Option Papers

Option Papers 2023/24

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.

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Option Co-ordinatorProf. Helena Hamerow (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: Lectures and tutorials in HT

Restriction: 5 students only per class

Not Available: Academic year 2023-24


Course Description

In AD 600 the peoples who came to be known collectively as ‘the Anglo-Saxons’ were ethnically diverse, politically fragmented and essentially pagan. By 750, they had emerged as one of the major cultures of post-Roman Europe, with towns, a complex and monetized economy and a network of richly-endowed churches. The fusion of Germanic, Celtic and Mediterranean traditions produced a material culture of astonishing richness and originality, including the Sutton Hoo grave goods, the Staffordshire Hoard, the Ruthwell and Bewcastle crosses and the Lindisfarne Gospels. In this course, ‘material culture’ is defined in its widest sense, to include standing buildings, coinage, manuscripts and sculpture, as well as excavated sites and artefacts. A central theme of the course is the rapid transformation of ‘English’ society and culture in response to renewed ties with the rest of Europe, following the conversion to Christianity.

The course consists of 8 lectures and 8 tutorials and normally includes handling sessions of Anglo-Saxon coinage and other artefacts in the Ashmolean Museum.

Learning outcomes

The primary learning outcomes for this paper are:

  • to understand the key developments in the economy and society of the period c.600-750 (in particular long-distance trade, kingship, towns, the conversion)
  • to explore the relationship between the archaeological and written sources pertaining to these topics.

The secondary learning outcomes are:

  • the development of skills of source-criticism, writing, and synthesizing primary archaeological data.

Transferable skills

These include the ability to evaluate primary sources and to synthesize wide-ranging issues within the framework of a short essay.


Option Co-ordinator: Prof David Gellner (SAME)

Schedule: 8 lectures and tutorials in HT

Available: 2023-24


Course Description

Buddhism, of all the world religions, arguably comes closest to the ideal type of a soteriology or transcendent ideology; it offers a model of personal transformation and social relationships that is radically different from the Abrahamic religions. Its global influence and salience in the modern world, whether in South Asian, Tibetan, Southeast Asian, or East Asian forms, make it a highly relevant focus or way into an understanding of classical anthropological concerns, such as exchange, hierarchy, belief, ritual, migration, modernization, and globalization. The course aims to introduce students to the major themes in the anthropological study of Buddhism across all three major regions (south, north, east), as well as in the globalized extensions in developed countries.

Learning outcomes

  • Familiarity with the main themes of the literature.
  • Ability to analyse and compare ethnographic accounts of Buddhism.
  • A critical awareness of the history of the concepts ‘religion’, ‘Buddhism’, and ‘secularism’.


  1. Introduction: History and reception
  2. Monks, nuns, and laypeople: Gifts and merit-making rituals
  3. Monastic education
  4. Buddhist ritual in the context of non-Buddhist ritual systems
  5. Buddhism and modernity: Anti-ritual, meditation, education, reform
  6. Bhikshunis and laywomen
  7. Buddhism, the state, and violence
  8. Transnational, missionary, and globalizing Buddhism


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. L Bendall (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: lectures in MT and HT, tutorials in MT

Available: 2023-24

(Note: If taking this option in your third year 2023/24 when the specific MC lectures are off, then you will want to have attended the lectures in your second year)


Course Description

This course explores the archaeology of Crete during the Bronze Age, a time of major social, cultural, and political transformation in the Aegean, Near East, and Mediterranean more widely. Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus and Corsica; its insularity allows the examination of internal and external change across clear-cut physical boundaries and the differing ways in which the island has related to wider patterns of economic and political interaction. Crete was a major player in developments which were to have lasting impact in both ancient and modern times, including the early domestication of the classic Mediterranean triad of vine, olive and wheat; the formation of the first state societies of Europe; the opening up of trade routes reaching the western Mediterranean and temperate Europe; and the collapse of the international world order at the end of the Bronze Age. The course will make use of the archaeological materials in the Ashmolean Museum, which thanks to the legacy of Sir Arthur Evans houses the largest collection of Minoan artefacts in the world outside Crete.

Learning outcomes

  • To become knowledgeable about the archaeology of Crete and its interactions within the Aegean, the wider Near East and Mediterranean during the Bronze Age
  • To understand how archaeological evidence is used to reconstruct ancient societies
  • To address wider themes (e.g. state formation, iconography, religion) in a specific context
  • To explore how archaeological and textual evidence can be brought together
  • To consider how the history of archaeological discovery influences modern interpretations of the past
  • To further develop generic skills in essay writing, presentation, and working with material culture

Transferable skills

Critical assessment of a range of sources, essay writing and presentation skills, understanding of approaches to material culture.



Aegean Prehistory [16 lectures of 1 hour each]

  1. The discovery of the Aegean Bronze Age and the legacy of the Early Iron Age
  2. Chronology, environment and the emergence of complex society in the Aegean
  3. The Minoan palaces
  4. Neopalatial Crete: politics and religion
  5. ‘Minoanisation’: art and iconography under the volcano
  6. The early ‘Mycenaean’ mainland and the Shaft Graves
  7. The Mycenaean palaces: iconography, politics and infrastructure      
  8. Aegean conundrums: the fall of Knossos and life in LM IIIA and LM IIIB
  9. Linear B and the Mycenaean economy
  10. Mycenaean religion
  11. Mycenaeans abroad I: life in the Eastern Mediterranean
  12. Mycenaeans abroad II: Homer, Anatolia and the archaeology of Troy
  13. The ‘collapse’ of Mycenaean palace society
  14. The Aegean in the Early Iron Age


Minoan Crete lecture series [8 lectures, biannual]


Aegean Bronze Age Scripts Seminar [4 lectures of 2 hours each]

      1. Introduction to 2nd millennium Aegean scripts; the decipherment of Linear B

      2. Society and political geography

      3. The Mycenaean economy

      4. Mycenaean religion

[There will also be a 2-hour practical session at the Ashmolean Museum open to undergrads who have attended all lectures.]



1. Visit to the Ashmolean with short pottery presentations by students; overview of the material; discussion of chronology and methodology [1.5 hours]

2. Crete in the EBA: interaction with the Cyclades

3. The emergence of palace-based ‘civilisation’ on Crete

4. Minoan religion

5. Cretan writing and political geography in the Proto and Neopalatial Periods

6. Under the volcano: The Thera eruption and its effects on Crete

7. Crete in LM II-III – la Crète Mycénienne?

8. Handling session in the Ashmolean [2 hours]


Lectures on Minoan Crete (8 hours, Michaelmas Term, biannually); also recommended are Lectures on Aegean Prehistory (16 hours, Michaelmas and Hilary Terms), and Aegean Bronze Age Scripts (8 hours, Hilary Term); core teaching for the option is in 8 classes combining traditional essay writing with student presentations and practical handling sessions at the Ashmolean Museum (always in Michaelmas Term)


Option Co-ordinator: Prof. P Mitchell (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: Lectures and tutorials in MT

Available: 2023-24


Course Description

Home to some of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils and now providing compelling new evidence of the antiquity of modern forms of behaviour, southern Africa also has one of the richest and best understood rock art traditions in the world. In addition, anthropological research here has made a significant contribution to both the development and the critique of general models of hunter-gatherer economic and social organisation.

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 and behaviourally modern humans to the present day situation of Bushman communities in the Kalahari. Within this framework, the emphasis is placed on changing paradigms in the explanation of past hunter-gatherer societies and on the relationship between archaeological and anthropological data in understanding social and economic change. In addition to the lectures listed below, eight tutorials provide an opportunity to explore particular issues in greater depth. The extensive southern African collections of the Pitt Rivers Museum are available for teaching this course.

This course can be taken with, or independently of, Farming and Early States in Sub-Saharan Africa

All the literature recommended for reading for this option is in English.


