Contemporary Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Issues - CLAS8050

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2023 to 2024
Spring Term 7 30 (15) Steven Willis checkmark-circle


The Module is designed with training, knowledge enhancement and skills acquisition to the fore. The module begins with an introduction to the origins and development of theoretical perspectives in archaeology (e.g. 'cultural history', the ‘New Archaeology’, ‘Post-Processualism’), and assesses the contributions of these approaches. A central question is how we may use material evidence to study and define past society. The value of material evidence of the past is then considered within a contemporary intellectual framework. We examine particular approaches to understanding the morphology, elements and the identity of archaeological sites as lived environments; spatial approaches are considered here too. Approaches to the archaeology of landscape are in turn examined, this being a dynamic field in contemporary archaeological understanding. How archaeological data is assessed, organised, and published is then examined from a theoretical and methodological angle. Finally, how the various strands of archaeological data can be brought together to assemble a coherent picture of past human life and society are critically examined and reviewed.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 280
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Presentation (30 minutes) – 35%
Research Paper (5,000 words) – 65%

Reassessment methods
Reassessment Instrument: 100% Coursework

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices. The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of contemporary issues, approaches and thinking in archaeology and how its various constituent areas can be used to interpret past cultures;
2 Firmly locate archaeological theories and interpretations within conceptual frameworks and understand their intellectual origins;
3 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the value and contribution of particular methods in archaeological study and a comprehensive understanding of the history and direction of theoretical and practical approaches in the 21st century;
4 Demonstrate familiarity with critical issues in archaeology and be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in archaeological work and its presentation;
5 Demonstrate a rounded understanding of methods in contemporary archaeology, their relationship to theoretical approaches and their appropriateness in particular circumstances;
6 Demonstrate a strong awareness of the nature of archaeological remains and other sources of information upon the past, how these have survived or otherwise ('taphonomy') and how their survival impacts upon archaeological thinking.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate and initiate skills in independent research and presentation of material;
2 Show a robust awareness of the contrasting academic issues and discourses in a particular intellectual domain;
3 Demonstrate their ability in critical analysis and argument through engagement with the module content;
4 Demonstrate their researching, data handling, IT and library skills;
5 Show responsibility and autonomy in learning, debate and presentation of evidence.


This module is compulsory for students studying on the MAs in Archaeology, Roman History and Archaeology, and Roman History and Archaeology with a term in Rome.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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