Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

The retrieval, recording, analysis and evaluation of evidence from material cultures is central to the work of archaeologists, heritage consultants and museum curators. This unit covers the evolution of the discipline of Archaeology, its interdisciplinary approach, types of archaeological evidence, methods of surveying and excavation, laboratory methods, dating and other scientific analyses, conservation and archiving, illustration and photography and the ethics of archaeological practice including the vexed issue of fakes and forgeries. It provides an awareness of international perspectives within the discipline and an appreciation of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives relevant to cultural context. The aim of this unit is to provide the theoretical background to participate in a dig and to understand and evaluate archaeological evidence. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe key developments in archaeology that have influenced practice and extended understanding of the cultural significance of the discipline (GA5)

LO2 - Critically analyse and evaluate different procedures for dating physical and organic remains (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Apply disciplinary knowledge and skills independently or in teams to solve complex, real-world problems with ethical solutions (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • An introduction to the discipline of archaeology, its development, concepts and theories and relationship to historical inquiry.
  • An overview of scientific methods used in archaeology.
  • Examination of the ethics of archaeological practice.
  • An awareness of indigenous perspectives.
  • Understanding of what happens on an archaeological excavation, and how to evaluate evidence.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, the equivalent of 12.5 hours per week for 12 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities plus reading, research, and the preparation and submission of assessment tasks.

 The unit is offered fully online. Students will acquire broad theoretical knowledge about the discipline of archaeology through lectures and tutorials based on enquiry-based learning using 3D-scanned artefacts, archaeological and other records and research. Students will be asked to critically reflect upon and analyse the key concepts building the foundations for work in the field and related disciplines such as heritage and museums.

Students will be recognised as adult learners who engage best when seeing that the learning is relevant and they are given the opportunity to be responsible for their own discovery and learning. This is vital for an archaeologist, as is working in a team, which is why collaborative and peer learning is emphasised. Active participation in this unit is essential. Learning is designed to be an engaging and supportive experience, which will help to develop the capacity to synthesis knowledge and communicate it effectively.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to attempt all assessment tasks and achieve an overall mark of 50% or higher. The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to progressively demonstrate achievement of the learning outcomes.

 Task 1 requires the student to briefly describe three major developments in the study of archaeology. This task is designed to display the achievement of Learning Outcome 1. It is a relatively low-risk assessment designed to test interpretative skills and academic writing techniques. Feedback provided from Task 1will help with the other two assessment tasks.

 Task 2 invites the student to critically evaluate the usefulness of different ways of dating physical and organic remains. This is to be demonstrated by exploring the two main methods used by archaeologists to date remains (relative and absolute dating). The task is intended to allow practice Learning Outcome 1 while building on it to display the achievement of Learning Outcomes 2 and 4.

 Task 3 asks the student to collaboratively research and evaluate an issue relating to cultural heritage or ethics in archaeological conservation and to present a joint report. The principal focus of this task is to display achievement of Learning Outcomes 5 and 7 while further cementing Learning Outcomes 1 and 2.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Short introductory research task

Requires students to briefly describe three major developments in the study of archaeology.




Assessment Task 2: Critical analysis

Requires students to critically evaluate the usefulness of different ways of dating physical and organic remains.


LO1, LO2 ,LO3

GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 3: Major research task

Requires students to collaboratively research and evaluate an issue relating to cultural heritage or ethics in archaeological conservation. This task requires a report to be jointly submitted clearly indicating each student’s individual contribution.


LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Aitken, M.J. 1990. Science-based Dating in Archaeology. London: Longman.

Catling, C. 2013. Practical handbook of archaeology: a beginner’s guide to unearthing the past. Anness publishing.

Green, E. L. (ed.) 1984. Ethics and Values in Archaeology. Free Press, New York.

Hodder, I. 1999. The archaeological process: An introduction. Blackwell, Maiden, Massachusetts.

Layton, R. (ed.) 1989. Who needs the past? Indigenous values and archaeology. Routledge, London.

Mazar, A. 2011. The Iron Age Chronology Debate: Is the Gap Narrowing? Another Viewpoint,  Near Eastern Archaeology 74: 105-111.  

Petrie, Sir W.M.F. 1904. Methods and aims in archaeology. Macmillan, New York.

Renfrew, C. and Bahn, P. 2012. Archaeology: Theories, Methods, and Practice. 6th ed., Thames and Hudson, London.

Scarre, C. (ed.) 2009., The human past: World prehistory and the development of human societies. 2nd ed., Thames and Hudson, London.

Trigger, B.G. 2006. A history of archaeological thought. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge.

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