1.       Introduction: southern African origins of modern humans?

2.       Hunter-gatherers of the late Pleistocene

3.       A Holocene overview: history, sequence, diversity

4.       Ecological approaches to hunter-gatherer archaeology

5.       Social approaches to hunter-gatherer archaeology

6.       The social and economic context of Bushman rock art

7.       Foragers, pastoralists and revisionists

8.       Foragers, farmers and colonists


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. P. Stewart (Classics)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in MT, HT & TT plus revision classes

Restriction: Third Years Only

Available: 2023-24


Course Description

The art and visual culture of the Roman Empire is studied in its physical, social and historical contexts. Candidates will be expected to be familiar with major monuments in Rome and Italy and other leading centres of the empire (such as Aphrodisias, Athens, Ephesus and Lepcis Magna) and with the major strands and contexts of representation in the eastern and western provinces. They will be expected to show knowledge of written evidence where relevant as well as of the main media and categories of surviving images – statues, portrait busts, historical reliefs, funerary monuments, cameos, wallpaintings, mosaics, silverware and coins.

Learning outcomes

To understand the development of Roman art of the imperial period and its relationship to contemporary politics and society.

Transferable skills

The transferable skills taught by the course include visual analysis, and the critical distillation of reasoned and well presented arguments from a large body of disparate evidence.


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. I Jacobs (Classics & School of Archaeology)

Schedule: lectures in MT and tutorials in HT

Available: 2023-24


Course description

This course will examine the transformation of Byzantium – the Christianised Eastern Roman Empire ruled from Constantinople – from an antique to a medieval society. Far more than medieval western Europe or the Islamic world, Byzantium claimed to be heir to the Graeco-Roman legacy. The course starts in the 6th century, when the Byzantine Empire still extended from Spain to Mesopotamia and from Ravenna to Carthage. It then traces Byzantine populations during the so-called 'Dark Ages' (7th-8th centuries) and examines material culture brought about during Byzantium’s economic revival (from the 9th century) and political expansion (10th-11th centuries). Lectures and tutorials deal with small and large settlements, monuments, production and trade from the 6th to the 12th century AD. Candidates will be expected to be familiar with typical phenomena such as Byzantine iconoclasm and its influence on orthodox Christianity up until today, the cross-in-square church and so on.

Learning outcomes

  • To gain an overview of the characteristic aspects of the Byzantine world and its material culture
  • To demonstrate an understanding of what unites and what divides Roman and Byzantine centuries
  • To understand and evaluate the vital role of Constantinople

Transferable skills

  • To assess, analyse and criticise various forms of material evidence
  • To compare data from different sources and build up a coherent interpretation
  • To developing critical analytical skills in verbal and written form


  1. General introduction to the period 500-1100
  2. The decline of the Roman and the emergence of the Byzantine city
  3. Rural settlements and households
  4. Archaeology of the Byzantine Dark Ages
  5. Church architecture and Byzantine society
  6. Iconoclasm and Byzantine material culture
  7. Byzantine ceramics
  8. Roads, seaways and trade


Option Co-ordinator: Dr Anke Hein (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: lectures in MT; tutorials in MT or HT

Available: 2023-24

This course provides a survey of the archaeology of Ancient China from the early Neolithic (ca. 10,000 BP) through the Qin period (221-208 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 class commences by providing an overview of the environmental background 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, craft production, the development of writing, complex societies, urbanization, and finally political unification.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course the students are expected to:

  • understand the natural and cultural context of archaeology in China
  • have a broad overview of the major archaeological material from the early Neolithic to the time of the first Emperor of China
  • know the main debates in Chinese archaeology and how they are related to wider discussions in archaeological theory on the one hand and to the history and current situation of archaeological work in China on the other

Transferrable Skills

  • understand the influence of geographic, political, and cultural factors on research undertakings in general
  • think about complex issues based on a variety of sources of information
  • critical reading and evaluation of primary and secondary sources
  • present ideas clearly in speech and writing

Lectures (MT)

  1. Chinese Archaeology in Context: History and Practice of Archaeology in China
  2. Acorns and Grains: Subsistence Practices in the Early Neolithic
  3. Social Inequality and Early Complex Societies
  4. The Origin of Chinese Civilization? From the Longshan Interaction Sphere to Early States
  5. Bronze and Power: Resource Control, Technology, and Ritual from Erlitou to Yinxu
  6. The Shang “Periphery” and the Northern and Western “Frontiers”
  7. The Zhou Kings as seen through Graves and Texts: Issues in Historical Archaeology
  8. Struggle for Supremacy and Unification: From the Warring States Period to the Qin Empire



Option Coordinator: Dr Tim Clack (School or Archaeology & SAME)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in Michaelmas Term

Restriction: 6 students per class only and third years only

Not Available: 2023-24

This option responds to recent studies devoted to connections between culture and conflict, ethical debates taking place within the archaeological and anthropological disciplines, and varied theoretical advances. Surveying examples from the period of nineteenth-century European imperialism to the present era, the course explores the changing relationship between, and expressions of, culture and conflict. It also scrutinises the different roles played by archaeologists, anthropologists and others in different conflict contexts. The course draws on case studies from around the world, particularly Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia. A combination of seminars and lectures focus on contentious issues surrounding, for example, archaeologists and anthropologists in uniform, destruction of heritage prior to and during conflict, use of heritage as a vector of peacebuilding, and the role of heritage (and heritage professionals) in conflict aftermaths. Key topics discussed include: ‘spoils of war’; restitution of cultural property; cultural property protection; iconoclasm and destruction of memory; identity politics; and propaganda and influence. A package of eight tutorials supports these topics.

Learning outcomes
  1. To gain understandings of the relationship between culture and conflict and the changing roles played by archaeologists and anthropologists in conflict settings;
  2. To demonstrate an understanding of the role and mobilisation of cultural heritage in different conflict contexts;
  3. To relate ideas explored in readings, essays and seminars to current world events; and
  4. To critically evaluate relevant ethical dimensions.


Lectures and seminars

Week 1: Political heritage: ideology, power and resistance
Week 2: Colonialism and its aftermath
Week 3: World War I to the present
Week 4: Looting and dislodged antiquities
Week 5: From commemoration and memorialization to iconoclasm and culturecide
Week 6: Conflict aftermaths: displacement, refugees and migration
Week 7: Cathartic Heritage: renewal, therapy and peacebuilding
Week 8: Propaganda and mediatisation of culture in conflict


Option Co-ordinator: Prof. Helena Hamerow (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in MT

(inc. museum handling session in Ashmolean Museum)

Restriction: 5 students per class only

Not Available: MT 2023-24


This course considers the cultural development of Europe from the demise of the Western Roman Empire to the Viking Age.  It offers an overview of material culture change over a wide geographical region during some 500 years, although the emphasis is on western and northern Europe, including Britain.

The more specific objectives of the course are to explore the changing nature of early medieval identity and communities; the forces driving the enormous economic changes seen in this period; and the relationship between material culture and state formation.  What was the influence of the late Roman Empire, the early Church, and the ‘barbarian’ Iron Age peoples of northern Europe on the culture, especially the material culture, of the early Middle Ages?

Themes include: Social Structure in Early Medieval Europe; Graves and Ritual Deposits; High-status Settlements and Burials; Rural Settlement and Economy; Towns and Trade; The Archaeology of the Conversion.

Tutorials include a handling session in the Ashmolean Museum.

Primary learning outcomes for this paper are:

  • to understand the key developments in the economy and society of NW Europe from AD 400-900, in particular those relating to the interaction of late Roman and barbarian cultures
  • early state formation; towns and trade
  • the impact of the conversion
  • changes in the relationship between land and power.

Secondary learning outcomes are:

  • the development of writing skills
  • source-criticism
  • the ability to evaluate primary archaeological data.

