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Introduction to Archaeology: Digging Deeper

Course Times & Enrolment

Mondays from 23rd January 2023 (Code AC098-205) Mondays from
23rd January 2023 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (5 classes)
G38 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Dr Alex Hale MIFA FSAScot
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

This course explores in depth five different periods from the Palaeolithic to the 1700s, by considering five different and significant sites. The course will consider the context of the sites, their historic investigation and the outcomes and impact that they have had on archaeological thought and practices.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous experience is necessary.

Content of Course

1. 19th century industrial landscapes.

We shall study the archaeology of industrial landscapes. We shall look at how modern day landscapes comprise hidden and visible archaeological evidence of industrial-agricultural regimes. This first week will introduce the students to the rural landscape, and illustrate how it contains evidence of the agricultural industrial revolution. The class will study a farm in its landscape context and be tasked with designing an archaeological recording project to investigate this type of rural, industrial archaeology.

2. St Kilda, an Improvement period farm.

This week we shall focus on the archaeology of the Improvement period (circa 1700-1850), and assess how St Kilda has become symbolic of how archaeological investigation can change our understanding of what we consider to be remote. Students will study the history of archaeological research on St Kilda, discuss ‘remoteness’, research pre-Improvement and Improvement period landscapes and the archaeology of islands.

3. Iron Age Crannogs.

The Iron Age is characterised by warring warriors who lived in hilltop forts and fought with other tribes. However, Scottish crannogs (artificial islands in lochs) tell a quite different story from the same period; one of resourceful people who understood the landscape in which they lived, were able to take what they need from both the land and the water and left archaeologists with a broad range of evidence. The students will learn through research by focussing on Redcastle crannog, a site that the course tutor excavated as part of his PhD thesis. The students will discover how to design a research excavation programme, consider the environmental conditions that crannogs present to researchers and develop an understanding of the broad range of evidence that crannogs can provide.

4. Bronze Age Cycles.

The Bronze Age presents archaeologists with a range of sites, but it is the stone circles from this period that have captured the imagination. Students will be introduced to the history of stone circles and their research, consider the range of monuments that have survived and focus on a number of sites that demonstrate the range of evidence from which we can interpret their origins and functions. We shall look at Stonehenge, the world’s most famous archaeological site and see how this has affected our understanding of different types of sites and landscapes.

5. Early Prehistoric Art.

The final week takes the students back to some of the earliest art that is found. Rock art ranges from Palaeolithic images of animals on cave walls to sheets of rock carved in the Neolithic with cup-and-ring markings. This week students will discover the range of art that exists across the globe from the deep past. They will discuss the concepts of understanding art within archaeological contexts and explore the relationships between the art, its context and how to approach an archaeological investigation that addresses prehistoric art.

Teaching method(s)

The course will comprise lectures and group discussions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of key periods of archaeological time and how specific sites and landscapes can be investigated in order to develop archaeological theories;

  • Discuss the purposes and potentials of archaeological research;

  • Demonstrate awareness of the context and history and changes of archaeological research.


Core Readings


  • Gamble, C. 2000. Archaeology: The Basics. London: Routledge.

  • Renfrew, C. and Bahn, P. 2012. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. London: Thames & Hudson.

Web Sources


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.