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Study information

Landscape Archaeology: Understanding the Historic Environment

Module titleLandscape Archaeology: Understanding the Historic Environment
Module codeARCM225
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Stephen Rippon (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

You will examine the sources and methods used when studying the origins and development of the ‘historic landscape’ (present-day patterns of settlements, communications, field-systems and other land-uses), and explore key themes in the evolution of Britain’s landscape in the past two millennia, as well as aspects of continental European historic landscapes.

The content will be strongly interdisciplinary covering field archaeology, historic landscape analysis, palaeoenvironmental evidence, the analysis of maps and documents, place- and field-names, and vernacular architecture. Although there are no pre-requisite modules, you will need to have a basic understanding of the techniques of archaeology and the major developments in the archaeology of Britain in the past two millennia (equivalent to undergraduate modules (ARC1020 ‘Essential Archaeological Methods’ and ARC1030 ‘Investigating British Archaeology’).

Module aims - intentions of the module

On completion of the module, you will understand the major sources and techniques used in the study of the historic landscape. You will be able to critically assess which methods are appropriate for studying particular landscapes and periods. The module’s focus on the historic landscape reflects one of Exeter’s major research strengths in this field, and also reflects the growing emphasis on this area within a wide range of professions including archaeology, planning and countryside management.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate comprehensive understanding of the range and application of techniques within landscape archaeology
  • 2. Define and engage with the key concepts and philosophies that underpin our understanding of landscape change

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, making sound judgement in the absence of complete data
  • 4. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the basic chronological development of the British landscape in the past two millennia as well as an awareness of aspects of continental European historic landscapes.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. Present to a high level clearly structured, well written and appropriately illustrated arguments
  • 6. Take part in group discussions, and ask pertinent questions at the forefront of the subject
  • 7. Learn constructively from verbal and written feedback

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: a landscape approach to studying the past
  • Data collection: field archaeology
  • Data collection: maps and documents
  • The Romano-British landscape, The Roman-medieval transition, and the reorganisation of landscapes in the late first millennium
  • The High Middle Ages, the late medieval period and beyond
  • Continental perspectives: The Roman to medieval transition
  • Continental and British perspectives: Early medieval centres, Part 1
  • Continental and British perspectives: Early medieval centres, Part 2
  • Continental perspectives: Rural settlements of the early Middle Ages

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 teaching22Lecture content, critical discussion and groupwork
Guided independent study128Including reading and preparation for lectures, seminars and assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Interpretation of map (group work)15 minutes in-class exercise1-2, 6-7Oral feedback

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
Critique of published landscape archaeology project focussing on the techniques used401500 words1-5,7Written feedback
Essay on a key period of landscape change 602000 words1-5,7Written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Critique (1500 words)Critique (1500 words)1-5,7Referral/Deferral period
Essay (2000 words)Essay (2000 words)1-5,7Referral/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 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Key periodicals:  Landscape History; Landscapes

Key books (including e-books)

  • Aston, M. 1985:  Interpreting the landscape. London. [e-book]       
  • Bowden, M. 1999:  Unravelling the Landscape. Stroud.    
  • Creighton, O.H. 2009:  Designs upon the Land: Elite Landscapes of the Middle Ages. Woodbridge.    
  • Hamerow, H. 2002: Early medieval settlements: the archaeology of rural communities in Northwest Europe 400–900. Oxford. [e-book]
  • Muir, R. 1999:  Approaches to Landscape.  London.  [e-book]        
  • Muir, R. 2000:  The NEW Reading the Landscape. Exeter. [e-book]           
  • Rippon, S. 2004:  Historic landscape Analysis. York. []   
  • Rippon, S. 2008:  Beyond the Medieval Village. Oxford.  [e-book]      
  • Rippon, S. 2012: Making Sense of An Historic Landscape (Oxford) [e-book]      
  • Roberts, B. and Wrathmell, S 2002:  Region and Place: A Study of English Rural Settlement, London.    
  • Smith, A. et al 2016: The Rural Settlement of Roman Britain. Britannia Monograph 29.
  • Williamson, T 2003:  Shaping Medieval Landscapes. Macclesfield.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date