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Unit information: Archaeological Theory: History, Development and Application in 2015/16

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Unit name Archaeological Theory: History, Development and Application
Unit code ARCH35001
Credit points 30
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Mr. Paul Driscoll
Open unit status Not open




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


This Unit will investigate the development of archaeological theory from the 1960's to the present day. The relevance of theory and modelling in contemporary archaeology will be stressed and the students will be expected to demonstrate their understanding of broad theoretical concepts through seminar sessions and construction of models to be applied to their individual project. Especial emphasis will be placed upon the role of theoretical applications in project and research design and execution. Heritage Management issues concerning conservation, preservation, archaeology and legislation will be studied.


The unit is designed to give you an understanding of:

  • how the subject has developed;
  • a firm theoretical framework in archaeological investigation;
  • key areas of debate between archaeological and anthropological theoreticians and field-based researchers;
  • the complexities of the legislation governing archaeology, conservation and heritage management;
  • the roles of the many bodies associated with the ‘Heritage Industry’;
  • the ongoing debate over the role of amateur and professional archaeologists.

Intended learning outcomes

You will learn through a series of case studies from world archaeology:

  • the importance of a firm theoretical framework in contemporary archaeology;
  • how to construct, apply and test theoretical models;
  • of the legislation governing archaeology, conservation and heritage management;
  • understand modern archaeology and the diversity of heritage practice;
  • to critically analyse the approaches taken by public bodies and organisations involved in heritage management in Britain.

Teaching details

Taught over 4 weekends (x4 all day lectures, x4 all day field trips)

Assessment Details

3 Essays (3000 words each) each weighted at 33.3%.

Reading and References

Binford, L. 1983. In Pursuit of the Past. London: Thames and Hudson.

Cleere, H.F. (ed). 1989. Archaeological Heritage Management in the Modern World. London: Unwin Hyman.

Dark, K., 1995. Theoretical Archaeology. London: Duckworth.

Hodder, I. (ed). 2001. Archaeological Theory Today. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Johnston, M. 1999. Archaeological Theory: an introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.

National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF), published by DCMS.