Transferable skills

Include the ability to evaluate primary sources and to synthesise wide-ranging issues within the framework of a short essay.


Week 1: The Roman World & the Barbarians I: Central and Eastern Europe

Week 2: The Roman World & the Barbarians II: the West

Week 3: Sacrifice, Social Structure, and Identity

Week 4: The Transformation of Elites: Gift-giving and mortuary rituals

Week 5. Rural Settlement, Farming & Economic transformations

Week 6: The Rise of Town Life

Week 7: The Archaeology of the Conversion

Week 8: The Vikings in Europe


Option Co-ordinator: Prof. P Mitchell (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: Lectures and tutorials in HT

Available: 2023-24


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

The course of eight lectures outlined below proves a chronological and thematic framework for the option, with eight 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.

This course can be taken with, or independently of, African hunter-gatherers. Note that lectures on African topics in Mods I and FHS IV amplify the material covered here and can also be pursued in tutorials.


1.       Cattle before crops: the early development of food-production in northern and Saharan Africa

2.       Food-production south of the Sahara: the Sahel, the forests and East Africa

3.        African metalworking: the origins and significance of iron and copper metallurgy

4.        A Bantu expansion? The spread of iron-working communities south of the Equator

5.       State formation and trade: the West African Sudan

6.       State formation and trade: the West African Forest Zone

7.       Urbanism and state formation in East Africa

8.       History and archaeology in nineteenth-century southern Africa


Option Co-ordinator: Prof. A Bogaard and Dr L Hulin (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in HT

Not available: 2023-24


This paper surveys the archaeology of south-west Asia from the emergence of sedentary lifeways in the late Pleistocene to the collapse of Bronze Age civilisations at the close of the second millennium cal B.C. For the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age, emphasis is placed on the Levant (including modern Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel), to complement the Mesopotamian component of FHS paper 4.  Key issues include the origins and nature of early agriculture, the emergence of social stratification and institutionalised authority and the archaeology of identity in the context of state formation and imperial domination during the Bronze Age.

This option incorporates a practical archaeological approach using the collections of the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers museums. Classes provide an opportunity for object-focussed discussion and complement essay-based tutorials.

Learning Outcomes

You should gain a solid grasp of the later prehistory/early history of south-west Asia, including its chronological and culture-historical framework, the history of scholarship and its broader significance for world archaeology.

Transferable Skills

  • critical assessment and evaluation of the potential and limitations of archaeological evidence;
  • understanding and evaluation of the archaeological process from data collection to publication and subsequent reinterpretation.


Option Co-ordinator: Dr Konstantina Isidorous (SAME)

Schedule: lectures in MT only; tutorials in MT or HT

Available: 2023-24


This paper is not just a ‘feminist’ one! Instead we explore the exciting ‘hardcore research’ that has evolved since the emergence of the feminist movement, and casts an analytical light into feminism as a powerful global movement. As such, it offers far more perspectives of gender/feminist research than standard feminist studies courses and is of interest to those identifying as male too (not ‘just women’!). It will familiarise students with fascinating theories of gender and feminist critique, spanning lots of ethnographic studies and regions. Our aim is to learn how to apply these insights to interdisciplinary analyses across anthropological, archaeological and human sciences research, as well as how to apply the ‘deep theory’ to our own everyday lives. We will explore the various social meanings given to males and females in a wide range of ethnographic settings and the effect of these gender constructs on a person’s identity, access to knowledge and power, role in social relationships, claim to resources and the symbolic representation of gender within each society. The paper also provides an overview of the historical evolution of Feminism, Gender Studies and Queer Studies – moving from an introduction to early feminist questions entering anthropology in the 1960/70s to the shift from ‘sex’ to ‘gender’ in both social and biological perspectives, and the emergence of new theoretical fields that now ask, ‘is the biological entirely social?’ and has our much loved Evolutionary Theory itself got gender right?  

Transferable skills

To develop the skills of critical analysis and diverse comparative ethnographic data; to write about complex issues associated with them and to discuss them; to apply an understanding of the gendered world around us across different subject areas (such as economics, politics, religion, policy making etc) and regions.

There will be eight meetings consisting of 1.5-hour classes incorporating a lecture and discussion. Students will be encouraged to contribute to these discussions. Eight tutorials will be arranged for students to provide opportunities to develop diverse themes within a cross-cultural perspective.


  1. Sex & Gender: developments from early feminist anthropology onwards (Konstantina Isidoros)
  2. Gender & Kinship: Love & Marriage, Sentiments & Strategies (Konstantina Isidoros)
  3. Foregrounding Men & Masculinities (Konstantina Isidoros)
  4. Gender & Archaeology (Lucia Nixon)
  5. Alternative Religious Feminisms – Middle East/South Asia (guest lecturer tbc)
  6. Gender and Expressive Genres (guest lecturer tbc)
  7. Gender & International Development (Konstantina Isidoros)
  8. Two choices: Queer Anthropology or Gender & Evolutionary Theory (Konstantina Isidoros)


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. M. Stamatapoulou (Classics)

Schedule: lectures in HT and TT and tutorials in all terms

Restriction: Third Years Only

Available: TBC


This course studies the visual and monumental culture of classical Greece in depth. Its subjects are the cities, sanctuaries, temples, statues, and other characteristic figured media of the period, such as grave reliefs and painted vases. These things are studied in their physical and historical contexts as vital constituents of classical Greek culture. The course examines the changing functions, styles, and iconographies of figured objects, and looks at how they can be interpreted in terms of contemporary Greek society and politics.  It also analyses the social, symbolic, and economic significance of architecture, particularly monumental public architecture, within Greek cities and sanctuaries.

This period witnessed a revolution in seeing and representing that lies at the base of the western art tradition, and its surviving monuments are sufficiently well documented to allow us to study this revolution in its own terms alongside what it came to mean later.  It forms an interesting test case for assessing what images and monuments can add to our understanding of a period that is also well represented in literary texts. Emphasis is placed on the methods by which figured artefacts may be dated and assessed historically. An ability to read ancient or modern foreign languages is not required.

Learning outcomes

You will be familiar with the most important monuments of the period and with their historical contexts. You will understand concepts of iconography, style, and relative chronology, will appreciate the significance of complex images within ancient Greek society, and will understand the way they operate within different social and political environments. 

Transferable skills

Interpretation of complex images and ability to base valid arguments on them, (2) analysis of opposing opinions and arguments, and (3) ability to weigh primary evidence to reach your own conclusions.

Lectures and classes – Students who wish to take this option must attend 2 lecture series in HT and two revision lecture series in TT. They are also advised to attend 4 lecture series in MT

Greek Sculpture II (must attend)

Greek Vases II (must attend)

Classical and Hellenistic Wall Painting (biennial)

Classical & Hellenistic Art in the Cast Gallery (biennial)

Greek Cities, Sanctuaries, and Cemeteries (biennial)

Classical Greek Art and Archaeology: Revision


Option Co-ordinator: Prof. I. Lemos (Classics)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in MT and HT

Restriction: Third Years Only

Available: 2023-24


This course has two main broad aims: First the study of a period during which Greek society expanded its horizons both geographically and in terms of the complexity of its organization. Second the in-depth study of culture contact between Greece and the different parts of the Mediterranean world (the Eastern, Central and Western Mediterranean).

In the period under study Greek communities turned themselves into prosperous self-governing city-states exercising power that was felt over a wide area. This is also the period when contacts with the non-Greek world played a vital role: trading posts were established in the Levant and later in Egypt, settlements were established abroad in Italy, Sicily, the north Aegean, the Black Sea, and North Africa, and Greeks in Asia Minor came increasingly under pressure from powers further east. Moreover as literary evidence comes to be available, there is a challenge to integrate the diverse literary evidence with the rich material record.

