the continually changing historical context. Areas of emphasis will include the physical provision for political institutions, the development of sanctuaries, the choice and use of imagery for public display, domestic architecture and domestic life, and the defence of city and territory.

Coordinator: Prof Irene Lemos

Study of archaeology from the Euphrates to the Hindu Kush in the two centuries after Alexander the Great's conquests is a rapidly developing field, in part prompted by the influx of new evidence from excavations over the last few decades, but also through critical response to early studies and the application of new methodologies and theoretical approaches. This course spans the Seleucid, Parthian, Greco-Bactrian, and Indo-Greek kingdoms, and the territories of local dynasts in Persis, Characene, and Elymais, using an array of material, drawing on numismatic, architectural, archaeological, art historical, and epigraphic sources. Key topics include ruler representation and display, religion, city foundations, and trade, among others. Questions centre around the interplay between Greco-Macedonian and local forms, and students will evaluate what we can learn from the material record about cross-cultural dynamics in this politically turbulent period. Students will engage in appraisal of recent trends in academic debate, such as postcolonial theories of cultural identity and globalization, and are encouraged to develop their historiographical analysis as well as their knowledge of the eastern regions of the Hellenistic world. 

Coordinator: Dr Rachel Wood

According to some views of the ancient world, the Roman economy was stagnant and under-developed; according to others, the Roman empire saw economic activity on a scale unparalleled again until 16th-18th century Europe, with the mass-production of certain types of artefact, agricultural specialisation for export, and considerable amounts of long-distance trade. This course examines the contribution which archaeology can make to that debate, and where between these two extremes the truth might lie. Topics covered include: coinage and the metal supply; the economic impact of technological progress; agricultural specialisation and investment; the use of ceramic data to illuminate trading patterns; the interpretation of shipwreck evidence; the effect of ancient transport technologies on the distribution of goods; urban crafts and the involvement (or otherwise) of elites in non-agricultural activities.

Coordinator: Prof. Andrew Wilson

One of the most fascinating periods in the study of Early Greece is that which starts with the rejection of the palatial system and ends with the appearance of the city-states. The course examines the archaeological evidence from a number of sites (mostly cemeteries and settlements, with the addition of a few cult sites). Broad themes and trajectories in this period are studied through specific sites, such as Argos, Athens, Corinth, Knossos, Lefkandi, and Tiryns. The course also considers recent approaches to the period, with an emphasis on the archaeological study of regional societies and their political and social structures. The transformation of these early communities from their Late Bronze Age past is examined closely, highlighting aspects of continuity and discontinuity and elucidating survival or rejection of earlier social structures.

Coordinator: Prof Irene Lemos

The course covers the urban development of Constantinople from its foundation by Constantine in 324 until its fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Combined archaeological and written evidence forms the basis for study of utilitarian infrastructure (defence, water supply, commercial and harbour facilities, etc.), ceremonial/imperial architecture (palace, hippodrome, honorific monuments), and cult buildings. Key written texts to consult include the Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae (ca. 425), the Miracles of St. Artemius (ca. 650), the Parastaseis syntomoi chronikai (8th c.), the Book of the Eparch (912) and the Book of Ceremonies (6th-10th c.). Material evidence is provided by surviving structures (circuit walls, cisterns, churches, etc.), and excavated sites (Great Palace, Saraçhane, Zeuxippos Baths, etc.). Consideration will be given to the character of the city during its initial period of expansion (4th-6th c.) and in the following periods of recession (8th c.) and economic recovery (from the 9th c.) until its fall to the Fourth Crusade (in 1204) and its final period (1261-1453).

Coordinator: Dr Ine Jacobs

Communities and individuals in the eastern Aegean area made outstanding contributions to literature, philosophy, and art in the Archaic period. This course studies the material and visual culture of early Ionia and the eastern Aegean. Recent archaeological work in major Ionian sites, such as Ephesos, Klazomenai, Miletus, Phocaea, and Samos, also provide the opportunity to study the development of urban space (public and domestic architecture), the growth of funeral display, and the emergence of sanctuaries.

