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Archaeological methods and techniques



This is an introduction to the methods and techniques of archaeological field research and dating methods. During the course, the following subjects will be addressed: artefacts, archaeological traces, formation processes, archaeological preparatory research, field exploration techniques, geophysical and geochemical prospection methods, excavation techniques, registration of traces and finds, archaeological dating methodology and an introduction to the use of databases (MS-Acces) in archaeological (field) research.

An excavation site will also be visited, where students will see the techniques learned in practice. A short practical session will also take place in January, in which the use of a database will be practised.

Course objectives

The course has an exploratory character and aims to provide students with a basic knowledge. At the end, students must be familiar with prospection methods, excavation techniques and dating methodology and databases.

Specifieke course objectives:

  • Knowledge of different types of archaeological data;

  • Knowledge of the way in which archaeological data is acquired and analysed;

  • Knowledge of different excavation techniques, and how the are applied in archaeology;

  • Knowledge of the most widely used dating methods in archaeology, and their limitations (types of material, unknown factors, dating range);

  • General knowledge of the basic terms of a relational database system and the application of structured datasets in archaeology;

  • Ability to design an archaeological database, enter data, and run queries with the help of the MS-Access programme;

  • The above applies to excavations as well as research in the framework of a thesis;

  • Ability to clearly report on applied field techniques according to certain guidelines, on an archaeological excavation visited during an excursion;

  • Ability to review, in a clear and critical manner, an archaeological method or technique in a case study, according to certain guidelines, by means of a short essay.


Course schedule details can be found in the propedeuse/first year time schedule.

Mode of instruction


Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 9×2 hours of lectures;

  • 180 pages literature;

  • Essay of around 1,000 words;

  • Day excursion + excursion report;

  • 12 hours of database practical sessions.

Assessment method

All the units must be completed. Block 1 will be assessed through a written exam, block 2 will have an excursion report and paper.
The final result will consist of:

  • Written exam (50%);

  • Essay (25%);

  • Excursion report (25%);
    Parts can compensate each other, on the condition that none are lower than 5,0. The final grade will only be issued after completion of the practical sessions in January.

All exam dates (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

C. Renfrew & P. Bahn, Archaeology: Methods, Theories and Practice. 6th edition (2012), part 1, pag. 1-166.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.


For more information about this course, please contact drs. J. de Bruin.


  • Attendance of the lectures is not compulsory, but the practical sessions and the excursion are.

  • This course has two versions: one taught in Dutch, the other taught in English.