Those taking this paper are expected to become familiar with the material evidence and the most important sites (Lefkandi, Zagora, Athens, Al Mina, Naucratis, Cyrene, Syracuse, Pithekoussai, Motya, Carthage, Huelva). Emphasis is placed on the problems of interpreting the detailed evidence in order to construct a broader picture.  Ability to read ancient or modern foreign languages is not required.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course you should be familiar with the most important Greek artefact types and the main cultures of the areas around the Mediterranean.  More generally you should be able to understand basic processes of cultural contact and interaction, and the ways of investigating social development based on the archaeological record.

Transferable skills

The analysis of visual and material evidence, and the ability to use them alone or in combination with written evidence to create valid arguments and reconstructions.



Option Co-ordinator: Dr Rachel Wood (Classics) 

Schedule: lectures in MT and HT and tutorials in all terms

Restriction: Third Years Only

Available: 2023/24


The Macedonian conquest of Asia brought a forced expansion of the Greek imagination and environment that has left an abundant and varied trace in the visual and material culture of the period. The course studies major themes, contexts, and media of Hellenistic art, set against the dense archaeology of the best-preserved cities and sites of the period – from Macedonia to Bactria, from the Aegean to central Italy. The material includes distinctive categories of object, such as bronzeware, clay seals, gems, glassware, grave stelai, jewellery, mosaics, silverware, statues in bronze, statues in marble, terracottas, and wall-paintings. Major subjects include: (1) the art and cities of the kings at the height of their power in the late fourth and third centuries BC, (2) the visual remains of Greek-local interaction in Egypt and Iran, (3) the monuments of the old city-states that flourished within and between the Macedonian kingdoms, and (4) the complex process of acculturation by which the apparatus and technology of Hellenistic art and material culture were adopted in Italy.


NOTE: There are (1) eight lectures on Hellenistic Art and Archaeology in Hilary Term rotating biennially with the eight-lecture 'Rome, Italy and the Hellenistic East: the Hellenistic East' plus six-lecture 'Rome, Italy, and the Hellenistic East: Rome and Italy' series. There are also (2) six lectures on Hellenistic sanctuaries and (3) four lectures on Hellenistic Sculpture in the Cast Gallery, both given every second year, in Michaelmas and Hilary Terms respectively.

Please note also: The syllabus stays the same every year; the two-year cycle refers to the lectures. Students are advised to go to the main Hilary Term lectures in both years of their FHS -- the lectures are by different lecturers and overlap only partly between the two years. Tutorials are given through the year, and there are two university revision classes in Trinity Term.


Transferable skills

(1) Interpretation of complex images and ability to base valid arguments on them, (2) analysis of opposing opinions and arguments, and (3) ability to weigh primary evidence to reach your own conclusions.


Option Co-ordinator: Dr Caroline Phillips (SAME)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in MT

Restriction: available to Third Years only

Not Available: 2023-24

There are at least 505 species of extant primates, all sharing several characteristics that we use to distinguish them from other mammals. Phenotypic variation across the Primate order is remarkable and yet we are losing it at an unprecedented rate: >60% primates now face extinction. We have an interesting and longstanding relationship with non-human primates – we are primates and yet we threaten the survival of all others through our actions. This course explores our perceptions, particularly in the sharing of ecological and social space with other primates and in our conservation efforts to ensure their survivorship and a sustainable co-existence with our primate relatives. The course is arranged in three sections: primate evolution and behaviour, the threats to primates and a closer look at how we interact with other primates. We begin by defining what a primate is, , how they evolved and why ‘they matter’ and how such a  foundational platform is vital to understand our relationship with and conserve all primates. We then explore five major threats to primates from human activity and perceptions of primates: habitat loss, disease, climate change, trade and resource exploitation. We conclude by questioning the human-primate interface in the past and present, and how the role of conservation education and the decolonisation of primatology is a foundational component for conservation action plans and ensuring the survival of primates in the future.


Course aim: to provide a platform to unravel the complexity of the human-primate interface. From this, to understand how humans relate to other primates, and particularly how we threaten their survival.


Learning outcomes

  1. Explain which characteristics we use to classify a species as a primate and evaluate the significance of this knowledge for reconstructions of their evolution
  2. Compare and contrast major threats to primates, and describe how they interrelate with each other
  3. Identify and account for the different perceptions people have of primates
  4. Demonstrate your broadened knowledge of the complexity of the human-primate interface, but also outline specific examples of human responses to sharing social and ecological spaces with other primates.
  5. Critique, analyse and question interpretations, views, concepts presented on the course
  6. Construct your own thoughts in future directions and actions needed to conserve primates 
  7. Make connections between primate behaviours, threats to primates from human activity and conservation action that may increase survivorship and to create a synthesis of their relationship

Lectures (8 lectures)

Lecture 1: What is a primate, how far do they do back and why do they matter?

Overview of how we classify taxa as a primate, our ancestry as primates and considering why we should conserve primates

Lecture 2: Perceptions of nature

An introduction to aspects of environmental psychology to understand how people perceive their natural world and implications this has for future conservation efforts

Lecture 3: Major Threats I: Habitat loss and climate change

An overview of the impact of both threats, caused by humans, to the survival of primates

Lecture 4: Major Threats II: Trade, disease and resource exploitation

An overview of the impact of these threats, caused by humans, to the survival of primates and the complexity in finding resolutions to conserve primates

Lecture 5: Human-Primate Interface: Past

An historical exploration of the human-primate interface from sharing the same environment with hominin ancestors, to more recent past relationships and what we might learn from this perspective

Lecture 6: Human-Primate Interface: Present

The application of ethnoprimatology to understand current human-primate interfaces

Lecture 7: Human-Primate Interface: Future I - Conservation Education

Exploration of what is conservation education and why it is applied in conservation efforts for sustainable co-existence between humans and non-human primates

Lecture 8: Human-Primate Interface: Future II – Decolonising conservation

To explore past approaches and how we can learn to ensure inclusivity, diversity and equality are the name of the game for conservation of primates

Please note that the lectures are a central part of the course and all students are very strongly recommended to attend.


Option Co-ordinator: Dr Shilla Lee (SAME)

Schedule: lectures in HT and classes in HT and first 2 weeks of TT

Restriction: Available to Third Years only and cap on class number

Available: 2023-24


This course has two main aims; (a) to provide an introduction to Japanese society from an anthropological perspective and (b) to show how the study of Japan can contribute to mainstream anthropological theory.  Major themes which will be covered include notions of personhood, rituals and symbols, time and space, structure and agency, continuity and change, and the construction of ethnic, gender and sexual identities.  It will be possible to study a number of contemporary social institutions in depth, including the Japanese education system, medical system, household and kinship systems, legal and economic systems, new religions, and the worlds of traditional arts and popular culture.  At the micro level, the details of these operations and the ideologies which support them will be examined, while at the macro level the course will explore their relation to other social institutions and the wider political and economic arena both inside and outside Japan.

In Hilary Term, there will be a series of 8 one-hour lectures which will introduce students to the anthropological literature on Japan (details below).  The lecture will be immediately followed by a two-hour weekly class. Students will be able to choose from a list of over 20 topics which ones they would like to pursue in the classes.  Each topic is headed by a key anthropological reading which all those who attend the class must read (copies will be available in the library) and the purpose of the class is to relate the specific readings on Japan (not all of which will be anthropological) to the themes covered in this anthropological text.  Each week, four or five students will be assigned to present position papers to the class; two others will act as discussants. Students will be expected to write up their presentations immediately after the classes in which they presented. In Trinity Term, there will be a class covering a new topic in Week 1 and a three-hour revision class in Week 2.

All students will be required to undertake a piece of assessed work by the end of week 4 of the term in which the classes are taught.  Details will be given during the first class of the term

Learning outcomes

  • To see how an advanced, industrial urban society like Japan can be studied using mainstream anthropological methods;
  • The implications of studying a society like Japan for anthropological theory.

