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Scientific Methodology in Archaeology


Admission requirements

Admission to the 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, by discussing a few recent archaeological debates in which different methodologies have resulted in different outcomes. To understand the validity of a scientific claim, all methods and their strengths and weaknesses have to be understood.

We will use the diverse backgrounds and specialisations of all students and lecturers to discuss several current issues from different perspectives. You will need to explore beyond your own specialisation and adopt an interdisciplinary view on research questions.

During each class the theory and methodology of a case study will be discussed. We will create multidisciplinary teams that will introduce the case studies and offer discussion topics.

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, and know how to:

  • investigate appropriate methodologies applied to specific research questions;

  • assess the type and quality of data generated;

  • present and analyse scientific data;

  • interpret different types of scientific data;

  • understand the limitations of different types of scientific data;

  • build and assess testable hypotheses;

  • 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 in interdisciplinary groups.
Several introductory lectures will be included, but always followed by an interdisciplinary research debate, that will be discussed by both staff and students.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 6 x 2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

  • Preparation for each lecture: reading and group discussion (2 ec);

  • Final essay (3,000 words) on one of the case studies, delivered in a 2-minute presentation on the last lecture day (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Group discussion (50%);

  • Individual presentation and essay (50%).

The group discussion will be graded based on both content and oral skills (graded as a group).
The final 2-minute presentation and final essay will be assessed individually, based on content as well as presentation skills.

A retake is only possible for the final essay, and only if all other requirements have been met.

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

Reading list

To be announced.


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. J.E. (Jason) Laffoon or dr. J.A. (Joanne) Mol.


Compulsory attendance.