Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST36A1: Digging It: Towards A History of Archaeology

Department: History

HIST36A1: Digging It: Towards A History of Archaeology

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • A pass mark in at least ONE level 2 module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To encourage students to consider changing conceptions of the ancient past over time;
  • To examine the colonial and imperial context in which archaeology as we know it developed over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries;
  • To evaluate different academic approaches to the history of archaeology and how (or whether) they engage with contemporary issues, such as decolonization.


  • This module will look at the development of archaeology as a field science, focusing on ca. 1820 to 1940 and drawing on a global range of historical examples and source material. We may also consider antecedents to archaeology, changes in the field in the post-WW1 era, and contemporary issues such as heritage and decolonization.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To acquire a knowledge of how and why archaeology developed as it did over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries;
  • To relate the history of archaeology to changes in political regimes, technological innovations, new institutions, and professionalization;
  • To explain the role that archaeological sites, artefacts, and practitioners have played at different historical junctures and in global contexts;
  • To understand different approaches to studying the history of archaeology.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • To recognize and historicize the development of archaeology during the modern era;
  • To research the history of archaeology using a variety of written and visual sources;
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of different historical methods and theories have contributed to historiographies of archaeology.
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • To acquire the confidence to undertake independent historical research;
  • To develop appropriate skills of analysis and interpretation for written and visual sources, according to different media and different audiences;
  • To interrogate the link between archaeological practices in the past and relevant contemporary debates, e.g. in heritage, preservation, and decolonization.
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/History/ugrads/ModuleProformaMap/

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

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking, and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Examinations test students’ ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly in Terms 1&2; 2 in Term 3 1 hour 21
Seminars 7 4 in Term 1; 3 in Term 2 1 hour 7
Preparation and reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay - not including bibliography and footnotes 3000 words 100%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen examination [paper to be made available not less than seventy-two hours before the start of the examination] 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

A written assignment of 1000-2000 words to be submitted in Michaelmas Term

â–  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