Lectures (8 lectures)

Please note that the lectures are a central part of the course and all students are required to attend.

The Construction of Japanese Ethnicity: An Anthropological Introduction

1.       Issues in the study of Japan: Said and Orientalism

The Functionalist/Essentialist Dominant Paradigm of Japanese Ethnicity

2.       Technology and the changing demography

3.       Homogeneity, minority groups and immigration

4.       The concept of the person

5.       Groupism and hierarchy

6.       Nakane, Doi and the ‘kinship model’ of Japanese society

Critique of the Model

7.       Inherent assumptions and a critique of the ‘kinship model’.

8.       Case study of functionalist versus the conflict models of the Japanese company.


There is a good collection of videos on Japanese society and Japanese films held at Nissan Institute (Bodleian) Library. These are well worth viewing as part of this course.


Option Co-ordinator: Dr Lisa Bendall (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: lectures in MT and HT (tutorials are term flexible)

Available: 2023-24

Note: students should also attend lectures on Aegean Bronze Age Scripts in HT


This course of lectures serves as an introduction to the major sites of the Aegean and their material culture from c. 1700 to 700 B.C. (the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age), with a focus on ways in which archaeological and textual data (chiefly Linear B, Hittite documents and Homeric epic) can be integrated in reconstructing the past.  After an introduction that briefly outlines the development of scholarship in Aegean prehistory and sets the physical scene, the lectures present an overview of the major themes in the material record: the emergence, operation and collapse of complex socio-economic organizations (‘palaces’); the nature and role of representational art; funerary practices and their social significance; monumental architecture, fortifications, and other major engineering works; economic and cultural relationships with the eastern and western Mediterranean and temperate Europe; the transition from a Bronze to an Iron Age and its social and economic implications; the use of the past as reflected both in the material record and in Homeric epic. Knowledge of the Greek language is not required.


Learning outcomes

  • knowledge of the archaeology of the Aegean Bronze and Early Iron Ages
  • understanding of how archaeological evidence is used to reconstruct ancient societies, particularly in combination with textual evidence
  • appreciation of wider themes (e.g. state formation, iconography, religion) in a specific context
  • appreciation of how the history of archaeological discovery influences modern interpretations of the past

Transferable skills

Critical assessment and evaluation of the potential and limitations of both archaeological and other forms of evidence.


  1. The discovery of the Aegean Bronze Age and the legacy of the Iron Age
  2. Chronology, environment and the emergence of complex societies in the Aegean
  3. The Minoan palaces
  4. Neopalatial Crete: politics and religion
  5. ‘Minoanisation’: art and iconography under the volcano
  6. The early ‘Mycenaean’ mainland and the Shaft Graves
  7. The Mycenaean palaces: iconography, politics and infrastructure     
  8. Aegean conundrums: the fall of Knossos and life in LM IIIA and B
  9. Linear B and the Mycenaean economy
  10. Mycenaean religion
  11. Mycenaeans in Anatolia and the archaeology of Troy
  12. The ‘collapse’ of Mycenaean palace society
  13. Life and death in a not-so-Dark Age: Xeropolis and Lefkandi
  14. Old tales and new beginnings: Greeks and Phoenicians abroad
  15. ‘State’ formation once again: moving towards the polis
  16. Who owns the past? Heritage, archaeology, and Aegean Prehistory


Option Co-ordinator: Prof. A. Bogaard and Prof. R. Schulting (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in MT

Not Available:  2023-24

Later prehistoric Europe offers a great diversity and richness of material evidence for key transitions in human history, encompassing the shift from hunting and gathering to farming, the emergence of monumental landscapes, spectacular art and the rise and fall of elite groups. Moreover, the history of thought surrounding this evidence charts fundamental developments in archaeological method and theory.

In this paper we survey the archaeology of later prehistoric 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;
  • the long-term social consequences of farming/herding;
  • shifting materialities and identities.

Lectures provide an overview of the chronology and material evidence for the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Ages, while tutorials critically review past and present approaches to key transitions in different parts of Europe. Object-based classes in the Ashmolean Museum provide an opportunity to examine and discuss key forms of material culture.

Lecture list

1. Mesolithic societies in Europe (RS)

2. Neolithic society in Europe 1: southern Europe (AB)

3. Neolithic society in Europe 2: central Europe (AB)

4. Neolithic society in Europe 3: north-west Europe (RS)

5. Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age society in Europe 1: south and central Europe (AB)

6. Late Neolithic-Early Bronze Age society in Europe 2: north-west Europe (RS)

7. Middle-Late Bronze Age society in Europe 1: south and central Europe (AB)

8. Middle-Late Bronze Age society in Europe 2: north-west Europe (RS)

Learning Outcomes

You should gain a solid grasp of key shifts and themes in European prehistory and their role in the development of archaeological method and theory.  You should also develop a good grounding in the chronology and culture-history of later prehistoric Europe. 

Transferable Skills

  • Critical assessment and evaluation of the potential and limitations of archaeological evidence, including ecofactual/bioarchaeological data
  • An introduction to current theory concerning relations between people and the material world
  • Critical assessment of competing theories and claims
  • Generic skills in developing critical analytical skills in verbal and written form.


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. E. Ewart (SAME)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in HT

Available: 2023-24 


The course introduces students to one of the most exciting and recently studied ethnographic regions of the world, lowland South America. Defined broadly, this cultural area comprises the lowland tropical and subtropical regions east of the Andes, the coastal and foothill regions on either side of the Andes, and other lowland geographic regions, including urban and peri-urban frontier regions.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have gained a general understanding of (1) Amerindian ways of life, and value and thought systems; (2) the ecological, historical and political conditions of contemporary Amazonian countries; and (3) the theoretical debates raised by ethnographic analysis.  Primary aims of the course are to show students a) how the ethnology of lowland South America, through its diversity and debates, is renewing anthropological thinking on a number of key issues; b) ways of integrating data from archaeology, ethnography, linguistics and ethnobiology; and, c) research ethics and questions of representation. The course involves detailed reading and discussion of ethnographic texts as well as visual media.

Transferable Skills

In addition to learning how to identify and systematise bibliographical sources, read critically, develop oral and written skills, and evaluate alternative theoretical approaches to the analysis of society in a particular world, students will also gain an ability to appreciate and comprehend the diversity of thinking in and about the world. Finally, they will be encouraged to think about Amazonianist anthropology in relation to other cultural areas.

Lecture Topics

Hilary Term

Introduction to the region:

  1. Introduction to the region and its peoples: Multiplicity, commonalities and    transformations
  2. Lowland South American societies through time: Views from archaeology, history and ethnography.
  3. Histories of contact – identities, state and indigeneity
  4. Myths and histories
  5. Economies of the rainforest
  6. Nature and society – debates in Amazonianist anthropology
  7. Cosmology
  8. Being and becoming human: Amazonian bodies and relatedness

Trinity Term

  1. Villages and houses: spatial organisations
  2. Transformations: enemies and dead people
  3. Shamanism /Warfare
  4. Review and revision




Option Co-ordinators: Prof. E Hsu and Dr. P Esposito (SAME)

Schedule: lectures, tutorials and ethnographic film viewings in HT

Restriction: Third years only

Available: 2023-24


In this course that straddles Social and Medical Anthropological theories and methods, we discuss ethnographies of ‘ritual healing’ with a focus on the sensory experiences that people develop during this process. Touch, taste, vision, hearing and smell are all examined, as well as the lesser known senses such as kinaesthesia and proprioception, and how they are collapsed during moments of synaesthesia and of all-encompassing acute pain. Our examples suggest that ritual is a process during which culturally-specific techniques are skilfully deployed to produce sensorial effects that affect patients and their carers in ways that enhance health and well-being. Students will draw on and develop their ideas about the anthropology of the body, embodiment and the habitus, and will become familiar with ethnographic topics as diverse as bloodletting and body painting, the body politic and the body ecologic, cannibalism and capoeira, obesity and olfaction, spirit possession and placebo, religion and ritual rhetoric.