Coordinator: Prof Irene Lemos

This course explores the development of Etruscan civilisation in the first millennium BC and its significance for understanding contemporary and later developments around the Mediterranean. Within a broadly chronological structure, subjects ranging from the rituals of daily life and death to the development of autonomous cities such as Veii, Tarquinia, and Caere are studied using a range of archaeological, artistic, scientific, historical, and linguistic evidence. Emphasis is placed upon close examination of sites and artefacts including, where practical, those held in local museums.

Coordinator: Dr Charlotte Potts

The study of Greek and Roman housing has attracted renewed scholarly interest in recent years, while new discoveries, new detailed publications of individual sites, and new approaches all provide material for a re-evaluation of the nature and functions of domestic space in the ancient world, and in particular its role in the formulation of social identities. This course will explore different approaches to reading domestic space in the Greco-Roman world, including issues of nomenclature and definition, spatial analysis, decorative systems, and artifact distribution, while questions of regional variation, and of the wider urban setting, will also be addressed. While the main focus will be on urban housing from a wide range of sites including Olynthus and Delos in the Greek world and Pompeii and Ostia in the Roman, it will also examine Hellenistic and Roman palaces, and Roman villas.

Coordinator: Dr Janet DeLaine

The new pictorialism of the classical period and later was deployed in the surviving media of tomb paintings, floor mosaics, and domestic wallpainting, as well as in the lost works described by ancient authors. The course studies the following major topics: the beginnings of Greek painting in the archaic period and its relation to ceramic art; fifth-century painting through the oblique evidence of painted pottery and ancient texts on big names such as Polygnotos and Zeuxis; the new evidence of tomb paintings from Macedonia and Thrace in the fourth and third centuries; the redeployment and manipulation of the Hellenistic repertoire in wallpainting and mosaic floors at Rome and Pompeii in the second and first centuries BC; and the use of the different wall systems and categories of painted subject to decorate and articulate domestic and reception spaces in Pompeian houses. The emphasis of the course is on the continuity between the Greek and Roman periods, on the invention and continuous reformulation of a common pictorial repertoire.

Coordinators: Dr Maria Stamatopoulou and Prof Bert Smith

The Greek Coinage option is open to anybody interested in learning about money and coinage in the Greek world - no experience with coins is needed. Through a series of lectures, tutorials, and coin-handling sessions, students will gain an overview of Greek coinage from the beginnings of electrum in the sixth century down to the period of Roman rule. The course will focus on how coins can be used as evidence for the study of classical archaeology and art, exploring themes such as how coins can be used to document patterns of trade, reflect developments in classical art, and provide examples of civic and personal iconography. The Coin Room of the Ashmolean Museum houses one of the finest collections of Greek coins in the world and is a key centre for the study of ancient coins. Students may gain experience of working with coins by participating in a range of volunteer projects based on the collection. The Coin Room also houses the numismatic section of the Sackler Library and maintains an extensive collection of plaster casts and auction catalogues.

Coordinators: Dr Heuchert

This course studies burial practices in the Greek world from the Archaic to the end of the Hellenistic periods. The principal themes that will be explored are the: methodology of mortuary archaeology; treatment of human remains; grave goods; marking; cemetery organization; commemoration of the dead; the question of the heroization of the dead in the post-classical poleis. Besides Athens, sites that can be studied in depth, are for: mainland Greece: Corinth, Boeotia (Tanagra, Thebes, Akraiphion), the Cyclades (Paros, Naxos, Thera, Delos), Rhodes, Thessaly (Krannon, Pharsalos, Demetrias), Macedonia (Aigai/Vergina, Pella, Aiani, Archontikon, Sindos, Amphipolis), Epirus (Ambrakia), Thasos as well as Taras, Metaponto, Syracuse, Acragas in the west; Pantikapaion on the Black Sea; Halikarnassos; Xanthos, the Troad in Asia Minor.

