Institute of Archaeology
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Course description

This course introduces participants by means of lectures and demonstration to a range of scientific techniques that can be used to analyse and interpret cultural information from archaeological ceramic assemblages, including thin section petrography, geochemistry, scanning electron microscopy and organic residue analysis. Focusing in particular on ceramic petrography, the course provides in depth practical training, on the principles of this versatile geoarchaeological approach and its role in the interpretation of pottery provenance and manufacturing technology. Assessment is by means of two microscope-based practical exercises.

Aims of the course

  • To introduce participants to the range of different scientific approaches used in archaeology to analyse pottery and other ceramics.
  • To demonstrate the types of cultural signals discernible at the microscopic, molecular and atomic scale in archaeological ceramics and how these contribute to broader issues in ancient material culture.
  • To provide specific hands-on training in the principles of thin section petrography and its application to ceramic analysis.

Objectives

On successful completion of this course a student should:

  • To be able to evaluate the relevance and applicability of various scientific methods of ceramic analysis.
  • To be able to evaluate critically published work relating to archaeological ceramic analysis.
  • To gain an appreciation of the role of ceramic analysis within the wider study of pottery and the application of scientific approaches alongside other archaeological data.
  • To have gained a basic practical understanding of how to undertake thin section petrographic analysis on archaeological ceramics that can be developed by independent research within an MSc dissertation or PhD thesis.

Learning Outcomes

  • Developed skills in deduction based on detailed visual observations.
  • Improved abilities in critical thought and reasoning.

Teaching Methods

  • Two one-hour lectures per week including some practical demonstration.
  • One two-hour microscope-based practical class per week.
  • Two two-hour practical microscope assessments during the course.

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