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Advanced Scientific Methodology in Archaeology


Admission requirements

Admission to the RMSc Archaeology programme Bioarchaeology, or the conditional RMSc track.


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:

  • Introduction to the scientific methodology in archaeology;

  • Modelling and simulation;

  • Methods to understand human diet;

  • Scientific approaches to material culture;

  • Absolute and relative dating methods;

  • Palaeoecological techniques.

Each class will discuss the theory and practice of one of these methods and illustrate it with recent case studies. You will be required to study one method of your choice in more detail in your final essay.

As an introductory course to the RMSc programme, this course will be based on lectures and the study of literature. Hands-on, practical exercises will then be offered by other courses within the RMSc programme.

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:

  • 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;

  • to be able to integrate interdisciplinary data;

  • to be able to chair a student group and group discussion.


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA and RMSc 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

  • 6 x 2 hours of lectures (1 ec);

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

  • Final essay with an interdisciplinary approach on one of the case studies, that is presented in a 2 minute-presentation on the last lecture day (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • Chairing an interdisciplinary group and discussion (50%);

  • Individual presentation and essay (3,000 words) (50%).

The group discussion will be graded based on both content and oral skills. RMSc students will be graded individually, MSc students as a group.
The 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 RMA and RMSc 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.