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Study information

Brooches, Beads, Swords and Shields: Early Medieval Material Culture

Module titleBrooches, Beads, Swords and Shields: Early Medieval Material Culture
Module codeARC3121
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Hajnalka Herold (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module you will explore the world of artefacts used in the early Middle Ages (5th-11th centuries AD), such as dress accessories, weapons, tools and household items (e.g. ceramics, glass). Thereby addressing the following questions will form the main line of study: How can we study the material culture of the early Middle Ages? What social meanings can early medieval material culture convey? How was material culture used in the early Middle Ages to reproduce/negotiate/change social identities? How did items of early medieval material culture relate to social structures and to the agency of their producers and users? In what ways could these objects themselves have agency? What regional differences can we see within Europe? What role can scientific analysis methods play in the study of early medieval material culture?

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to provide an overview of early medieval material culture and to develop an appreciation of the principles and methodologies of its study and of its contribution to a more complete understanding of the early Middle Ages. Special attention will be given to the role of the archaeological context (e.g. finds from burials or finds from settlements) when considering an interpretative framework for artefacts. Examples from both Britain and continental Europe will be explored in order to better understand broader developments and regional differences.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Know the principal types of early medieval artefacts and the basic properties of their materials
  • 2. Know the range of methods available for the study of these objects and their social contexts
  • 3. Appreciate the ways how the study of material culture contributes to a better understanding of the early medieval period

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Understand the role of studying artefacts in interpreting the past
  • 5. Consider a series of different approaches to material culture in different research traditions
  • 6. Appreciate the reflection of past identities in the archaeological record and understand possibilities and limits of their study

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Develop an ability to interpret a variety of information forms
  • 8. Prepare and give a presentation using appropriate visual aids
  • 9. Ask questions in discussion and respond to questions and comments

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction: Early medieval artefacts and possible approaches to their study
  • Theoretical concepts and different regional research traditions in the study of material culture
  • Early medieval dress accessories and weapons
  • Tools connected to early medieval craft production
  • Objects of the early medieval household
  • Visit to a museum displaying early medieval objects
  • Expressing identities through material culture: gender, age, social group
  • Production, trade and exchange of different types of artefacts in the early Middle Ages
  • The use of scientific methods in the study of early medieval artefacts
  • Seminars 1 and 2: Discussing case studies of selected early medieval artefact
  • Individual presentations




Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2211 x 2 hour classes
Guided Independent Study128Independent study to include reading and preparation for lectures, seminars, presentations and assessments.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual presentation4010 minutes1-9Oral and Written feedback
Essay602000 words1-7Oral and Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay 2000 words1-7Referral/deferral period
Individual presentationPowerpoint slides and written text of a 10 minute presentation1-9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Bayley, Justine and Watson, Jacqui 2009, Emerging from the appendices: The contributions of scientific examination and analysis to medieval archaeology (Chapter 18), in: Gilchrist, Roberta and Reynolds, Andrew (eds.), Reflections: 50 years of medieval archaeology, 1957-2007 Leeds: Maney Publishing, 363–381.
  • Effros, Bonnie 2003, Merovingian mortuary archaeology: and the making of the early Middle Ages, Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Graham-Campbell, James and Valor, Magdalena (eds.) 2007, The archaeology of medieval Europe: Vol.1 eighth to twelfth centuries AD, Arhus: Arhus University Press. – especially Chapters 8 (Material Culture and Daily Life), 7 (Technology, Craft and Industry) and 10 (Trade and Exchange)
  • Hinton, David A. 2005, Gold and gilt, pots and pins: possessions and people in medieval Britain, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Willemsen, Annemarieke and Kik, Hanneke (eds.) 2010, Dorestad in an international framework: New research on centres of trade and coinage in Carolingian times, Proceedings of the first Dorestad Congress held at the National Museum of Antiquities Leiden, The Netherlands, June 24-27, 2009, Turnhout: Brepols. – especially the article ‘Dorestad Discussed’ by Annemarieke Willemsen and the articles by Chrystel Brandenburgh, Clasina Isings, Luc Megens and Florian Preiß

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Archaeology, Medieval, Artefacts

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

Not taking ARC2121

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Last revision date