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AIA2100 - Archaeological Theories and Controversies

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Dr Ian McNiven


Clayton Second semester 2007 (Day)


The subject critically examines the range of conceptual and theoretical frameworks used by archaeologists to understand the ancient past. How do archaeologists explain cultural change over thousands of years? Is
environmental and climatic change the major driver of long-term cultural change? And who has the right to research the pasts of different cultures around the world? Who owns the past? Do archaeologists need to
listen more to the voices of cultural minorities such as Indigenous communities? On completion of the subject students will appreciate the varied theoretical, social and political issues that the modern archaeologist must deal with in a post-colonial world.


The overarching aims are to provide students with a broad understanding of contemporary archaeology in terms of explanatory theoretical frameworks and controversial work practices. On successful completion of this subject, students will be able to:

  1. Appreciate the broad range of theoretical frameworks used by archaeologists to understand how ancient peoples lived their lives and explain how and why cultures change over thousands of years.
  2. Appreciate the range of controversies faced by the modern archaeologist when working on the ancient heritage of cultural minorities, particularly Indigenous peoples
  3. Develop advanced skills in critically evaluating major debates and contentious theoretical issues in archaeology.
  4. Understand key changes in theoretical approaches of archaeologists over the last 150 years.


1 short oral tutorial presentation (10%): 1 short paper related to seminar presentation 1000 words (20%): 1 essay 3500 words (60%): Tutorial attendance and participation (10%)

Contact hours

2 x one-hour lectures each week, plus 1 x one-hour tutorial each week. Students would be required to do an additional 9 hours reading time for tutorials and researching major essay topic.