Coordinator: Dr Maria Stamatopoulou

Large statues and reliefs in stone and metal were among the most prominent public symbols in ancient Greek society, and surviving examples retain today a strong visual impact. Dramatic new discoveries, from excavation and shipwrecks, are constantly revising and sharpening our knowledge of this distinctive historical phenomenon. The course studies the sudden emergence of large marble statues in the archaic period, the revolutionary figures that embodied the new visual system that we know as 'classical' in the fifth and fourth centuries, and the major new categories of sculpture that were developed or invented in the third and second centuries -- such as honorific portraits, heroic groups, and genre statues. The course has an excellent resource in the Cast Gallery of the Ashmolean Museum, which contains a collection of some 600 plaster casts of Greek statuary and relief. Subjects include: archaic kouroi; the Siphnian treasury; the early classical revolution; the Olympia and Parthenon sculptures; athletic statuary; grave reliefs; early Hellenistic portraits; the Great Altar at Pergamon; Hellenistic genre; the Laocoon and Sperlonga groups.

Coordinators: Dr Maria Stamatopoulou and Prof Bert Smith

Painted vases give the fullest visual account of life and mythology in ancient Greece, and provide important archaeological data for refining and adding to knowledge of various aspects of ancient Greek culture. The course looks at the techniques and styles, from the eighth to the fourth century BC. The Ashmolean Museum has a fine collection of painted pottery of the period covered by the course, and examples from the collection are used in classes and lectures.

Coordinator: Dr Thomas Mannack

Macedonian kings and Roman emperors employed large painted narratives and grand marble relief pictures to publicise their deeds and exemplary virtues. These pictures were historical in the sense that they represented contemporary and recognisable figures engaged in real-looking actions -- rather than mythological heroes and events. The course studies first the early Hellenistic narratives of Macedonian royal power and charismatic conquest grouped around Alexander the Great. It then looks at the changing narrative priorities of republican dynasts and Roman emperors from Augustus to Theodosius I. The main themes and questions concern the different kinds of historical event chosen and the different ways repeated events and ceremonies are handled, according to context, audience, and changing ideas of royal and imperial power. Historical subjects for study include: Alexander battles; Augustan processions and sacrifice; Julio-Claudian dynastic succession; Flavian triumph; imperial peace and war on Trajanic monuments; imperial narratives in the provinces (Aphrodisias, Ephesus, Leptis); Antonine apotheosis; Constantinian re-cycling of earlier reliefs and themes; imperial ceremony and the sacred court of late antiquity.

Coordinator: Prof Bert Smith

The course follows the 'life' of four major types of objects from the end of antiquity to the present day - sculpture, engraved gems and cameos, coins, and painted pottery. Attention is focused on the discovery, collection, exhibition and scholarship of the objects, and special emphasis is given to the resources for their study in Oxford University's museums and archives.

Coordinator: Dr. Peter Stewart

This course provides an introduction to the countryside and landscapes of the Classical world, and to archaeological means of investigating them. The study of past landscapes employs a range of aerial and surface techniques, and involves consideration of processes of landscape change through environmental and human factors. A large proportion of the ancient population lived in the countryside, and processes of colonisation in both the Greek and Roman worlds had a considerable impact on the structuring of rural landscapes. In particular, Roman land allotment by centuriation divided up many areas in a manner sometimes still traceable through patterns of land tenure today. Greek and Roman large-scale drainage and land reclamation projects radically altered whole regions and brought new land under exploitation. Topics to be studied include: aerial photography; field survey; settlement patterns; centuriation and the organisation of landscapes; landscape changes - natural and human agency; deliberate transformations of nature; water management: irrigation, drainage and land reclamation.

Coordinator: Prof. Andrew Wilson

The course provides an overview of architectural development from the 4th to the14th century, covering buildings belonging to the secular and religious, public and private spheres. Individual types include urban honorific monuments, administrative buildings, baths, defensive installations, communal accommodation (barracks, inns, hospitals, monasteries), habitation, tombs, churches (basilical and centralized) and synagogues. Building and decorative materials are studied.

Coordinator: Dr Ine Jacobs

The course reviews the development of monumental art from the 4th through the 14th centuries, covering floor mosaics, wall and vault mosaics and wall painting. Aspects considered include the Hellenistic and Roman origins of this art, its close links with architectural form and function, the iconography featured, and the `export' of wall mosaics abroad in the 11th-13th centuries.

