Archaeological Methods and Techniques

Archaeological Methods and Techniques

Archaeological Methods and Techniques

CLA 2110

Professor:Jitse Dijkstra

Office:DMS, room 10110 (10thfloor)

Telephone:562-5800 (ext. 1325)


Classes:Tuesday, 11:30a.m. – 12:50p.m. FTX 135

Friday, 13:00 – 14:20 p.m. FTX 135

Office Hour:Tuesday, 13:00a.m. – 14:00 p.m.

or by appointment


This course is designed to provide a basic introduction to the methods and techniques used in archaeological research, particularly of the Mediterranean. Studentswill become familiar with different methods of interpreting material evidence and understand the advantages of combining material and historical sources (e.g. inscriptions, literary texts and archaeological remains). Studentswill also learn about recent developments in the field of archaeology, such as new survey and dating methods. Finally, studentswill experience, through a series of workshops, some of the practical aspects of archaeology. The course specifically prepares students for taking part in field work campaigns or museum activities.


  • C. Renfrew, P. Bahn, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (London: Thames & Hudson, seventh(college) edition, 2016, supported by the book’swebsite:

The text book is available at All Booksbookstore, located on Rideau to the Bytowne Cinema for$126.


Participation:10 %

Assignments: 20 %

Mid term test:30 %

Final examination:40 %


This is a practical class and therefore participation is absolutely necessary, unless there are serious reasons not to (the student needs an official confirmation of this such as a doctor’s note!). At the start of every class, students must sign in. The participation rate is calculated by the number of times they attended divided by the number of classes. The participation rate is 10% of the final mark.


The class structure is such that more theoretical material is covered in classes while more practical material will be explored through workshops. During the lectures the required reading from the text book will be elucidated and illustrated mainly with the professor’s own field work experience. During the first seriesof classes until the mid-term test, emphasis will be on attaining a basic knowledge of the field: the why? who? what? where? when? and how? questions. After having acquainted ourselves with the basics of archaeology, after the mid-term test our attention will shift to more practical aspects of archaeology, the actual digs, illustrated by three case studies. The classes wrap-up with a lecture about Canadian archaeology. As regards the workshops, in these classes we acquire some basic hands-on experience of what it is like being an archaeologist in the field. Workshops include the analysis of bone and plant remains and artefacts, and the writing of an archaeological site description.


The assignments consist of brief questionnaires and exercises pertaining to eachworkshop. They should be handed in at the end of class or at the next class. Students can work together in small groups. Assignments are not simply marked but rather approved or not approved. The total number of approved assignments is divided by the total number of assignments and this takes up 20% of the final mark.


The mid-term test (30%) is a written test on the theory of the first 4 chapters of the textbook (plus additional pages from other chapters as indicated), as well as on class notes. A revision of required knowledge will be provided prior to the mid-term test. There will also be a pre-test, in which students can practice for the mid-term.


The last class will act as a forum for review for the final exam.The emphasis of the final examination will not so much be on factual knowledge, though that is the basis, but on insight into the different cases of archaeological research that we came across during the course.


The professor will put the course outline on his website at ‘courses’ and then ‘Archaeological Methods and Techniques’) during the entire semester.

In order to support the learning of the text book, some questions will be uploaded to this website after every class. By trying to answer these questions, students can check the comprehensiveness of their notes. If students are unable to answer the questions they may have missed something and can then complete their notes using the textbook website and textbook, asking a question about it to the professor or his teaching assistant by e-mail, during office hours or at the start of class. The list of questions can also be used in preparation for the mid-term test and final exam.

The text book does not have to be read in its entirety, for examplemany of the box features are less relevant. The instructor will include relevant page numbers withthe question lists. Other relevant documents will also be listed on the website.


