Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module ARCH52360: Research Topics in Classical and Roman Archaeology (Double)

Department: Archaeology

ARCH52360: Research Topics in Classical and Roman Archaeology (Double)

Type Open Level 4 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop an in-depth knowledge and understanding of a specialised aspect of Classical and/or Roman archaeology chosen from a list of topics representing the main areas of research in the Department and the Strands within the MA in Archaeology.


  • Two of the following topics as available:
  • Roman studies and mythical history: Mythical history and images of Rome; the relationship between classical archaeology and 'the classics'; the nature and variability of the image of Rome in Western society (with a focus on Britain); the complex relationship between popular images, the media and archaeology; the factors that have lain behind the creation of the archaeological database; Museums and popular mythology; public displays, the TV and linear concepts of history; the concept of progressive Romanization; comparative frontier narratives across the empire and their social context; the definition of 'otherness' - barbarians in Roman eyes; the uses of the native the hero (Vercingetorix, Boudica, Asterix, etc).
  • Production, Exchange and consumption in the Roman World: Imperial interests; feeding Rome and the army; feeding the people; local production and consumption; mechanisms of exchange; long-distance trade; artisans and craftspeople; retail outlets; urban settlements as producers and consumers.
  • Townscapes in North Africa and the Near East: Urban form and its transformation from Late Antiquity to the early Arab period. The major focus will be on the Mediterranean provinces, especially North Africa and the Near East from the Roman Imperial period to the 8th / 9th centuries AD. Comparison between eastern and western Mediterranean. Transformation of cities through major historical events; the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the Vandal occupation of North Africa, the Byzantine Empire and the arrival of the Arabs. Overview of the classical city and the range of public and private buildings and their development over time. The transformation of space from Late Antiquity, both the urban layout of towns and the reuse of individual buildings. The changing nature of society during a period of great historical upheaval. Christianization - the changes to urban topography brought about by the foundation of churches and the rise of the power of the clergy.
  • Roman Landscapes of the Mediterranean: Mediterranean landscapes of the Roman period (c.500BC-AD500). Methodological and theoretical development of landscape studies through survey of the Roman countryside of the Mediterranean. Current theories and debates include economy, agriculture, demography and identity. Geographical, ecological and historical diversity of Roman rural landscapes. Comparative analysis of different Mediterranean regions. Methodological and theoretical issues associated with Roman landscape studies in the Mediterranean region, links both with earlier and later periods, and innovative approaches to studies of provincial landscapes.
  • Aspects of Art and Archaeology in Ancient Greece and Beyond (700-300 BC): this topic explores the emergence of art in the Greek speaking world and its complex relationships, overlaps and differences from the visual cultures associated with other groups in the Mediterranean and Near East, as well as variability within the Greek speaking world. Topics include the ‘birth’ of ‘Greek’ art; regionalism in archaic Crete and Etruria; temples, architectural orders, their meanings and regionalism; the art and architecture of the Achaemenid Persians and their allies; the emergence of the Classical style in Greek art and its meaning; the depiction of other races and ethnicities by Persians, Greeks and others; the uses of architectural sculpture by poleis and non-Greek royals.
  • Cultural Landscapes of Eurasia: Provides students with an in depth understanding of archaeological landscapes, focusing on the development of complex societies and territorial empires. We discuss advances in the tools available for understanding landscapes, including remote sensing and satellite imagery, GIS and drone technologies, as well as covering key research areas such as urbanism, water systems and human-environment interactions. Case studies are drawn from a wide area, including the UK, Middle East, Mediterranean, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
  • Preservation of Archaeological Remains In Situ: explores how we preserve archaeological remains (sites and artefacts) in situ and the ethical issues raised in dealing with sites as diverse as aboriginal rock shelters and wrecks in the English Channel. Covers: the extent and nature of the degradation processes seen at these sites; the means of recording and describing these decay processes; the legal and economic methods used to protect these sites and their artefacts; the physical and chemical methods used to preserve these sites and their artefacts; the methods used for restoring these sites and worrying about how far you should go with restoration. We will also try and gain a clear understanding of the chemistry, biology and physical nature of the burial environment and decay processes of a range of materials. There will be an emphasis on the physical practicalities of these issues, we will, however, not be exploring any aspect of conserving artefacts.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Using two of the following topics as available, students will have:
  • Roman studies and mythical history: Developed a critical knowledge of the information for the ways that images of Rome have developed in various countries; considered the relationship between popular images of Rome and the Approaches of Roman archaeologists; Analysed comparable evidence from various areas of Europe and the world; Acquired an appreciation of the diversity of images that have developed and their relationship to archaeological discourses; Evaluated competing theoretical interpretations of this material; Developed their independent research and learning skills.
