Institute of Archaeology


Themes, Thought and Theory in World Archaeology: Foundations

The module provides an intensive graduate-level induction to archaeological theory, research issues and reasoning.

The half element comprises ten seminars in archaeological theory which are taken by students from a wide range of postgraduate courses and provide a firm methodological foundation for archaeological interpretation, as well as a global perspective on the discipline. Set readings and case-studies will be used to evaluate the analytical processes developed by different schools of archaeological thought, and the range of approaches currently available in studying material culture, social complexity and differentiation, concepts of agency, and long-term cultural change.

Aims of the module

The module, which consists of a seminar framework based on set readings, aims to review the recent history of archaeological ideas and to examine key general themes in current archaeology from a theoretical and comparative perspective.


On successful completion of this module  a student should:

  • Have an understanding of current theoretical debates across a broad range of archaeology.
  • Be aware of the reasons for the debates as a basis for forming their own theoretical position.
  • Be able to use the knowledge to develop an innovative PhD proposal or carry out soundly based work in their particular field of archaeology.

    Learning Outcomes

    By the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate:

    • Critical analysis of ideas
    • Construction of a theory-based argument
    • Application of acquired knowledge
    • Verbal discussion skills

      Teaching Methods

      The module is taught through seminars led by Todd Whitelaw. Seminars have weekly required readings, which students will be expected to have done, to be able to follow and actively contribute to discussion.

      Module information

      • Code: ARCL0133  
      • Credits: 15
      • Coordinator: Todd Whitelaw
      • Prerequisite: There are no formal prerequisites for this module.
      • Handbook: open»

      For registered students


      • Runs every year