Beginner’s Guide to Archaeology: Relative Dating


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Relative dating is the science of determining the relative order of past events (i.e., the age of an object in comparison to another), without necessarily determining their absolute age.

Various approaches can be taken to do this including (amongst others) seriationtypology, and the vole clock. This Time Team episode (season 7 episode 6) from Elveden in Suffolk includes an explanation of the latter.


Bronze Age: Boats


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This short clip from ‘Secrets of the Dead’ discusses the log boats discovered at Must Farm:

Also available on Youtube is a series of videos following the recreation of a large replica Bronze Age stitched boat using traditional tools and materials for a new installation and exhibition at National Maritime Museum Cornwall:

Food and Drink in the Past: Trade


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In our last session, we discussed the importance of trade to what ends up on our plate. This short animation from TED-ed explains the significance of the Silk Road to the global exchange of goods and ideas.

We looked at some of the food stuffs that results from this exchange, one of which was chocolate. Chocolate was considered a great Georgian luxury, with only the most fashionable drinking the rich, dark delight. George I and George II enjoyed it so much they had their own private chocolate maker preparing the King’s chocolate in a private kitchen in Hampton Court Palace.

There is also an interesting cook-along for that most luxurious of Georgian chocolate drink, Chocolate Port:

Food and Drink in the Past: Feasting


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In our last session we looked at luxury and feasting as it related to food and drink, examining how this can be seen in different time periods and places, one of which was medieval and Tudor England. This video clip from Historic Royal Palaces shows Henry VIII’s kitchens at Hampton Court Palace. These are the largest surviving Renaissance kitchens in Europe. Occupying nearly one third of the ground floor of the Palace, 36,000 square feet, they have become internationally famous as the home of Tudor food.

Those who are interested in Tudor food may also enjoy watching Historic Royal Palace’s cookalong videos on Youtube including this one about how to make Sauge – a truly Tudor way to finish up those Christmas dinner leftovers:

Meanwhile those who are interested in celebratory food in the Victorian era may be interested in English Heritage’s series of videos on Youtube about ‘The Victorian Way’ including this one on how to make a Christmas cake:

Bronze Age Britain: Climate Change


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In our last session, one of the topics we tackled was that of climate change during the Bronze Age. Those who wish to read more about this subject may find the following links of interest:

Food and Drink in the Past: Transition to Farming


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What does farming have to do with invention and innovation? Permanent residences, division of labour, central government, and complex technologies — all essential for advancing civilizations — could not have been developed without the move from hunting-gathering to farming. In this short animation, Patricia Russac explores how farming was a major innovation leading to the civilization we know today.

Whilst, in this podcast, part of the BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects series, Neil MacGregor asks why our ancestors decided to grow and cook new foods, taking a pestle from Papua New Guinea as an example. The answer provides us with a telling insight into the way early humans settled on the land. Becoming farmers and eating food that was harder for other animals to digest made us a formidable force in the food chain. The impact on our environment of this shift to cookery and cultivation is still being felt.

The Open University’s World Archaeology module is available on OpenLearn and this also includes a section on the Origins of Agriculture, which may be of interest to learners.

Beginner’s Guide to Archaeology: Reading List


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Whilst it is not essential to do any background reading before the course begins, you may find it useful to do so. The reading list below contains books that you can read. You don’t have to read all of these and we don’t specify any that you must read. Instead, these are readings you can use to gain a preliminary understanding of topics, as well as to study in more depth those parts of the course you are particularly interested in. You may also want to take a look at magazines such as British Archaeology, World Archaeology and Current Archaeology.

Further suggestions about ways you can extend your understanding of topics through books, television etc may also be posted as appropriate here on the tutor’s personal blog.

Aitken, M. 1990. Science-based Dating in Archaeology. Longman. (Introduces several different science-based dating techniques used by archaeologists)

Bahn, P. 2012. Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. (Latest edition of popular, concise introduction to archaeology)

Drewett, P. 2011. Field Archaeology: An Introduction. (2nd edition). London: Routledge. (Leading text introducing principles of field archaeology)

Gamble, C. 2015. Archaeology: the basics (revised 3nd edition). London: Routledge.(A good general introduction to a lot of concepts)

Gater, J & Gaffney, C. 2003. Revealing the Buried Past: Geophysics for Archaeologists. The History Press Ltd. (A good introduction to archaeological geophysics by the Time Team ‘geofizz’ guys)

Greene, K. & Moore, T. 2010. Archaeology: An Introduction (5th edn). London: Routledge. (A good general introduction. You may also wish to check out the associated online resources:

Renfrew, C & Bahn, P (eds). 2004. Archaeology: The Key Concepts. Routledge Key Guides. (Collection of different chapters written by experts in their field)

Renfrew, C. & Bahn, P. 2016. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (7th edn). London: Thames and Hudson.  (Aimed at 1st year undergraduates, but still very accessible to read and covers a lot of topics)





Talk: Alice Roberts – Tamed: Ten Species that Changed our World


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Alice Roberts – Tamed: Ten Species that Changed our World

Friday 9th February

How do you tame wildness? For thousands of years our ancestors existed in a world where they depended on wild plants and animals. They were hunter-gatherers – consummate survival experts navigating the opportunities and threats the world offered. Then a revolution happened: we started to domesticate wild species and they became crucial to our own survival and success.

Alice Roberts is an anthropologist, writer and broadcaster, and is currently Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham. She has presented several landmark BBC series including The Incredible Human Journey, Origins of Us, Coast, and The Celts. Her recent book on evolutionary biology, The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being, was shortlisted for the Welcome Trust Book Prize in 2015.

Join her at the Pearson Centre, Beeston, Nottingham for an evening talk, Q&A and book signing. 7.30-10.00pm, doors open 6.30pm. £18.95, refreshments available. Booking essential: and click on the Wildlife Courses & Lectures category.

Archaeology of Bronze Age Britain


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To discover resources already available on this blog for ‘Archaeology of Bronze Age Britain’ click on the Bronze Age tag in the left hand column and it will take you to all the posts made on that topic to date. Other relevant tags include Prehistory, although the entries covered by that tag may be broader and include earlier as well as later prehistoric themes.