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Principles & Methods of Classical Archaeology - Outline

The module aims to introduce students to some of the main areas relevant to uncovering the substance and significance of material evidence from classical antiquity. Much of this evidence is still clearly extant above ground, but more still - often material highly relevant to the everyday lives of people - has only been discovered by excavation. Yet the very act of excavation poses problems for our understanding of the past. Within the vast territory that was once the classical world, sites often lie in areas where political considerations play a large part in determining attitudes and action. Even in circumstances favourable to investigation the act of disturbing the past has its ramifications both physical and ethical, while the paramount position of the discrete site, which held sway in earlier decades, must now be placed in the much wider context of its hinterland.

From the gathering of specimens destined for cabinets of curiosities or museums, archaeology has moved to the quest for information, and in doing so has embraced many of the resources of science currently available. The module will seek to show the background to this process and how scientific techniques have introduced an element of relative precision into areas where previously there had only been a qualitative set of criteria.

From the discovery and extraction of finds, the module will take students into the realm of museum work to discover the rationale that lies behind these institutions today. It will allow them access to those areas of activity that inevitably underpin the production of research and display.

By the end of the module students will have gained:

  • an understanding of the history of classical archaeology
  • an appreciation of the major areas of development in terms of technique, their potentials and limitations
  • an ability to question many of the assumptions that underlie archaeology's rationale
  • an understanding of the role of archaeology in present-day society within a British context

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