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Introduction to Computing for Archaeologists and Ancient Historians - 10 credits (HS2416)

Course description

This is a  theory and practical module in which students learn about, gain practical skills in, and implement computers in archaeological and ancient historical research. The module introduces students to key ways of using computers in the presentation, interpretation and analysis of data. Students will learn the basic principles behind the use of spreadsheets, databases, web development software and Earth browsers and gain skills in the use of computer applications pertinent to each.

The aims of the course are:

  • To introduce students to the range of computer applications available for the presentation and interpretation of archaeological/ancient historical data
  • To provide students with hands-on experience in the use of computer applications
  • To equip students with the practical skills required to successfully incorporate quantitative methods and computer applications in research

Students produce a portfolio of work demonstrating skills in the use of selected computer applications. Archaeological/ancient historical data is be provided that will benefit from the use of computer-based tools. Students will be expected to demonstrate that they can locate appropriate data, evaluate its reliability, use appropriate computer-based applications and integrate these to come to relevant conclusions in their portfolio.

Credits: 10

Availability of module: Alternate (even) years. Autumn Semester

Prerequisites: N/A

Necessary for: N/A

Tutor: Dr Steve Mills

Limited numbers: 23

Teaching Methods

Ten 1 hour sessions divided into lectures and workshops. Illustrated lectures introduce students to the main conceptual issues of computer applications in archaeological and ancient historical research. Workshops enable students to develop proficiency in the use of spreadsheets, databases, websites and quantitative applications.


Assessment takes the form of a portfolio with three assignments demonstrating proficiency in the use of selected computer applications.  The portfolio constitutes 100% to the final mark.

Summary of course content

  • Introduction to on-line computing resources
  • Introduction to spreadsheets, their use and computer-based spreadsheet software
  • Developing skills in the use of spreadsheet software
  • Introduction to databases, their use and computer-based database software
  • Developing skills in the use of database software
  • Introduction to creating web pages
  • Developing skills in creating web pages
  • Introduction to Google Earth
  • Developing skills in using Google Earth
  • Project workshop

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are attainable through a combination of formal teaching and private study.  At the end of the course students will be expected:

  • Demonstrate a broad knowledge of computer aided storage, retrieval and analysis of archaeological/ancient historical data
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the potential of computer applications for archaeological/ancient historical research
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the use of selected computer applications (spreadsheets, databases, website development, Earth Browsers) in archaeology and ancient history
  • Evaluate quantitative data of variable quality and source
  • Know the advantages and pitfalls of using various types of archaeological/ancient historical data in computer-aided research
  • Understand and incorporate quantitative data in research
  • Communicate ideas and arguments effectively, particularly regarding using computer applications
  • Formulate and justify their own arguments incorporating computer applications
  • An ability to use a range of information technology resources to assist with information retrieval and assignment presentation
  • Time management skills and an ability to independently to organise their own study methods and workload.
  • Work effectively with others as part of a team or group in seminar or tutorial discussions.

Suggested book purchases


Suggested preparatory reading

Lock, G. R.  2003. Using computers in archaeology: towards virtual pasts. London:Routledge.

Lock, G. R. and Brown, K. (eds) 2000. On the theory and practice of archaeological computing. Oxford: Oxford university Committee for Archaeology.

Shennan, S. 1997. Quantifying archaeology. 2nd edition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Wheatley, D., Earl, G. and Poppy, S. (eds) 2002. Contemporary themes in archaeological computing. Oxford: Oxbow Books.