Coordinator: Dr Ine Jacobs

The course examines the historical development of seafaring communities. It will identify the main trends in the technological development of both military and merchant naval architecture both at sea and on land and examine the changing attitudes of Mediterranean peoples through the development of larger political units and increasing international trade and exchange. The nature of the archaeological, textual and iconographic evidence will be discussed in order to understand issues such as the lack of warships in the archaeological record and the apparent collapse of trade after the 2nd century AD as seen by the evidence of wrecked merchant ships.

The paper can also be used to provide an up-to-date overview of the current methods and theory in maritime archaeology and its allied sub-disciplines of maritime history and anthropology. Contemporary issues in maritime archaeology can also be studied, such as the requirement for a robust legislative framework for the management and protection of submerged sites and the problems with treasure hunting. This area of the course can also draw widely for its examples of best practise and may include case studies from the ancient world of the Mediterranean as well as the medieval and modern periods where appropriate.

Coordinator: Dr Damian Robinson

The gods and heroes of myth lived through their representations, and narratives recounting their deeds formed the subject matter of a large part of Greek and Roman art. While these narratives had their own momentum that can be studied independently in a 'vertical' manner, tracing how given narrative schemes evolved through time (the traditional pursuit of iconographic studies), there is also a strong 'horizontal' or contextual dimension to the subject. The course focuses on this latter aspect and studies how mythological narratives could be re-shaped for different media and contexts of use, how they could articulate contemporary concerns for a variety of local audiences. These contexts and concerns need to be studied too in order to understand the choice and handling of the mythological subjects represented. Drawing on different aspects of its often rich associations, the same mythological narrative might carry different meanings -- for example, in a private and in a public setting, in a tomb and in a temple. The course thus studies both the evolving repertoire of figure schemes and how myth functioned as a powerful refracting mirror -- that is, how its heroes could address contemporary matters but also retained their character and attraction as full-blooded independent beings. Greek and Roman engagement with myth is examined in the following contexts and media: painted symposium pots; temple sculpture; South Italian funerary pots; Lycian tombs; the Great Altar at Pergamon; domestic wallpainting in Rome and Pompeii; mythological sarcophagi; and mythological mosaics in late antiquity.

Coordinators: Prof Bert Smith and Dr Thomas Mannack

 

Coordinators: Dr Lisa Lodwick and Dr Angela Trentacoste

The Roman Empire was powered by the production and processing of plants and animals. Agriculture not only produced staple foods, but also raw materials. Exotic species were introduced on a previously unknown scale, and Roman occupation changed both farming practices and the flora and fauna of conquered areas. The study of organic remains is now a routine practice on Roman excavations, supplemented in recent years by insights from isotopic, residue, and aDNA analyses.

This course will offer an introduction to the production/consumption of plants and animals across the Roman Empire and to the principles and methods employed in their study. The course aims to teach students to interact critically with the bioarchaeological literature (environmental archaeology and archaeological science) and to give students an appreciation of the immense amount of information available from these sources and its relevance to major themes within Classical Archaeology: inequality, connectivity, trade, social and economic change, human health, etc. Although archaeologically driven, students will be asked to integrate scientific data into mainstream analyses alongside artefacts, settlement archaeology, iconography, and documentary sources. The course will enable graduate students in Classical Archaeology to develop crucial quantitative skills and exploit large corpora of biological information within their research, and will develop scholars fluent in current debates and techniques. Themes include husbandry and food production strategies, identifying mobility and trade, patterns of food consumption, and human diet, health and disease.

Pompeii and Ostia are the best-preserved and most extensively excavated cities in Roman Italy, as well as being the most extensively studied after Rome itself. The twist of fate which meant that Pompeii was destroyed just as Ostia was expanding in the later part of the first century AD has led to them being considered as representing two separate and contrasting phases of urban development in Italy, and their different histories of destruction and excavation have often meant that they have been studied in very different ways. In this course the emphasis is on taking the two cities together, exploring the similarities as well as the differences, and using methodologies designed for one site to interrogate the other. The exceptionally rich data-sets available for each city allow detailed analysis of a very wide range of issues, and the course is designed to allow students to pursue topics of special interest to them. Topics covered in recent years include food supply and diet, religion, population and urban zoning, economic structures and commercial landscapes, and housing.