  • Production, Exchange and Consumption in the Roman World: Investigated a series of topics relating to the subject of the module; Discussed and evaluated a series of case-studies within these topics, through the detailed study of material culture and landscapes; acquired an appreciation of the diversities and similarities in the processes evident in different regions; evaluated the archaeological evidence in the context of the historical sources; developed their independent learning and research skills.
  • Townscapes in North Africa and the Near East: Developed an ability to demonstrate advanced levels of current knowledge and intensive understanding of: Roman and Late Antique urbanism (particularly in the North Africa – Tunisia, Libya, Algeria - and in the Near East), the diffusion of Christianity and the progressive Christianization of urban areas, the major debates on the fate of classical Roman towns after the fall of the Roman Empire, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine urbanism, early Arab occupation of classical Roman towns (did urban areas [in the civic sense] survive?); evaluated the available sources of evidence and current issues and interpretations; investigated and analysed specific case-studies for each period; considered in detail the re-use of former public buildings and the social, political and economic contexts in which these transformations occurred.
  • Roman Landscapes of the Mediterranean: Developed advanced understanding of a full range of methodological, theoretical and interpretative approaches to Roman landscapes in the Mediterranean; have located studies of Roman Mediterranean landscapes in the broader context of archaeological landscape research; have critically assessed current issues and competing theories in the study of Roman Mediterranean landscapes and formulated clear views on key areas of academic debate and dispute; have fully appreciated the cultural and ecological diversity of Roman landscapes in the Mediterranean and recognized their broader geographical context and historical significance; have critically evaluated and systematically analysed a variety of geographical, chronological and thematic case studies.
  • Aspects of Art and Archaeology in Ancient Greece and Beyond (700-300 BC): Developed familiarity with a range of case study regions, sites and monuments in the period and area concerned, including sculpture, painting and architecture in the Greek world and neighbouring zones; queried the mechanisms that led to the formation of particular monument types and trajectories of visual cultures in particular contexts; investigated the formation and expression of identities of the ‘self’ and ‘others’ in historical context; considered how patterns of visual culture, identities and language usage relates to the use of ethnic taxonomies in historical and archaeological literature, both ancient and modern.
  • Cultural Landscapes of Eurasia: Developed a critical understanding of the history of landscape archaeology and the range of approaches available; understood the key theoretical and methodological concepts involved in the study of the landscape; developed the capacity to analyse and interpret map data, aerial photographs and satellite imagery to make informed interpretations, understood the broad nature of landscape change in at least one major study region (UK, Mediterranean, Middle East, Central Asia).
  • Preservation of Archaeological Remains In Situ: Acquired a detailed knowledge of the history of the legal and physical protection of archaeological remains; acquired an understanding of the ethical issues involved in preservation; developed an appreciation of the nature of the burial environment; developed a detailed understanding of the physical strategies (reburial, display, shelters, maintenance) and legal mechanisms currently used for preserving archaeological remains; become familiar with the issues involved in enacting social, legal, physical, biological and chemical protection of archaeological remains in the modern heritage industry environment.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will have acquired an appreciation of the complexity and diversity data available on different temporal/spatial scales, have gathered relevant data and evaluated competing interpretations of available materials and data.
Key Skills:
  • Students will have developed independent research and learning skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Core content is delivered through instructor-led lectures also attended by Level 3 undergraduates, and a mixture of instructor-led and student-led tutorials/seminar classes dedicated to Level 4 (MA) students.
  • Instructor-led tutorials/seminar classes are small group learning environments which are interactive. They can: go over material from lectures; explain and discuss complex interpretations, theories and ideas; share opinions on set readings; or discuss a case study in depth.
  • Student-led tutorials/seminars can: require students to present to the group on essay topics, readings or case studies.
  • Lectures, instructor-led seminars and reading lists initiate students into various topics and provide guidance for them on readings, including archaeological reports, synthetic and theoretical literature.
  • There is an emphasis on developing critical reading through seminar discussion, but also on independent exploration and reading, aimed at building the critical appraisal and independent research skills in the intended learning outcomes.
  • Summative essays assess the grasp of material and ideas covered in the courses, ability to describe material, formulate problems and explain issues clearly in writing, evidence of critical and inquisitive thinking, and development of independent research and reading.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 18 weekly 1 hour 18
Tutorials 20 weekly 1 hour 20
Preparation and Reading 562
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays 1 Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 2,000 words 50% Yes
Essay 2 2,000 words 50% Yes
Component: Essays 2 Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3 3,000 words 50% Yes
Essay 4 3,000 words 50% Yes

Formative Assessment:

The preparation achieved in the module RSS that precedes this module is considered to be sufficient formative preparation for the summative assignments in this module.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University