ATS4257 - Interpreting the past through archaeology - 2018

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

Centre for Ancient Cultures

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Hilary Gopnik


Dr Hilary Gopnik
Dr Jessie Birkett-Rees

Unit guides



  • First semester 2018 (On-campus)


This honours unit explores the methodology used in the interpretation and assessment of archaeological and historical data. We examine the range of data available for advanced research, their relative reliability and accessibility, and the various methods used to analyse textual and material cultural evidence. We learn how to use archaeological reports to obtain the maximum amount of data while understanding the technicalities of stratigraphy and phasing, and how to critically evaluate texts in original languages and in translation to build arguments about the past. We also review the various theoretical approaches used to study the ancient world. Students are guided in how to create spreadsheets, databases, and data visualizations to expedite their data collection for archaeological and historical research.


Upon successful completion of this unit students will:

  1. Apply available research methodologies and analytical tools to collect and evaluate data.
  2. Critically appraise the reliability of source materials.
  3. Identify and appraise the various interpretations of data that have been offered by scholars.
  4. Be aware of the impact of contemporary ideology and religious beliefs on the interpretation of the ancient past.
  5. Use archaeological and historical data to present a detailed analytical discussion of a specific research question.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 288 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study