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Unit information: Cultural Heritage of the Built Environment in 2020/21

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Unit name Cultural Heritage of the Built Environment
Unit code ARCHM0084
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Prior
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

This seminar-based unit explores cultural heritage of the built environment, the importance and meaning of this environment, and how and why people interact with it and build upon and within it. It explores the heritage values attached to a place, be it a building, an archaeological site or a larger historic area such as a whole village or historic landscape from the locally-distinctive to internationally significant.

Employing anthropological and archaeological perspectives, concepts covered will include analysing the significance of heritage assets (‘evidential value’, ‘historic value’, ‘aesthetic value’ and ‘communal value’); the designation of Heritage Assets; World Heritage Sites; Heritage at Risk; Heritage Action Zones; Cultural Heritage Sites; conflict and military buildings and landscapes; religious buildings and landscapes; landscapes of memory and identity; industrial buildings and landscapes; rural settlements and townscapes; urban landscapes and cityscapes; designed landscapes; landscapes of pleasure and leisure; contested and New Age landscapes; funerary landscapes and cemeteries.

This unit will cover a wide range of time periods, from prehistory to the present day, and case studies will include everything from prehistoric settlements to medieval castles, to modern shopping centres to funerary architecture. It will also cover legislation and guidance, conservation and management plans, characterisation of the historic and cultural environment and conservation principles.


  1. To introduce the concept and value of heritage assets and their wider significance (evidential value, historical value, aesthetic value and communal value);
  2. To explore human interaction with and connection to place, environment, landscape and buildings from anthropological and archaeological perspectives;
  3. To examine how different environments and buildings have been built, used and maintained, and critically explore current interpretations;
  4. To explore and explain a wide range of historic environments, places and landscapes from the functional, such as agricultural, industrial and military, to the sacred, such as ritual, New Age, and contested;
  5. To understand how agriculture, industry, settlement, conflict and building projects can re-shaped and alter environments;
  6. To analyse and assess critically theories pertaining to place, landscape and the built environment.
  7. To compare and contrast different approaches to landscape and the built environment through case studies and a field trip.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the concept and value of heritage assets and their wider significance;
  2. Identify and successfully interpret buildings, historic and contemporary environments and landscape features from a wide range of periods and places;
  3. Explain the various terms, concepts and definitions used by heritage professionals and academics to describe and identify buildings and landscapes;
  4. Demonstrate a broad and deep understanding of the way people interact with, appropriate and alter landscape and the built environment, and be able to identify physical/archaeological traces of such practices;
  5. Analyse and assess critically the interpretation and theoretical debates which surround the study of place, landscape and the built environment.

Teaching Information

  • Weekly Lecture/Seminar sessions, supported by self-directed activities
  • One full-day (on site or self-guided) fieldtrip

Assessment Information

  • Essay 4000 words (40%) (ILOs: 2, 3, 4, 5);
  • PowerPoint Presentation (20%) (ILOs: 1, 2, 3, 4);
  • Conservation or Management plan of a building or landscape of historic or cultural importance (40%) (ILOs: 1, 2, 3, 4).

Reading and References

Bender, Barbara (1993) Landscape: Politics and Perspectives. Oxford: Berg

Bond, S. & Worthing, D. (2016) Managing Built Heritage: the role of cultural values and significance. Second edition. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

David. B & Thomas, J. (2012) Handbook of Landscape Archaeology. Abingdon: Routledge.

Hirsch, E. & O'Hanlon, M. (1995) Anthropology of Landscape: Perspectives on Place and Space. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Lowenthal, D. (2015) The Past is a Foreign Country Revisited. Cambridge University Press.

Macdonald, S. (2013) Memorylands: Heritage and Identity in Europe Today. Abingdon: Routledge.

Pendlebury, J. & Gibson L. (2015) Valuing Historic Environments. 1st Edition. Abingdon: Routledge.