Archaeological Science

University of Reading

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Archaeological Science

  • Host University

    University of Reading

  • Location

    Reading, England

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Module Provider: Archaeology
    Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
    Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
    Pre-requisites: AR1TS3 Practising Archaeology: methods and approaches
    Non-modular pre-requisites:
    Modules excluded:
    Module version for: 2014/5
    Module Convenor: Dr Gundula Müldner
    Summary module description:
    Modern archaeology would be unthinkable without the contribution from archaeological science, or from methods adapted from biology, physics, chemistry or environmental science. This module aims to provide a foundation of understanding of scientific archaeology, which is accessible to students with science and non-science backgrounds.
    The course has two parts. A lecture and seminar part introduces the aims, methods and approaches of scientific investigation in archaeology as well as the main techniques: environmental methods (plants, animals, geoarchaeology), biomolecular archaeology (isotope analysis of skeletal remains, organic residues, DNA), scientific dating, archaeological computing, geophysics as well as forensic archaeology and anthropology. This is complemented by a six-week laboratory practical, in which students conduct their own specialist analyses of archaeological materials, leading to the production of a scientific laboratory report.
    The module aims to provide the student from science and non-science backgrounds with an understanding of the range of scientific methods employed in modern archaeology, and with the practical experience of producing a scientific report based on an original laboratory project.
    Assessable learning outcomes:
    By the end of the module it is expected that the students will be able:
    ? to describe the key methods used in modern archaeological science and identify archaeological research questions they may contribute to
    ? to identify the contexts in which the main sources of evidence are preserved
    ? to demonstrate awareness of the significance of formation processes, taphonomy and diagenesis to an understanding of the main sources of evidence
    ? to critically appraise publications in an area of archaeological science
    ? to prepare a short scientific report on a piece of laboratory analysis, involving data gathering, quantitative skills, graphic presentation and interpretation
    ? to demonstrate problem solving skills by setting their laboratory analytical project in the context of wider archaeological research questions
    Additional outcomes:
    Students will gain familiarity with basic laboratory work skills including Health and Safety, experience in the organization and analysis of primary data and IT skills related to the processing and graphic presentation of data. Seminars will encourage students to develop oral skills, presenting and defending particular arguments. The journal article critique will promote critical thinking and transferable skills in the evaluation of written work.
    Outline content:
    Lecture and seminar component: Interactive, illustrated lectures will introduce key principles of scientific method and analysis as well as the main methods used in contemporary archaeological science. Key themes are: Environmental and Geoarchaeology; types of evidence and the preservation conditions under which they occur, questions of taphonomy, spatial scale and problems of interpretation; dating methods appropriate for a range of timescales of the human past, their accuracy, precision and comparison with historical dating methods; the main techniques employed in biomolecular archaeology, how they can be used to in terms of past subsistence, mobility and ancestry and which problems are encountered in analysis and data interpretation; the application of computing and geophysics in archaeology; forensic archaeology and anthropology; the integration of scientific and archaeological datasets in interpretation.
    Laboratory Practicals : Students will select one practical unit from a choice that usually includes palaeobotany, molluscs, micromorphology or GIS. An archaeological problem will be addressed by practical laboratory work and data analysis using one of these forms of evidence and resulting in a short scientific report.
    Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
    Interactive illustrated lectures and seminar and one 6-week practical laboratory unit, based around guided individual laboratory work.
    Contact hours:
    Autumn Spring
    Lectures 18 8
    Tutorials 2
    Practicals classes and workshops 18
    Guided independent study 80 74
    Total hours by term 100.00 100.00
    Total hours for module 200.00
    Summative Assessment Methods:
    Method Percentage
    Written assignment including essay 60
    Report 40
    Other information on summative assessment:
    One 2,000 word essay (40%)
    One 3,000 word scientific laboratory report (40%)
    One 1,500 word journal article critique (20%)
    Formative assessment methods:
    Assessment of weekly progress through guided laboratory work
    Discussion in seminar and interactive lectures
    Penalties for late submission:
    The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.
    where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
    where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
    The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.
    Length of examination:
    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.
    Reassessment arrangements:
    Resubmission of coursework on dates set by the department.
    Last updated: 8 October 2014

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Some courses may require additional fees.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits are converted to semester credits/quarter units differently among U.S. universities. Students should confirm the conversion scale used at their home university when determining credit transfer.

Please reference fall and spring course lists as not all courses are taught during both semesters.

Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.


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