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Scientific methodology in archaeology


Admission requirements

Admission to an MSc programme in Archaeology.


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:

  • Applied statistics

  • Absolute and relative dating methods

  • Chemical analysis

  • Palaeoecological analysis

  • Analysis of human remains and diet

  • Spatial analysis

Each class will discuss the theory and practice of one of these methods and illustrate it with recent case studies.

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.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA and MSc 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

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 6x2 hours hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • Reading and assignments for each lecture (2 ec);

  • Final essay (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments (50%);

  • Final essay of 2,500 words (50%).

Exam dates and assessment deadlines can be found in the MA and MSc examination schedule.

Reading list

  • M. Walker, Quaternary Dating Methods.

  • Handouts.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. T. van Kolfschoten.


Compulsory attendance.