General Details

Full Title
Transcript Title
N/A %
Subject Area
ARCH - Archaeology
ESCI - Environmental Science
07 - NFQ Level 7
05 - 05 Credits
Start Term
2013 - Full Academic Year 2013-14
End Term
2019 - Full Academic Year 2019-20
Billy Fitzgerald, Fiona Beglane
Programme Membership
SG_SAPPL_H08 201300 Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Applied Archaeology SG_SAPPL_B07 201700 Bachelor of Science in Applied Archaeology SG_SAPPL_H08 201700 Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Applied Archaeology

This course is intended to introduce the student to the study of the science of materials and artefacts.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module the learner will/should be able to;


Demonstrate an understanding of the various methods of archaeological illustration of artefacts.


Explain how the atomic and microscopic structures determine the properties and processing of a broad spectrum of organic, inorganic and metallic archaeological materials.


Outline the various processes involved in sourcing and preparing the raw materials necessary for the production of a broad spectrum of organic, inorganic and metallic archaeological artefacts.


Understand, describe and illustrate the manufacturing technologies employed in the production of a broad spectrum of organic, inorganic and metallic archaeological artefacts.


Describe, compare and evaluate research that has used scientific methods to answer archaeological questions, problems and contexts


Effectively communicate aspects of materials and technologies to a peer audience.

Module Assessment Strategies

The exam is designed to test the ability of the student to retain and to express the information gained during the course, while continuous assessment, including of practical skills will provide ongoing opportunities to demonstrate the learning outcomes.

Indicative Syllabus

Archaeological illustration of artefacts

Field trip to location relevant to material/artefact production or analysis

Material structures and properties

·         Atomic structure and bonding. Crystal and amorphous structures. Properties and structures of materials, Mechanical properties of materials. Physical properties of materials.

·         Overview of properties of metals, ceramics, polymers and composites. Factors affecting material selection

Artefact lifecycle: Acquisition, manufacture, use and discard

Case studies of use of science in classifying materials and artefacts


·         Mining and smelting in antiquity and evidence for these activities

·         Structure, crystallinity and properties of metals

·         Structure of archaeological metals and alloys (mainly copper, silver, gold and ferrous materials)

·         Bronze, brass, iron and steel production, phase diagrams, Chronological developments in alloying (eg axes)

·         Heat treatments, hot and cold working of metals

·         Corrosion of metals and alloys

·         Microstructure of metals and alloys and application of phase diagrams

·         Provenance of metals and ores

Ceramics and glasses

·         Bricks, cement, mortar and plaster

·         Properties of clays (plasticity and hardness) and construction and firing methods

·         Structure and classification of ceramics

·         Triangular phase diagrams in predicting the composition of ceramics

·         Pottery making, colour, glazing and firing

·         Origins and structure of glass

·         Glass transition temperature and processing (melting and forming)

·         Provenence of ancient glass and its constituent materials

Miscellaneous materials

·         Wood and paper

·         Textiles and cordage

·         Dyes, pigments and paints

·         Leather, vellum and skin products     

Coursework & Assessment Breakdown

Coursework & Continuous Assessment
60 %
End of Semester / Year Formal Exam
40 %

Coursework Assessment

Title Type Form Percent Week Learning Outcomes Assessed
1 Continuous Assessment Log Book Continuous Assessment UNKNOWN 40 % OnGoing 1,2,3,4,5,6
2 Continuous Assessment Continuous Assessment UNKNOWN 20 % OnGoing 5,6

End of Semester / Year Assessment

Title Type Form Percent Week Learning Outcomes Assessed
1 Final Exam Written Exam Final Exam UNKNOWN 40 % End of Term 2,3,4,5

Full Time Mode Workload

Type Location Description Hours Frequency Avg Workload
Lecture Science Laboratory Lecture - Archaeology Lab 2 Weekly 2.00
Lecture Science Laboratory Practical - Archaeology Lab 1 Weekly 1.00
Independent Learning UNKNOWN Self Study 4 Weekly 4.00
Total Full Time Average Weekly Learner Contact Time 3.00 Hours

Module Resources

Non ISBN Literary Resources

Bowman, S, 1991. Science of the Past, British Museum Press

Craddock PT 1995. Early metal mining and production. Edinburgh.

Goubitz O. 1984 The drawing and registration of archaeological footwear Studies in Conservation 29 l87-l96.

Grew, F. and de Neergaard, M. 1988. Shoes and Pattens: Medieval finds from excavations in London, HMSO.

Hodges, H. 1989. Artifacts: An introduction to early materials and technology, Duckworth.

Lambert, JB, 1998 Traces of the Past Perseus

MacGregor, A. 1985. Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn: The Technology of skeletal Material since the Roman Period, Croom Helm, London.

Pollard, AM, Batt, CM, Stern, B and Young SMM. 2007 Analytical Chemistry in Archaeology. Cambridge University Press,  

Pollard A and Heron, C 1996. Archaeological Chemistry,  RSC Paperbacks

Rice PM 1987 Pottery Analysis: A sourcebook. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wildman A.B. (1954) The Microscopy of Animal Textiles Fibres London.

Other Resources


Additional Information

Timetable as a 3 hour block in the archaeology lab (theory and practical) to maximise interactive mode of delivery of theory and practical, to allow access to replica artefacts and to allow variation in the proportion of each to meet the overall whole.