Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Theory & Interpretation in Archaeology ARCH4019

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • 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
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This course is intended for honours students and others who have had limited exposure to archaeological theory. Theory & Interpretation in Archaeology does not attempt to cover the history of archaeological thought but rather seeks to situate archaeology within wider intellectual traditions in the social sciences, humanities and physical sciences.


Two hours per week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus

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. 

Excluded Courses

Theory and Interpretation in Archaeology (ARCH5006)




Coursework: one 3000-word essay (50%) 

Examination: one two-hour examination (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 will provide the opportunity to:

■ present basic theoretical and interpretative concepts in contemporary archaeology;

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

■ consider intellectual and philosophical developments within archaeology (e.g. antiquarianism; culture-historical, processual, and interpretive 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:

■ understand 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;

■ know how archaeology and material symbols may be used in contemporary politics;
situate developments in archaeological thought in
relation to wider intellectual and academic trends.

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.