Faculty of Arts

ANTHRO 700 A & B

Method and Theory in Archaeology

Please note: this is archived course information from 2020 for ANTHRO 700.


This course introduces students to the theoretical literature in archaeology or that which typically addresses how explanations are crafted. Our most important intellectual goal is the development of critical analytical skills.

We tend to simply to accept what we read. In fields such as archaeology, one cannot proceed very far on this basis without going mad. The lack of any common language for writing about theory has resulted in a literature that is composed of logically coherent (when you are lucky) articles taken in isolation, but which, when taken as a unit, are inconsistent, contradictory and often impossible to integrate. The ability to accept or reject what you read on your own account, to dismiss nonsense as nonsense and to unravel word games in the professional literature is not only essential to using the archaeological literature, but a valuable skill in all of the social sciences.

The course will engage you in the foundational theoretical archaeological literature. We will begin by developing a common set of concepts to analyse this literature. Our analytical concepts will be rooted in unit formation (i.e., classification or systematics) and its relationship to theory. We will then chronologically examine major "schools" of archaeological theory, and some debates, during the first semester. During the second semester we will examine different theoretical approaches to several research domains or "big questions" in archaeology.

Course goal

The single overriding goal for this course is for you to learn how knowledge of various kinds is constructed and to use your learning to analyse the construction of archaeological knowledge.

To complete this course students must enrol in ANTHRO 700 A and B.

Note: this is the core course in Archaeology for BA(Hons) or PGDipArts students.

Availability 2020

Semester 1 and 2 (full year)


Lecturer(s) Dr Ethan Cochrane

Recommended Reading

Archaeology as a process: processualism and its progeny. Michael J O’Brien, R Lee Lyman, Michael B Schiffer (2007) (availiable from University library)


ANTHRO 700A: 15.0 points

ANTHRO 700B: 15.0 points

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