Skip to main content

Unit information: Anthropological Archaeology of the First and Second World Wars in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Anthropological Archaeology of the First and Second World Wars
Unit code ARCHM1003
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Saunders
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This course aims to give students a comprehensive understanding of, and theoretical and analytical ability to interpret, the key 2 global conflicts of the 20th century as a core aspect of 20th century conflict archaeology. The Unit introduces the inter disciplinary study of the conflict landscapes and material culture of the first and Second World Wars by archaeologists, anthropologists, and museum and heritage specialists. It emphasizes the global context of these conflicts, and assesses the complex challenges presented by the ethical, political, and national dimensions of this new kind of archaeology.


The aim of this unit is to provide the student with comprehensive knowledge of and analytical insights into the military and cultural events of the First and Second World Wars - particularly as they relate to the landscapes and objects of conflict. It will demonstrate how archaeological and anthropological approaches, when creatively combined, can yield a diverse range of critical understandings of conflict beyond military history. Case studies show how such multidisciplinary approaches can be used, applied to any modern conflict, and how employing a range of analytical scales illustrates the cultural and emotional cost of modern conflict. Topics include:

  • The material culture and experience of occupation
  • The archaeology of aerial war
  • Multi-vocal landscapes of conflict for military and civilians
  • Media representations of conflict
  • Global contexts and interrelationships of 2 world wars
  • Field Trip to a relevant site and special collections

Intended Learning Outcomes

The unit will provide the student with a comprehensive knowledge of the origins, scope, and potential of modern conflict archaeology as it relates to the 2 world wars of the 20th century. Tailored case studies will allow students to develop their abilities to identify, conceptualise, and interpret a range of evidence and issues relating to these wars, and reflexively to mainstream archaeology and anthropology. This will enable them to use their knowledge and sensitisation to theory to identify and investigate a range of other conflicts from a diversity of intellectual perspectives.

Teaching Information

Lectures, seminars, reading groups and fieldtrips.

Assessment Information

  • Presentation (25%)
  • Essay 3,000 wds (75%)

An essay researching a particular topic or aspect of the archaeology of the First and/or Second World Wars.

Reading and References

  • Virilio, P. 2009. Bunker Archaeology. Princeton Architectural Press.
  • Fraser, Alistair. 2009. Filming the Somme. Pen and Sword.
  • Dendooven, D & P Chielens. 2008. Five Continents in Flanders. Lanoo.
  • Saunders, N.J. 2004. Matters of Conflict.. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Saunders, N. 2007. Killing Time: Archaeology and the First World War. Sutton.