Coordinator: Dr Dominik Maschek

Classical archaeology began as art history with J.J. Winckelmann, and images, monuments, and visual styles remain essential kinds of evidence for understanding Greek and Roman culture. Classical art has traditionally been explained in terms of artistic development, which places most emphasis on the creator-craftsman and locates the main motive forces of difference and change within the image-making process. The main aim of the course is to consider other approaches. It studies the main assumptions of the methods used to study ancient art, concentrating on work in the last two generations; it looks critically at traditional assessments based on evolutionary gradualism and seeks to bring out explicitly the range of other historical factors that might be in play in and around any given ancient image. Such factors include the social milieu of its buyers and public, technical aspects of materials and workshop manufacture, changing ideas about the subject represented, as well as broader mentalities prevailing in the relevant period, region, and user-group.The idea that none of these factors had a fixed or predictable relationship to each other in the way they might affect ancient images is explored through study of recent controversies in the field and the study of periods of rupture in ancient visual history -- looking at the different kinds of explanations that have been and might be offered to account for rapid change and re-orientation. Subjects include: attributions and the role of the artist; style and ethnicity in archaic art; the classical revolution; the Parthenon frieze controversy; the Augustan revolution; the symbolism controversy in funerary iconography; Greek versus Roman in the 'copies' controversy; the re-orientation of art in late antiquity.

Coordinator: Prof Bert Smith

Architecture is the quintessential Roman art and the well-preserved remains of Roman monuments, buildings and engineering works dominate our vision of the empire. Against a background of the development of Roman architecture from the second century BC to the Tetrarchy, presented in a series of lectures, this course comprises a series of seminars exploring what the Romans themselves thought about their built environment. Using the De architectura of the Roman architect Vitruvius as a starting point, the seminars will address: the nature of architecture and the training of architects; the relative merits of different construction methods and building materials; the design of temples; public buldings intheir civic setting; urban and rural housing; and engineering works and machines. Throughout, the emphasis will be ont he role of architecture in Roman society, and on the varied ways that architecture was employed by individuals and communities to express and enhance their status.

Coordinator: Dr Dominik Maschek

The invasion of Britain in AD 43 by the Emperor Claudius saw the beginning of a process through which an island shrouded in mists at the very edge of the known world became incorporated into the Roman imperial system. But how did Britain become 'Roman'? Were the trappings of classical civilization a mere superficial gloss on top of an enduring Celtic society? Or are the changes in material culture symptomatic of a more profound development, through which models of Roman society enabled provincial elites and those lower down the social hierarchy to negotiate and then articulate entirely new identities?

This paper is a case study that examines the development of a provincial society. The main topics considered are the globalizing nature of Roman conquest and incorporation and how this is played out in the physical environment, economy, society, religion and general culture of Britain.

Coordinator: Dr Damian Robinson

Numismatic evidence can shed light on a wide range of questions of historical and archaeological interest in the Roman period. This course, which covers the principal developments in Roman coinage from its beginnings c. 320 BC until c. AD 500, will explore the numismatic approaches to monetary, economic, political, and cultural history, as well as numismatics as a branch of art history. Both hoards and site finds will be examined from an archaeological perspective. Since students are taught by means of tutorials, the course can reflect often individual interests, as well as covering the broad range of the subject. Lectures are normally also available and include an opportunity to handle some of the relevant coins. Students are also encouraged to make use of the collection in the Heberden Coin Room (Ashmolean Museum), which includes 60,000 Roman coins, and is one of the 'top ten' collections in the world.