Students will be encouraged to go beyond the analysis of healing rituals in terms of symbols, narrative and metaphor. Too often, ethnographers have glossed over the intimate details of rituals, creating a ritual ‘black box’ that neglects to explore which skills and techniques are learned to induce which effects experienced as healthful. By foregrounding sensory experience, we attend to sentient bodies that can be engaged in an ‘education of attention’, during the ritual and also in daily life.

Learning Outcomes

  • The sensory approach fundamentally redefines questions that are pursued separately in biological and social anthropology, in so far as it highlights the fluidity and interdependency of practice and perception
  • Learning how to read ethnography and reframe the read within a different theoretical framework
  • To familiarise oneself with medical anthropological analysis and thinking

Overlaps with other core courses

  • The discussion of the body and ritual, performance overlaps with Arch & Anth Paper 2: Cultural Representations, Beliefs and Practice and with Human Science Paper 5a: Anthropological Analysis and Interpretation.
  • Debates surrounding the anthropology of food and phenomenology overlap with Paper 3: Landscape and the Environment for Arch & Anth students.

Transferable skills

  • Thinking through ethnographies
  • Making connections between different fields of knowledge
  • Learning to appreciate bodily intelligence


Lectures  [Hilary Term 2023]

There will be eight lectures given by Prof Elisabeth Hsu and by Dr Paola Esposito,

4 tutorials, 4 student-led seminars, and 4 film viewings,

1.       Sensory Experience and Ritual Transformation

2.       Play, Performance and Rhythm: Dance

3.       Pain that Awakens

4.       Immersion in Sound: Percussion, Voice, Melody, Music

5.       Immersion in Light, and the Clinical Gaze

6.       Transformative Tactility: Touch, Massage, Manipulation, and Synaesthesia

7.       Odours and Transition: the Rotting, the Dead and the Dreamt

8.       Taste and Distinction: the Substances of Memory, Ecology and Place

Office hours

Prof Elisabeth Hsu: Mondays 9.30-10.30am; elisabeth.hsu@anthro.ox.ac.uk

Dr Paola Esposito: By prior appointment; paola.esposito@anthro.ox.ac.uk 


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. D. Robinson (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: lectures in HT and tutorials in MT or HT

Available: 2023-24 runs biennially


The lectures for the paper on Mediterranean Maritime Archaeology are designed to demonstrate the latest theoretical, methodological and technical developments in the field and also to provide an overview of the rich maritime heritage of the Mediterranean basin up to Late Antiquity. They are delivered biannually, with methods and theory lectures in ‘odd’ years – i.e. 2017 – and history in even years – i.e. 2018.

The purpose of the first set of lectures is to examine the historical development of seafaring within the communities of the Mediterranean basin and their near neighbours. The lectures identify the main trends in the technological development of both military and merchant naval architecture both at sea and on land. They also examine the changing attitudes of Mediterranean communities 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 second set of lectures provides an up-to-date overview of the current methods and theory in maritime archaeology and its allied sub-disciplines of maritime history and anthropology. It will also highlight the importance of contemporary issues in maritime archaeology such as the requirement for a robust legislative framework for the management and protection of submerged sites, the problems with treasure hunting and the necessity to document the fast disappearing traditional lifeways of maritime communities. These lectures will draw widely for its examples of best practise and consequently include case studies from the ancient world of the Mediterranean as well as the medieval and modern periods where appropriate.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course you will be familiar with the important developments in maritime technology, particularly in the Mediterranean, and their socio-economic and military contexts. You will be aware of excavation methodology and maritime archaeology relates to maritime history and anthropology.

Transferable skills

The analysis and integration of complex data sets and the ability to base reasoned arguments on them.


HT odd years: the historical development of seafaring

  1. Introduction to Maritime Archaeology
  2. Egyptian seafaring
  3. Late Bronze Age and Homeric seafaring
  4. Classical Greek seafaring
  5. Hellenistic seafaring
  6. Roman seafaring
  7. Late Antiquity seafaring
  8. Seafaring beyond the boundaries of the Mediterranean

HT even years: techniques and trends in maritime archaeology

  1. Ethics and the law
  2. Maritime ethnography and experimental archaeology
  3. Maritime and coastal landscapes
  4. Shipwrecks and abandoned vessels
  5. Conservation and post-excavation
  6. War at sea
  7. International maritime trade
  8. Maritime infrastructure


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. L. McNamara

(Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Ashmolean Museum)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in MT

Restriction: 10 students per class only

Not Available: 2023-24


The paper will contain questions on the period in both regions from the mid-fourth millennium to the end of the third millennium, which saw the emergence of the world’s first city-state and territorial-state based systems, along with fundamental transformations in social organization. Characteristic manifestations include: development of social hierarchies; early and spectacular monumental architecture and art; long-distance trade and exchange; warfare and fortification of cities; invention of writing and development of bureaucracy. Comparison and contrast of parallel phenomena in the two regions will be emphasized. The interpretation of archaeological evidence of large structures and of writing will be an object of special study, both for the phenomena in themselves and for how they may provide evidence for control of increasingly numerous and differentiated populations.

Learning outcomes

  • To gain a knowledge of the record from the formative period of ancient Near Eastern civilizations;
  • to comprehend issues involved in studying the transition from prehistoric societies to early historic civilizations;
  • to compare and integrate pictorial, written, artefactual, and site-based evidence from two strongly contrasting traditions.

Transferable skills

  • To evaluate theoretical and more narrowly evidence-based approaches to intellectual problems;
  • to combine different types of evidence in building up coherent interpretations;
  • to assess the value and limitations of various types of evidence.

Method of teaching

Lectures on early Mesopotamia and Egypt are available as part of the core course on Civilizations of the Ancient Near East in the Faculty of Oriental Studies. The relevant parts of the course are in Michaelmas Term and are typically four mornings per week. Tutorials will include object handling sessions in the Ashmolean Museum.


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. I. Daniels

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in HT

Restriction: 4 third year students per class only

Not Available:  2023-24


This option explores key anthropological debates about the production, circulation and consumption of commodities through the lenses of markets, religion, and travel. Drawing on ethnographic examples from around the world, but with a particular focus on East Asia, the aim is to critically examine contentious issues surrounding commodification, globalisation and cross-cultural circulation of people and things. Topics discussed include the exchange of commodities within gift economies; the impact of commercialisation upon spiritual forms; tourism and notions of authenticity; money, markets and the ethics of global trade; advertising and visual economies, the Internet and mobile technologies, and disposal and the second-hand economy. All these topics will be explored through a mixture of written texts, photography and film.

The course runs over 9 weeks in Hilary. It consists of two main components that expects the students to work in groups: each week key readings will be presented by one group followed by discussion, while a second group will review a film and lead the discussions after a public viewing. The remaining students are responsible for posting on the OiM blog (Website: http://objectsinmotion.ingedaniels.com).

Every week all students are also expected to complete an assignment.

HT Week 0: Introduction

HT Week 1: Commodities and Gift Economies

HT Week 2: Labour, Money and Markets

HT Week 3: Religion and Commerce

HT Week 4: Between the Local and the Global

--- visit to exhibition in London ---

HT Week 5: Authenticity, Place and Product

HT Week 6: The Internet and Mobile Technologies

HT Week 7: Challenging Commodification 1:The Morality of Consumption

HT Week 8a: Challenging Commodification 2:Anxiety, Magic and Occult Economies

HT Week 8b: Challenging Commodification 3: Waste, Materials,and the Second-hand Economy

[In week 8 the students can choose which topic they would like to focus on]

NOTE: In week 4 or week 5 an excursion to London will be organised to attend two exhibitions that are relevant to the course.


