Geoarchaeology: Using Earth Sciences to Understand the Archaeological Record
Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences
20.000 Credits or 10.000 ECTS Credits
Organiser: Dr Gary Robinson
Overall aims and purpose
This module is an introduction to Geoarchaeology. The aim of the module is to provide a basic understanding of the role of earth sciences in answering archaeological questions.This course provides an introduction to the reconstruction of past landscapes, the use of sediment analysis in palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, and the study of sediments in archaeological contexts. Students will learn basic techniques of sediment-recording, sedimentological methods for determining past depositional environments associated with archaeological sites, theory and methods of site formation processes, and basic analyses of sediment sequences.
Geoarchaeology’s history Geoarchaeology: aims, scale and focus The landscape building blocks and the Toolkit of Geoarchaeology Soils, paleosols, anthrosols Slope and Aeolian processes Alluvial processes Open air sites Lakes and Coasts Glaciation processes Coastal archaeology Caves and rock-shelters Landscape engineering Characterising landscapes: sediments and soils ‘Remote-sensing’ sediments and soils Human impact on the landscape, ‘Ground-truthing’ sediments and soils
Upper second class 1. Demonstrates a clear familiarity with the historical and historiographic context of the source, and relates this to the contents of the source. Knowledge is extensive, though might be uneven in places.
Comments on nature, authorship, and other material pertinent to the source’s context, and draws out significance of this for interpretation of source. At the lower end of this markband, implications may not be fully developed.
Engages intelligently with the specifics of the source to analyse language and/or meaning. At the lower end of this markband, ideas may not be fully developed.
Relates the source to the wider themes of the course with reference to the source’s wider significance. In the higher range of this mark band, answers will make reference to other contemporary or historiographical sources.
The writing will be clear and generally accurate, and will demonstrate an appreciation of the technical and advanced vocabulary used by historians. Ideas will be presented clearly.
Note: The upper band (B+, 68) in this class will demonstrate a more detailed nuanced interpretation than lower 2i (B-, 62), the lower grades will have most of the above qualities in varying degrees.
There will be sufficient knowledge to make some comment on the historical context and/or some historiographic context of the source, but it will be limited and patchy. There may be factual inaccuracies.
A limited explanation of the nature of the source, such as authorship, provenance, audience, and other material pertinent to the source’s interpretation, but critical reflection will be lacking.
No engagement with the specifics of the source, but rather a generalised answer about the wider document or the themes it deals with. A tendency towards paraphrasing. May misunderstand the text.
Shows some awareness of the wider significance of the source, but with little critical refection.
The writing will generally be grammatical, but may lack the sophistication of vocabulary or construction. In places the writing may lack clarity and felicity of expression.
Top 3rd (D+, 48) will have a solid framework for discussion and exhibit all of the above criteria, those in the lower bands (D, 45, D- 42) may have variable degrees of most of the above elements, may miss out important key debates, have patchy coverage, or be disorganised and poorly expressed.
Pass at 38: will have many of the qualities of D- but will be less detailed, may have poor organisation, may lack basic knowledge, be particularly poorly written, may have few or no references, may lack a bibliography
Fail (below 38) (F1, F2, F3 etc)
A failed assessment will in varying degrees:
Show little or no knowledge of the historic or historiographic context of the passage and may misinterpret the nature of the source.
Fail to discuss the nature of the source, such as authorship, provenance, audience, and other material pertinent to the source’s interpretation.
No engagement with the specifics of the source and tendency towards irrelevance.
Fail to identify the source’s wider significance.
The author’s meaning will be obscured due to clumsy expression and misuse of vocabulary.
C- to C+
Lower Second class
Demonstrates knowledge of the source’s historical and historiographic context but without linking this to the specific contents of the source under consideration. There may be some inaccuracy, but basic knowledge will be sound.
Some discussion of the nature of source, such as authorship, provenance, audience, and other material pertinent to the source’s interpretation, but critical reflection will largely be lacking.
Some attempt to engage with the specifics of the source, but this may be a largely generalised answer about the document or the themes it deals with. May tend towards paraphrasing rather than analysis. May contain some misunderstandings.
Briefly touches on the wider significance of the source but may contain irrelevance or misunderstanding.
The writing will be sufficiently accurate to convey the writer's meaning clearly, but it may lack fluency and command of the kinds of scholarly idioms used by professional historians. Expression might be clumsy in places.
Top 2ii (C+, 58) will have a solid framework for discussion and exhibit all of the above criteria, those in the lower bands (C, 55, C- 52) may have variable degrees of most of the above elements.
First Class 1. Demonstrates an excellent knowledge of the historical and historiographic context of the source. Understands the significance of that context and demonstrates such understanding by relating it to the contents of the source in a clear and compelling way.
Clear and original analysis of the nature of source, such as authorship, provenance, audience, date, and other material pertinent to the source’s interpretation.
Relates the source to the wider themes of the course in an independent and original way. Makes pertinent and striking comparisons with other contemporary or historiographical sources.
A compelling analysis of language and/or meaning that engages closely with the specific source.
The writing will be clear, fluent, and accurate. The range of vocabulary and linguistic idioms will be appropriate to the issues discussed. Ideas will be presented concisely and clearly.
Marks in the upper first (80 +, A, A*) will demonstrate the above qualities to an exceptional degree, or may show an outstanding grasp of the historiography, or the source provenance, or will be original and particularly well expressed. Marks at 74 (A-) may show many of the above characteristics but may not comprehensively cover all areas.