Coordinator: Prof Chris Howgego

Roman North Africa (covering parts of modern Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco) was one of the most prosperous areas of the Roman world. It produced much of Rome's grain, and exported, among other things, olive oil and pottery in vast quantities. The ruins of hundreds of once flourishing cities may be seen all over the North African countryside today, and the region produced one of the richest and most vital mosaic traditions in the Empire. This course provides an introduction to the archaeology of the region, examining the particular Romano-African civilisation that emerged and its debts to previous local cultures. Topics studied include the urban development of North African cities (including Lepcis Magna, Timgad and Carthage); aqueducts and water supply; agriculture and rural settlement; the army and the frontier system; North African mosaic art; and how and why the once flourishing urban systems were radically transformed in the changing social and political conditions of late antiquity.

Coordinator: Prof. Andrew Wilson

Portrait images permeated the Mediterranean world in the Roman period, in the form of statues, busts, reliefs, coins, and gems, and the sharp definition and careful styling of individual appearance in these media was a widespread Roman norm. An extensive range of subjects and portrait styles emerged to meet the social and cultural complexity of the Roman Empire. The course studies (1) the functional categories of Roman portraits in their contexts of use, such as honorific statues in the public sphere and busts in houses and tombs, (2) the range of subjects, from emperors to freedmen, (3) local preferences, for example, in Athens, Pompeii, or Palmyra, and (4) broad changes in time of portrait practice and portrait style from the late Republic to late antiquity.

Coordinators: Prof Bert Smith and Dr. Peter Stewart

This option is explores the transformation of Graeco-Roman artistic traditions as they were disseminated through the provinces of the Roman Empire. It will concentrate on material from selected provinces, especially Britain, and seek to understand the technical, stylistic, and iconographical differences that emerged when 'Roman' sculpture was produced sometimes far from its Mediterranean roots. It will also consider the varying functions and usage of art in different parts of the Roman world. The themes examined may include: critiques of the concept of 'Romanization'; the meaning of 'provincialism'; the significance of local materials and economic factors in artistic production; gravestones in Britain, Germany and the Balkans; the stone portraits of Palmyra; funerary art in Roman Egypt; Romano-British mosaics; and the question of where 'provincial' art ends in the Near East and beyond.

Coordinator: Dr. Peter Stewart

More large-scale marble sculpture was produced in the early and middle Roman empire than at any other comparable time in antiquity or since. Statues, reliefs, and carved figure compositions were deployed in imperial society for an extraordinary range of purposes and in huge quantities. The course studies the different categories and uses of carved figures, their range of subjects and themes, and their marked changes through time. Particular themes are sculptured monuments in the service of imperial ideas and the interaction of social context and level with sculptural style. Subjects include: late republican interaction with Hellenistic sculpture; the Ara Pacis; the production of imperial portraits; funerary monuments of Roman freedmen; historical reliefs under Trajan (the Arch of Beneventum and Trajan's Column); sarcophagi; sculptural programmes in the Greek East; monuments of the Tetrarchs and Constantine.

Coordinators: Prof Bert Smith and Dr Janet DeLaine

The course involves in-depth study of selected, specific topics in Aegean Prehistory. It is not a general overview of Aegean Bronze Age, but asks students for detailed treatment of specific issues lying in three main areas: application of theory and method to specific problems; study of an individual site or class of sites; study of an individual artefact or class of artefacts.

Coordinator: Dr Lisa Bendall

The city of Rome has been studied in detail longer than any site from classical antiquity, generating a unique field of study based on by far the richest body of evidence available for any ancient city, including literary sources, epigraphic and numismatic evidence, well-preserved monuments and excavated remains. Nevertheless, new evidence and new approaches are continuing to challenge existing interpretations even in repect to such central areas as the imperial fora. The course introduces students to this exceptional discipline by addressing aspects of the nature and development of the city of Rome from the late third century BC to the fourth century AD, with emphasis on broad issues of urban form and function rather than on individual monuments per se. Since students are taught by means of tutorials, the course can reflect individual interests. Recent special topics include: reading urban boundaries; the nature of residential and commercial neighbourhoods; the economics of construction in Trajanic Rome; and the religious topography of the 3th-4th centuries AD.

Coordinator: Dr Janet DeLaine