The Experimental Archaeology Course

These pages tell you about the 4-day Experimental Archaeology Course, which takes place towards the end of your first week studying for an undergraduate archaeology degree at the Institute of Archaeology UCL.

(Despite many attempts to adopt a more accurate name, everyone who has ever been on it, refers to it as "PrimTech".)

At the end of induction week, all first-year students spend four days on the Experimental Archaeology course, held in Sussex, organised jointly by the staff of the Institute and the Society of Archaeological Students (SAS). This provides an informal context for students to get to know one another, as well as the officers of the SAS and members of staff. This course has now been running for many years, and we hope that all students will enjoy it, and gain as much from it, as their predecessors have done.

The course is run in fields on the West Dean Estate. One field is used primarily for camping, cooking and eating, while others are used for a variety of activities. There is a hut where refuge can be sought if it is really raining.

UCL's President and Provost, Michael Arthur, recently highlighted the course as an example of good practice making students feel valued and central to [the department's] thinking.

Objectives of the Course

Over the four days of the course, students take part in a number of activities that are designed to be informative about activities undertaken by people in the past. These are likely to include:

  • flint knapping;
  • copper smelting;
  • pottery making;
  • working with wood;
  • building structures;
  • processing and cooking foods.

By looking at the remains left behind at the end of these activities we also hope that students will start to develop a better understanding of the archaeological record, and what archaeologists can expect to be able to tell from it about the behaviour of people in the past. All the activities that students take part in are designed to provoke discussion concerning the nature of archaeological evidence, particularly in reconstructing the types of activities that have taken place.

We hope that students will find their few days in Sussex interesting. Many of the concepts discussed in this course will crop up time and time again throughout your time at the Institute of Archaeology, for different periods, different parts of the world and for different materials and processes. We hope that students will find the Course a useful introduction to such concepts; we also hope that everyone will enjoy themselves.

The Institute held a mini "PrimTech" in Gordon Square Gardens as part of its 75th anniversary activities in 2012. View images of the event here»

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