Understand how the study of soils and sediment studies contributes to archaeological problem solving both on-site and in the reconstruction of past environments.
Demonstrate knowledge of common techniques for soil and sediment recording and analysis
Understanding of geo-archaeological approaches to the study of site formation processes, and inferences about past depositional environments.
Understanding of archaeological evidence within the broader matrix of the landscape.
Demonstrate improved skills of observation and critical reflection on academic topics related to the earth sciences
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Teaching and Learning Strategy
The module is taught through a combination of lectures fieldwork and laboratory practicals. There will be 14 hours of lectures, 2 fieldtrips (14 hours) and 6 hours of laboratory/workshop sessions for this module. The workshops will allow students to develop practical techniques of analysis that may be applied during fieldwork.
The module is taught through a combination of lectures fieldwork and laboratory practicals. There will be 14 hours of lectures, 2 fieldtrips (14 hours) and 6 hours of laboratory sessions for this module. The fieldwork element of this module will allow students to apply the methods and techniques explored within the module to be explored in the field.
The module is taught through a combination of lectures fieldwork and laboratory practicals. There will be 14 hours of lectures, 2 fieldtrips (14 hours) and 6 hours of laboratory sessions for this module. The lectures will explore a range of themes relating to the use of earth sciences to answer archaeological question.
- Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
- Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
- Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
- Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
- Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
- Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
- Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
- Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
- Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
- Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
- Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
- Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
Subject specific skills
- Articulacy in identifying underlying issues in a wide variety of debates.
- The ability to identify and deploy a range of research strategies including qualitative and quantitative methods and the use of published data sources and to select and apply appropriate strategies for specific research problems; and the ability to present the philosophical and methodological background to the research of others and to one's own research.
- problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
- understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
- being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
- producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
- planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
- marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
- demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
- demonstrating an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
- preparing effective written communications for different readerships
- making effective and appropriate forms of visual presentation
- making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
- making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
- collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
- critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions
- engaging with relevant aspects of current agendas such as global perspectives, public engagement, employability, enterprise, and creativity
Resource implications for students
Butzer K.W. (1980). Context in archaeology: An alternative perspective. Journal of Field Archaeology 7: 417-422. Butzer, K. W. (1982). Archaeology as Human Ecology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Butzer, K. W. (2008). Challenges for a cross-disciplinary geoarchaeology: intersection between environmental history and geomorphology. Geomorphology, 101, 402-411. English Heritage. (2004). Geoarchaeology: Using earth sciences to understand the archaeological record. Swindon: EH Publications. French, C. A. I. (2003). Geoarchaeology in Action: Studies in Soil Micromorphology and Landscape Evolution. London: Routledge Gladfelter, B. G. (1981). Developments and directions in Geoarchaeology. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, 4, 343-364. Goldberg, P., & Macphail, R. (2006). Practical and Theoretical Geoarchaeology. Oxford: Blackwell. Holliday, V. T. (2004). Soils in Archaeological Research. New York, Oxford University Press. Rapp, G., & Hill, C. L. (1998).Geoarchaeology: the earth-science approach to archaeological interpretation. New Haven: Yale University Press. Waters, M. R. (1992). Principles of Geoarchaeology: a North American perspective. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Courses including this module
Compulsory in courses:
- V100: BA History year 2 (BA/H)
- V1V9: BA History with Archaeology with International Experience year 2 (BA/HAIE)
- V1V4: BA History with Archaeology year 2 (BA/HAR)
- V10F: BA History [with Foundation Year] year 2 (BA/HF)
- 8B03: BA History (with International Experience) year 2 (BA/HIE)
- V102: MArts History with International Experience year 2 (MARTS/HIE)
- V101: MArts History year 2 (MARTS/HIST)
Optional in courses:
- 3QV1: BA History and English Literature year 2 (BA/ELH)
- P3V1: BA Film Studies and History year 2 (BA/FSH)
- V103: BA History and Archaeology year 2 (BA/HA)
- VV41: BA Herit, Archae & Hist year 2 (BA/HAH)
- VV42: BA Heritage, Archaeology & History with International Exp year 2 (BA/HAHIE)
- MVX1: BA History/Criminology year 2 (BA/HCR)
- LV11: BA History/Economics year 2 (BA/HEC)
- RV11: BA History/French year 2 (BA/HFR)
- RV21: BA History/German year 2 (BA/HG)
- RV31: BA History/Italian year 2 (BA/HIT)
- RV32: BA History and Italian (with International Experience) year 2 (BA/HITIE)
- VW13: BA History and Music year 2 (BA/HMU)
- VW14: BA History and Music with International Experience year 2 (BA/HMUIE)
- RV41: BA History/Spanish year 2 (BA/HSP)
- V130: BA Mediaeval and Early Modern His year 2 (BA/MEMH)
- VVV1: BA Philosophy and Religion and History year 2 (BA/PRH)
- VVV2: BA Philosophy and Religion and Welsh History year 2 (BA/PRWH)
- LV31: BA Sociology/History year 2 (BA/SH)
- LV41: BA Social Policy/History year 2 (BA/SPH)
- QV51: BA Cymraeg/History year 2 (BA/WH)
- V104: BA Welsh History and Archaeology year 2 (BA/WHAR)
- VP23: BA Welsh History and Film Studies year 2 (BA/WHFS)
- VV12: BA Welsh History/History year 2 (BA/WHH)
- VW2H: BA Welsh History and Music year 2 (BA/WHMU)
- LVH2: BA Welsh History/Sociology year 2 (BA/WHS)