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If These Finds Could Talk: The Archaeology of Objects

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What do archaeologists do with the things that they find?

This module introduces you to a range of finds from archaeological sites, and considers how we can investigate, analyse and question those finds to discover more about the people of the past and the world that they lived in.

You will be introduced to a range of materials found at archaeological excavations, including environmental evidence, animal and human bones, as well as man-made objects, such as pottery, metal- and glass-work, and coins.

In addition to considering the significance of these finds as a means of exploring the past, we will consider how they can be preserved and presented for current and future generations.

You will be introduced to the archaeology of the science lab: the field of archaeological conservation. We will go on from this to consider how finds can be preserved and presented to the public, both within the context of museums, and in the development of vibrant community archaeology projects that link finds from past societies to the communities that occupy those sites today.

In exploring these topics, you will learn how to analyse individual objects, as well as compiling your own ‘digital museum’, assessing the significance of a particular site or group of archaeological finds.

This course is for anyone with an interest in archaeology and the enthusiasm to take that interest further. It operates as part of the Exploring the Past pathway, and will equip you with the knowledge, understanding and skills that will help you to study other courses in the pathway.

Learning and teaching

This course consists of nine units divided into themes. Each unit comprises a two-hour face-to-face session. These sessions will include lectures, class discussions and group-work, source analysis activities and exercises to develop your academic skills.

There will also be an opportunity for learning outside of the classroom, facilitated by the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central.

Coursework and assessment

This course has two short pieces of assessed work which together should add up to around 1,500 words. These pieces of work have been designed to help you in developing the skills and approaches that you need to study the past successfully.

The first of these will be an object biography based on an object found at an archaeological excavation drawn from the study materials from class.

The second will be a ‘digital museum’ project, an illustrated essay presenting a short exhibition of 5-6 objects found at single or multiple excavations, that tell the story of an aspect of past society.

Reading suggestions

  • Caple, C. 2000. Conservation Skills: judgement, method and decision making. Abingdon and New York: Routledge
  • Greene, K. 2002. Archaeology: An introduction: The Online Companion, 4th edition, especially chapters 5 and 6
  • Hodges, H. 1989. Artifacts: An introduction to early materials and technology. London: Duckworth
  • Nilsson Stutz, L., & Tarlow, S. (eds) 2013. The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • The Portable Antiquities Scheme:

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.