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. N. Márquez-Grant (SAME) & Prof. R. Schulting (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in HT

Restriction: Available to Third Years only and class size of 8 students

Available: 2023-24


Human skeletal remains provide clues about the past to archaeologists, anthropologists and forensic scientists. They reflect the political, cultural, economic, social and ecological context of a particular period and its funerary practices. Many of the techniques employed and even the questions asked are relevant to all three disciplines, such as basic age-at-death and sex estimation, health status, and trauma. Forensic anthropology has the additional aspect of working within a forensic or medico-legal setting, wherein the anthropological analysis of human skeletal remains assists in the identification of the deceased as well as contributing to establishing the time since death and the events surrounding death.

The course provides an introduction to the study of human skeletal remains from archaeological and forensic contexts. The lectures and tutorial classes (practically based) will teach students human anatomy, estimation of age-at-death and sex of the skeleton. Consideration will be given to physical human variation (including cranial morphology, post-cranial anatomical variation and stature), oral pathology, dietary reconstruction and palaeopathology. Within palaeopathology students will learn about the evolution of particular diseases; how to assess the health status of past populations and to understand the biocultural approach to interpreting health and disease in order to enhance the understanding of past and present lives.

Primary learning outcomes

  • to gain knowledge of basic human skeletal anatomy and to develop skills in human bone identification;
  • to demonstrate a basic knowledge of anthropological methods to estimate the minimum number of individuals, age-at-death, sex and stature;
  • to gain knowledge of how human skeletal remains can help us understand past living conditions, lifestyles and funerary practices, for example through palaeodemography, palaeopathology and interpreting these date within a wider biocultural framework;
  • to obtain an awareness of the work of a forensic anthropologist in contexts of individual police cases, human rights investigation and mass disasters

Tutorial essays

Unless otherwise note, to be submitted by email on Fridays before 4.30pm or a printed hardcopy in NMG’s pigeonhole at Wolfson College (Linton Road) on Saturdays by 11.00am.

Tutorial essay titles

[essays to be c. 2500-3000 words except for that relating to Week 1]

Essay 1 (to be submitted at the end of Week 1):

What are some of the ethical issues regarding the excavation, analysis, retention and display of human remains?

Essay 2 (to be submitted at the end of Week 2)

                What is palaeodemography and what are the problems? What methods exist for age-at-death and sex estimation? What are the limitations in age-at-death and sex estimation?                 

                     Essay 3 (to be submitted at the end of Week 3)

What is palaeopathology? What are its problems/limitations including the ‘osteological paradox’? Provide examples of pathological conditions which can be found in archaeological human remains. How is health and disease influenced by other factors (e.g. climate, socio-economic status, population density) and what is meant by employing a ‘biocultural approach’ when interpreting or reconstruction health and disease from ancient populations?­­­

Essay 4 (to be submitted to Dr Rick Schulting at the end of Week 4)

How secure can we be in our identification of cranial injuries as ‘perimortem’, and, even assuming this, can we then go on to identify them as the cause of death?

There is a large literature on this topic, which you are encouraged to explore on your own. The papers below are intended to provide a starting point. Berryman and Haun 1996 is particularly useful (though one image of how cranial trauma ‘works’ is slightly confusing).

Essay 5 (to be submitted at the end of Week 5)

How can we reconstruct the diet and nutrition of ancient populations?

Essay 6 (to be submitted at the end of Week 6)

What is the role of the forensic anthropologist? With the upsurge for DNA for victim identification, is anthropology still relevant or necessary?

Essay 7 (Essay 6 (to be submitted to Dr Rick Schulting at the end of Week 6)

How can stable isotopes help identify a person’s origins, and how well does this evidence stand up? 

In Week 8, there will be an assessment of your recording of a skeleton you will have studied on Monday Week 8.


Option Co-ordinator: Prof. A. Wilson (Faculty of Classics/School of Archaeology)

Schedule: lectures in MT and HT, tutorials flexible. Revision classes in TT

Restriction: Third Years Only

Available: 2023-24


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 the role of cities in the Roman economy.

Those taking the course will become familiar with the physical character of Roman cities based on selected representative sites (primarily Corinth, Carthage, Caesarea Maritima, Palmyra, Lepcis Magna, Verulamium [St Albans] and Silchester) 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.  Evidence from written sources will be incorporated where appropriate, but an ability to read ancient languages is not required. 

Learning outcomes

  • to understand the nature and development of Roman urbanism through the material remains;
  • to understand the methods and techniques used to investigate Roman landscapes and human settlement within them;
  • to be able to assess critically the contribution that archaeology is able to make to the debate over the nature and economic role of Roman cities.

Transferable skills

The transferable skills taught by the course include the critical distillation of reasoned and well presented arguments from a large body of disparate evidence.


LECTURES 16 in Michaelmas Term, 8 in Hilary Term

Roman Archaeology: Cities and Settlements under the Empire. I. Settlement themes (Michaelmas Term, Mondays)

Prof. Andrew Wilson

This lecture course is one of two series running in parallel in Michaelmas Term (the other is Roman Archaeology: Cities and Settlements under the Empire. II: Urban Case Studies). The course covers questions and themes on rural settlement, trade and economy, and city-countryside relations. 

1.       Wk 1: Roman urbanism – themes and questions

2.       Wk 2: Euergetism and urban development

3.       Wk 3: Hydraulic engineering and water supply

4.       Wk 4: Cities of the dead

5.       Wk 5: Field survey

6.       Wk 6: The villa and agricultural production

7.       Wk 7: Villages, small towns and the rural settlement hierarchy

8.       Wk 8: The army and the frontiers

Roman Archaeology: Cities and Settlements under the Empire. II. Urban case studies (Michaelmas Term, Mondays)

Prof. A. Wilson

This is the second of two series running in parallel in Michaelmas Term (the other is Roman Archaeology: Cities and Settlements under the Empire I: Settlement themes). This course provides an introduction to Roman cities, how they were laid out, what they looked like, how they functioned and what it was like to live in them. A general introduction on town planning is followed by case studies of different cities from across the whole of the Roman Empire, and a final lecture on the economic role of Roman cities.

9.       Wk 1: Roman urbanism – town planning

10.      Wk 2: Lepcis Magna

11.      Wk 3: Carthage

12.      Wk 4: Corinth

13.      Wk 5: Caesarea Maritima

14.      Wk 6: Palmyra

15.      Wk 7: Silchester and Verulamium

16.      Wk 8: Cities and the Roman economy

Two further courses are offered in alternate years:

The Archaeology of the Roman Economy (Hilary Term 2022, Mondays)

Prof. A. Wilson

17.      Wk 1: Approaches to the Roman Economy

18.      Wk 2: Climate, Environment, and Disease

19.      Wk 3: The Archaeology of Economic Institutions

20.      Wk 4: Developments in maritime trade

21.      Wk 5: Indo-Roman trade and the state

22.      Wk 6: Roman technology: the possibilities and limits for preindustrial growth

23.      Wk 7: Before the pin factory: Division of labour and mass production

24.      Wk 8: Mining, metal supply, and the supply of money

Roman Urban Living: Object-based class in the Ashmolean (Hilary Term 2023, Mondays)

Prof. A. Wilson

17.      Wk 1: The urban fabric

18.      Wk 2: Domestic life

19.      Wk 3: Food and diet

20.      Wk 4: Personal adornment, grooming and health

21.      Wk 5: Leisure

22.      Wk 6: Work, trade and crafts

23.      Wk 7: Religion  

24.      Wk 8: Death and burial


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. J-L. Schwenninger (School of Archaeology)

Schedule: Lectures & tutorials in MT and HT

Restriction: 6 students per class

Available: 2023-24

This course provides an introduction to archaeological sciences, concentrating on three principle areas. It will be of interest to students wishing to take a scientific direction in their archaeological studies, as well as for those who wish to understand the general foundations of science-based evidence in the discipline and the nature of that evidence. Each section has 6 formal classes in which the essential components are outlined (total 18 lectures), and 2 tutorials during which we further discuss appropriate case studies, problems and essays (total 6 tutorials).   

