Postgraduate taught 

Archaeology MSc

Feasting like the Ancients: An Inter-Disciplinary Approach to Early Food and Drink ARCH5101

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

This course combines an anthropological approach to the social significance of food and drink with experimental archaeology and organic residue analysis. Food and drink in the ancient world and especially feasting practices are popular research themes in archaeology, while experimental archaeology continues to thrive and expand into new areas of enquiry. At the same time, great strides have been made in refining scientific methods for the detection of the chemical residues of ancient foodstuffs in archaeological materials such as pottery. This interdisciplinary course offers students the unique opportunity to critically engage with, and learn how to integrate and evaluate the results of these three strands of archaeological and scientific enquiry into early food and drink.


1x2hr seminar per week for 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus.


Excluded Courses





■ Experiment Proposal (1,000 words) - 20%

■ Essay (2000 words) - 30%

■ Blog (1,500 words) - 40%

■ Video (3-minute duration) - 10%

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:

■ Critically evaluate (1) food and feasting as significant aspects of past social life, (2) engage at an advanced level with the main tenets of experimental archaeology and (3) engage with the fundamentals of organic residue as a tool for archaeological research.

■ contextualise a specific ancient food or drink and its preparation or consumption equipment in its wider social and cultural milieu of consumption using a series of sources of evidence (text, iconography, archaeology, organic geochemistry)

■ devise and conduct archaeological experiments related to the production of a specific ancient food or drink (e.g. Sumerian beer)

■ to undertake archaeological and organic residue analyses using data derived from the archaeological experiment

■ develop avenues of archaeological and organic geochemical interpretation of laboratory results

■ develop transferable skills of analysis, presentation and communication

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

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

■ critically evaluate the social significance of food and its consumption

■ competently and critically evaluate  current issues in relevant aspects of experimental archaeology

■ design, carry out and document a hypothesis-driven archaeological experiment in line with the course theme

■ competently discuss the fundamental principles of organic residue analysis and its relationship to archaeological research

■ formulate and present, appropriate to academic level, arguments and research results on prescribed topics to an academic and to a non-specialist audience 

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.