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Introducing British Archaeology

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Britain is steeped in history; from villas and roundhouse to the grand castles of Kings in the Middle Ages these islands are rich in their archaeological traces.

This course is designed to provide an introductory outline of the archaeology of Britain from the dawn of Roman Britain to the end of the later Middle Ages.

It will provide you with a sequence of the archaeological record and will stand you in good stead in the future for further understanding the rich material culture and history of our isles.

The course is designed to give you a basic knowledge of the surviving, material culture and sites in Britain from the Romans to the later Middle Ages, and to develop your knowledge if the way archaeologists have interpreted this evidence and tried to set it within wider frameworks of understanding.

The course syllabus will cover:

  • Week 1: Introduction: Archaeology in Britain
  • Week 2: The Romanization of Britain?
  • Week 3: Life and Death in Roman Britain
  • Week 4: End of Empire: Post-Roman Britain
  • Week 5: Anglo-Saxon Britain: good deaths and bad deaths.
  • Week 6: Celts in the West?
  • Week 7: Viking Britain: Scandinavian invaders?
  • Week 8: Unification and conquest
  • Week 9: Power and Identity in the British Isles
  • Week 10: Economy and Death: the End of the Middle Age.

Learning and teaching

Learning and teaching are undertaken by means of small group work.

This is a 10-credit course, so there will be two-hour meetings once a week (20 contact hours in all) which will include group discussion, exercises, source analysis and presentation of material on video and/or DVD.

The aim is ensure that the classes are enjoyable and stimulating for all. This will encourage the development of knowledge and understanding of the topics and ideas discussed in the course.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved.

Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning.

Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

You will not have a formal examination but you will be asked to produce some written work (1500 words).

This may include a set of short responses to questions (for example, three pieces examining three key archaeological sites) or a more extended essay.

Reading suggestions

  • Allason-Jones, L. (ed.). 2011: Artefacts in Roman Britain: Their Purpose and Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Arnold, C.J. 2005: An Archaeology of the Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, London/New York: Routledge.
  • Carver, M. 1992: The Age of Sutton Hoo Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer.
  • Jervis, B. 2014: Pottery and Social Life in Medieval England, Oxford: Oxbow.
  • Lucy, S. and Reynolds, A. 2002: Burial in Early Medieval England and Wales. London: The Society for Medieval Archaeology
  • Renfrew, C. and Bahn, P. 2004: Archaeology: theories, methods and practice. Fourth edition. London: Thames & Hudson.
  • Rogers, A.  2015: The Archaeology of Roman Britain: Biography and Identity. London: Routledge
  • Tarlow, S. & West, S. (eds). 1999: The familiar past? Archaeologies of later historical Britain. London: Routledge.
  • Archive of the Journal of Medieval Archaeology:

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.