In Materials analysis of artefacts we discuss the background to the application of materials science to archaeological artefacts, with an emphasis on the main methods in current use, such as petrology, microscopy (of various kinds), chemical and isotopic analysis, and chromatography. The lectures follow the classification of the materials, e.g. ceramics, metals, glass and organic materials.

Biomolecular approaches to diet are focused on the retrieval of chemical evidence from skeletal tissues for addressing questions about human diet in the past. We concentrate on the recovery and interpretation of stable isotope information from bones and teeth, complemented by proteomic studies and chemical and isotopic evidence from organic residues in potsherds. We also consider the taphonomic issues associated with the preservation of these chemical signals and the difficulties that can accompany the interpretation of these different lines of evidence.   

The Dating methods section deals with a variety of current and developing approaches to establishing absolute chronology. The main emphasis is on radiocarbon dating but we also discuss a suit of other techniques, both established and emerging. Some of these have been developed to address chronology at greater age depths (luminescence and uranium series dating) or to enhance precision (tephrochronology) where required. 

Learning outcomes 

On completion students should have gained an understanding of the main principles of these approaches, the nature of accumulating and changing knowledge, and the experimental basis for expanding that enquiry. They should be able to read, and critically assess, research papers contributing to the field. They will develop an understanding that to be effective such approaches must be placed firmly within their archaeological contexts.  

Transferable skills 

  • Critical assessment in evaluating specific research issues and scientific techniques. 
  • Understanding the scientific foundations. 
  • Evaluation, validation and manipulation of quantitative data. 
  • Presentation of an argument supported by evidence.


Michaelmas term [9 lectures]


1 Scientific analysis of archaeological materials

Week 1: 11th October, 12:00-13:00 Dr Victoria Sainsbury

Application of materials science to archaeological artefacts and introduction to the main methods in current use.

Week 2:  18th October, 12:00-13:00 Prof Shadreck Chirikure

Scientific analysis of metals in archaeology.

Week 3:  25th October, 12:00-13:00 Prof Shadreck Chirikure

Metals in society: technology, organisation of production, value, etc.

Week 4: 1st November, 12:00-13:00 Dr Victoria Sainsbury

Analysis of glass.

Week 5: 8th November, 12:00-13:00 Dr Luciana Carvalho

Analysis and identification of organic materials.

Week 6: 15th November, 12:00-13:00 Dr Anke Hein

Analysis of ceramics.

2 Biomolecular approaches to diet [Important note: Double lecture in week 7!]

Week 7: 22d November, 11:00-13:00 Dr Amy Styring

-Introduction – overview of biomolecular approaches, chemistry of calcified tissues, principles of stable isotope analysis.

-Reconstructing diet using carbon isotope values – maize, millet, marine foods.

Week 8: 29th November, 12:00-13:00 Dr Amy Styring

Reconstructing diet using nitrogen isotopes values – vegan or carnivore?


Hilary term [9 lectures]


2 Biomolecular approaches to diet (continued)

Week 1: 17th January, 11:00-12:00 Dr Amy Styring

Proteins in dental calculus.

Week 2: 24th January, 11:00-12:00 Dr Amy Styring

Organic residues on/in pots.

Week 3: 31st January, 11:00-12:00 Dr Amy Styring

Issues – taphonomy, need for multiple proxies.


3 Dating methods in archaeology [Important note: Double lecture in week 4!]

Week 4: 7th February, 11:00-13:00 Prof Christopher Bronk-Ramsey and Dr Peter Ditchfield

-Scientific dating methods.

-Climatic clocks and frameworks.

Week 5: 14th February, 11:00-12:00 Dr Rachel Wood

Introduction to radiocarbon dating in archaeology: relative dating and sequences.

Week 6: 21st February, 11:00-12:00 Dr Rachel Wood

Radiocarbon laboratory methods: chemical pre-treatment and measurement techniques.

Week 7: 28th March, 11:00-12:00 Dr Jean-Luc Schwenninger

Luminescence dating.

Week 8: 6th March, 11:00-12:00 Prof Christopher Bronk-Ramsey

Calibrating and interpreting dates, modelling of results from multiple methods using OxCal.


Lecturer key and contact details

AS Dr Amy Styring (amy.styring@arch.ox.ac.uk)

CD Dr Chris Doherty (chris.doherty@arch.ox.ac.uk)

CR Prof Christopher Bronk-Ramsey (christopher.ramsey@arch.ox.ac.uk)

J-LS Dr Jean-Luc Schwenninger (jean-luc.schwenninger@arch.ox.ac.uk)

LC Dr Luciana Carvalho (luciana.carvalho@arch.ox.ac.uk)

PD Dr Peter Ditchfield (peter.ditchfield@arch.ox.ac.uk)

RW Dr Rachel Wood (rachel.wood@arch.ox.ac.uk)

SC Prof Shadreck Chirikure (shadreck.chirikure@arch.ox.ac.uk)

VS Dr Victoria Sainsbury (victoria.sainsbury@arch.ox.ac.uk)


Option Co-ordinator: Prof. D.N. Gellner (SAME)

Schedule: lectures in HT, tutorials as necessary

Available: 2023-24


South Asia conventionally covers India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan, with the available anthropological literature broadly declining in that order. The range of topics covered will include (subject to availability): tribe, caste and the village; kinship, gender and personhood; Hinduism and other religions in south Asia; politics, nationalism and colonialism; migration and diasporas. The teaching will take place in Hilary Term and will consist of a combination of up to eight lectures and classes. Undergraduate students also receive eight tutorials on the course; these may be taken in any term, with the agreement of students and tutors. The tutor may be someone other than the course convenor.

Learning outcomes

The course is designed to give students an understanding of the fundamentals of society, culture, religion, and politics in the South Asian region, especially India. Since many of the topics covered have proved illustrative of, and influential on, social anthropological methods and theories in general, the course should also expand the student’s understanding of the discipline more widely.


Option Co-ordinator: Dr. D Patten and Dr. R Sarró (SAME)

Schedule: lectures and tutorials in HT

Restriction: Third Years only

Not Available: 2023-24


This course showcases contemporary ethnographic research on extraction and extraversion in Africa. The anthropology of extractive industries (diamonds, coal, oil, timber, rubber, gold, coffee, copper, coltan etc.) offers a critical perceptive on key processes shaping our world: global capital and multi-nationals, labour and migration, temporality and generation, protest and activism. These ethnographies of extraction remind us of the centrality of Africa in the world, and that histories of extraversion show Africans not at the margins but connected, active agents in the relations of dependence that they oppose and facilitate.


The focus on extraction therefore links the material, intimate, bodily practices of mining, mobility and masculinity via the infrastructures of extraction to the global supply chains of petrochemicals, metals, and the resources of modern production and consumption. Key themes emerge across the lectures and classes. Moving beyond the standard narratives of ‘resource curse’ these themes explore the reimagining of space, frontier and belonging in the economies of migration, enclave and ethnicity. These terrains of extraction are dynamically re-imagined across historical, generational, and epochal temporalities. And we ask how do these spaces and temporalities of extraction, and the epistemic and ecological violence with which they are associated, shape contemporary practice, memory and relations of African societies and cultures.


1. Ethnographies of Extraction and Extraversion

2. The political economy of oil in Kenya (Doris Okenwa)

3. The arts of oil (David Pratten)

4. Extractivism in KwaZulu-Natal (Thomas Cousins)

5. Mangroves and aluminium: resilience on the coast of the Republic of Guinea (Ramon Sarro)

6. Climate justice in Tanzania (Jessica Omukuti)

7 After gold in Cameroon (Rosalie Allain)

8. Film/workshop/presentations.

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