Readings are taken from the Renfrew and Bahn textbook


/ Topic / Readings

Friday, Sept. 9

/ Introduction to the course.
What is archaeology? Archaeology and Ancient History
Required reading: Introduction / Introduction
Sept. 13 / Who’s Who? The History of Archaeology or The Discovery of the Past
Required reading: Ch. 1: The Searchers: The History of Archaeology / Ch. 1


Sept. 16 / Material Evidence and Its Preservation
Required reading: Ch. 2: What is Left? The Variety of the Evidence. / Ch. 2
Sept. 20 / Where Do You Find It? Surveys and Excavations in Practice. A first look on site: the Wroxeter Hinterland Project, the GroningenUniversity surveys at Halos, Greece, and the excavations of the Oxford Archaeological Unit at White Horse Hill, Great Britain
Required reading: Ch. 3: Where? Survey and Excavation of Sites and Features. / Ch. 3
Sept. 23 / Tour through the Museum by Prof. Antonia Holden, curator of the Museum of Classical Antiquities(assignment 1)
Location: Museum of Classical Antiquities, DMS hall (3rd floor)


Sept. 27 / When Is It Dated? Dating methods and Archaeology. New Perspectives on the Chronology of Greek Colonization in Italy
Required reading: Ch. 4: When? Dating Methods and Chronology / Ch. 4
Sept. 30 / Practicum Artifacts (assignment 2)
Instructed by Museum volunteers
Location: TBA


Oct. 4 / How Were Societies Organized? Social Archaeology. The Reconstruction of Settlement Patterns and Ranking from Burials
Required reading: Ch. 5 – How Were Societies Organized? Social Archaeology. / Ch. 5
pp. 179-83, 199-200
Oct. 14 / Archaeobotany (and practicum plant remains) by Laila Sikking, Archaeobotanist (assignment 3)
Required reading: Ch.6: What Was the Environment (Environmental Archaeology), and Ch.7: What Did They Eat? Subsistence and Diet. / Ch. 6:
pp. 249-56
Ch. 7:


Oct. 18 / Practicum Conservation by Judith Logan, Archaeological Conservator (assignment 4)
Required reading: Ch. 8 – How Did They Make and Use Tools and
Ch. 13 – Archaeology in Action / Ch. 8
pp. 342-56
and Ch. 13
Oct. 21 / Preparation for mid-term test
Oct. 25 & Friday Oct. 28 / NO CLASSES: READING WEEK!
Nov. 4 / Case study 1: The excavations at Aswan, Egypt
Tuesday Nov. 8 / Practicum Underwater Archaeology by Brandy Lockhart, Underwater Archaeologist, Parks Canada (assignment 5)
Location: Lecture Hall / Ch. 10
Nov. 11 / Comments on mid-term test
Cognitive Archaeology. Case study 2: the Dutch excavations at Francavilla Marittima, Italy
Required reading: Ch. 10 – What Did They Think? Cognitive Archaeology, Art and Religion.
Nov. 15 / Whose Past? Archaeology and the Public
Required Reading: Ch. 14: Whose Past? Archaeology and the Public / Ch. 14
Nov. 18 / Bones Practicum by Janet Young, Curator Physical Anthropology, Canadian Museum of History(assignment 6)
Location: Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau
Required reading: Ch. 11 – Who Were They? What Were They Like? The Bioarchaeology of People. / Ch. 11
Nov. 22 / How to apply for a dig in Europe? Experiences of students who went on field work.
Nov. 25 / Case study 3: The Dutch excavations at Satricum, Italy; explanation about site description (assignment 7)
Nov. 29 / Canadian Archaeology by Jean-Luc Pilon, Curator Central Archaeology,Canadian Museum of History (assignment 8)
Hand in assignment 7
Dec. 6 / preparation for final examination
Final Exam: Dec. 9-22


Lectures on archaeology This Fall

Students can obtain a bonus of 0.1 (out of 10) on their mark on the final exam (which is worth 40% of the final mark!) for each lecturethey attend in the lecture programme of the Ottawa Chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America this term:


/ Speaker and Title / Place

Sunday, Sept. 18

(2.00 pm) / Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner(University of Toronto), ‘Hatshepsut and the Rituals of Rebirth: Research on New Finds from Abydos, Egypt’ / DMS 1120
Sunday, Oct. 2 (2.00 pm) / ‘From the Ground Up’: University of Ottawa and Carletonstudents present about their fieldwork experiences in Europe this summer / DMS 1160
Oct. 16
(2.00 pm) / Asa Eger (University of North Carolina - Greensboro), ‘The Islamic-Byzantine Frontier’ / Amphitheatre, St. Paul’s University
Sunday, Nov. 20
(2.00 pm) / John Serrati (University of Ottawa), ‘Hoplites and Heroes: Homer on the Battlefields of Classical Greece’ / Paterson 303, Carleton University

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