Theory & Interpretation in Archaeology ARCH4019

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

The course offers an opportunity for students to read critically and to learn about and discuss recent ideas that exemplify the diversity of current approaches to archaeological theory. The course situates archaeology within wider intellectual traditions in the social sciences, humanities and physical sciences, and uses specific case studies to engage students with stimulating approaches to interpreting archaeological material. 


10x1hr lectures; 10x1hr seminars over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus. This is an Honours core course and runs every year.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into Archaeology, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





One 2500-word essay (50%) 

One 90-minute examination (equivalent of 1500 words) (50%) 

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ present basic theoretical and interpretative concepts in contemporary archaeology

■ evaluate the social and material aspects of the ancient and recent past

■ critically evaluate the impact of successive intellectual and philosophical developments within archaeology (e.g. culture-historical, processual, interpretive, and postcolonial archaeologies)

■ examine the role of contemporary politics in interpreting the past

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ explain how archaeologists use intellectual constructs within or beyond the discipline of archaeology in interpreting the past

■ evaluate theoretical and interpretive constructs used by archaeologists to assess the social, spatial, economic, gender-based, and ideological aspects of material culture

■ situate developments in archaeological thought in relation to wider intellectual and academic trends

■ apply appropriate theoretical frameworks in their coursework and dissertation

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.