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Study information

Material Culture

Module titleMaterial Culture
Module codeARCM300
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Marisa Lazzari (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module aims at providing a solid grounding in archaeological approaches to material culture, and to explore alternative perspectives from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, history, sociology and psychology. At the end of the module, you will be expected to show a comprehensive understanding of the role of material culture in human societies, and to demonstrate critical awareness of the various approaches used for assessing this role.

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • To provide a solid grounding in archaeological approaches to material culture, and to explore alternative perspectives from a range of disciplines, including anthropology, sociology and psychology. 
  • To provide a wide range of analytical, descriptive and interpretive skills enabling a well-rounded training suitable for research, museum studies, and artefact analyses in a professional environment.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Critically evaluate the interactions between archaeology and other disciplines in the interpretation of material culture
  • 2. Integrate complex theoretical issues with detailed case studies, taking methodological issues into consideration
  • 3. Demonstrate comprehensive understanding of the range and complexity of processes underlying the constitution of socially significant material worlds

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Deal with complex questions both systematically and imaginatively
  • 5. Present clearly structured, well written and appropriately illustrated arguments

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 6. Show initiative and originality in tackling and solving research problems
  • 7. Take part in group discussions, posing pertinent questions
  • 8. Organise work efficiently with respect to deadlines
  • 9. Learn to give and receive constructive criticism

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 and history of the field of study 
  • Artefacts, materials, things, objects
  • Contemporary material culture: modern objects, design and consumption
  • Artefacts, taskscapes and landscapes
  • Agency, functionality and meaning – what objects do 
  • Technology
  • Skill transmission and learning
  • Object biographies and the social life of things
  • Artefacts, materials and the senses
  • Encounters and interactions
  • Material memories

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, discussion events and writing/audio-visual exercises (comparable to 11 x 2 hour sessions)
Guided independent study128Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual presentation on case study or artefact/s(in class or pre-recorded and followed by participation in discussion board)10 minutes (8-10 slides max)2, 7-9Oral and/or written feedback
Draft plan of final essay750 words maximum1-6, 8-9Individual oral or written 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
Essay: demonstrate critical awareness of a key theoretical issue in material culture1004000 words1-6, 8-9Written feedback and opportunity for individual discussion

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay (4000 words)Essay (4000 words)1-6, 8-9Referral/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 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%. The referred assessment will be a replacement title for the essay.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Braudillard, J. 2005. The System of Objects. London: Verso Books
  • Buchli, V., ed. 2002. The Material Culture Reader. Oxford: Berg
  • Gell, A. 1998. Art and Agency. Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • Graves-Brown, P., ed. 2000. Matter, Materiality and Modern Culture. London: Routledge
  • Hodder, I. 2012. Entanglement. An Archaeology of the relationships between human and things. Jon Wyley & sons       
  • Hurcombe, L. 2007. Archaeological Artefacts as Material Culture. London: Routledge
  • Ingold, T. 2000. The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. London. Routledge
  • Ingold, T. 2013. Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Architecture. Routledge.
  • Knappett, C. 2005. Thinking Through Material Culture: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Philadelphia: Penn Press
  • Meskell, L. 2005. Archaeologies of Materiality. John Wiley & sons
  • Miller, D. 2005. Materiality. Duke University Press
  • Norman, D. 1998. The Design of Everyday Things. London: MIT Press
  • Tilley, C. 1999. Metaphor and Material Culture. Oxford: Blackwell
  • Renfrew, C. & C. Scarre, eds. 1998. Cognition and Material Culture: The Archaeology of storage. Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monographs

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Material Culture, Archaeology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date

November 2011

Last revision date