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Advanced Scientific Methodology in Archaeology


Admission requirements

Admission to the RMSc Archaeology programme Bioarchaeology, or the conditional RMSc track.


The scientific method is an important approach in modern archaeology in general, and it is at the heart of archaeological science in particular. Hypotheses, theory, experiments, observations, data, as well as data manipulation, presentation and interpretation are key elements in the process of understanding our past.

This introductory course intends to provide an overview of key concepts and methods used in the archaeological sciences, among them:

  • Introduction to the scientific methodology in archaeology;

  • Modelling and simulation;

  • Methods to understand human diet;

  • Scientific approaches to material culture;

  • Absolute and relative dating methods;

  • Palaeoecological techniques.

Each class will discuss the theory and practice of one of these methods and illustrate it with recent case studies. You will be required to study one method of your choice in more detail in your final essay.

As an introductory course to the RMSc programme, this course will be based on lectures and the study of literature. Hands-on, practical exercises will then be offered by other courses within the RMSc programme.

Set-up of the course:
Each class will comprise the following elements: a lecture, questions about the weekly reading assignment, and a group discussion.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, students will be able to understand the scientific approach to archaeological research:

  • to investigate appropriate methodologies applied to specific research questions;

  • to assess the type and quality of data generated;

  • to present and analyse scientific data;

  • to interpret different types of scientific data;

  • to understand the limitations of different types of scientific data;

  • to build and assess testable hypotheses;

  • to relate different scientific approaches to a broader academic debate;

  • to develop creative and original ideas.


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA and RMSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction

Lectures that include an introductory content, exemplified by relevant case studies. To be prepared by the students by reading assignments.

Course load

  • 12 hours hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • Reading assignments for each lecture (2 ec);

  • Final essay (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments (30%);

  • Final essay of 2,500 words (70%).

You are expected to read one methodological article in preparation for each class. After having discussed the described method in class, you will then be required to read a second article afterwards that shows how the method is applied to a case study. You will be asked to critically assess this application based on a set of standard questions. One week after each class, i.e. the day before the following class, you will need to submit your assignment via BlackBoard.

The weekly assignments will be graded on a high pass (5 points), low pass (3 points) or fail basis (0 points). The maximum number of 30 points can be achieved through six assignments that constitute 30% of the final grade.

The final essay constitutes 70% of the final grade and will be graded from 1 to 10. It will be about one of the topics covered during the course, from which you can choose. A question to be addressed in the essay will be provided.

Only the final essay can be retaken once.

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the RMA and RMSc examination schedule.

Reading list

Brothwell, D.R. & A.M. Pollard (eds), 2005. Handbook of Archaeological Sciences. Chichester: Wiley.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. K. (Karsten) Lambers.


Compulsory attendance.