Artefacts and Materials (ARC1040)

StaffDr Susan Greaney -
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module will develop skills in recognising common types of artefacts and principal categories of materials. Artefacts are a category of archaeological evidence that will be encountered in all archaeological and heritage work, and it is important to understand how archaeologists categorise, catalogue and describe them. The module will provide an introduction to manufacturing methods, observational recording and drawing techniques, and point towards resources for researching artefacts. Teaching will be through practical assignments and classes (including hands-on exploration of artefacts), live demonstrations and lectures in a variety of presentation formats.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Recognise key features relating to the properties and different purposes of materials, and the processes of manufacture
  • 2. Know appropriate methods for recording, describing and analysing archaeological finds
  • 3. Identify artefact types and use appropriate terminology to describe them

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Appreciate the significance of physical materials and traditional technologies in interpreting the past
  • 5. Draw observations and interpretations from real objects and groups or assemblage of artefacts

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Assimilate evidence from a combination of physical observation and published resources
  • 7. Contribute as an individual within group work
  • 8. Produce clear and concise work in a variety of written and presentational formats

Syllabus plan

This module is arranged as a series of themed elements linked to artefact and material categories. Each element will include introductory presentations, supported by physical learning resources practical exercises for individual and group study. Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction to artefacts
  • Stone artefacts
  • Ceramics and clay
  • Metals and technological waste
  • Organic and composite materials and artefacts
  • Perishable materials

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching33Lecture content, practical workshops and guided exercises (equivalent to 11 x 3 hour sessions)
Guided independent study117Private study using online learning resources and published sources

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual materials auditProforma survey form1Verbal feedback
Artefact collection description Proforma forma (250 words) on individual artefact pack1-5, 8Written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group written assignment: an illustrated artefact report501500 words per groupAllWritten feedback
Artefact-based quiz50Multiple choice questions on up to 15 objects1–3, 5Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group written assignment: an illustrated artefact report Written assignment: an individual illustrated artefact report (750 words, plus references)AllReferral/Deferral period
Written reportWritten report on a small assemblage of objects (digital and/or physical format, 1000 words plus references)1-7, 9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Re-assessment for in-class based test will be coursework.

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Caple, C. (2006) Objects: Reluctant Witnesses to the Past. London: Routledge
  • Grant, J. et al. (2015) The Archaeology Coursebook: An Introduction to Themes, Sites, Methods and Skills. London: Taylor and Francis (Chapter 3)
  • Hodges, H. (1989) Artifacts: An Introduction to Early Materials and Technology. London: Duckworth
  • Hurcombe, L.M., 2007: Archaeological Artefacts as Material Culture. London: Routledge.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

artefacts, materials, stone, ceramics, organics, metals