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Social, Political and Economic Theory in Archaeology

Code: 106850 ECTS Credits: 6
Degree Type Year Semester
2504611 Archaeology FB 1 1


Ermengol Gassiot Ballbe

Teaching groups languages

You can check it through this link. To consult the language you will need to enter the CODE of the subject. Please note that this information is provisional until 30 November 2023.


There is no requirement to take the course. However, an approach to current modern and postmodern critical thinking is also desirable.

Objectives and Contextualisation

The course aims to provide an introduction to the theoretical elements that make up archaeology as a discipline. It focuses on the debate on its capacity to analyse past societies, identifying the main factors that generate and manage archaeological knowledge.

Learning Outcomes

  • CM05 (Competence) Innovatively apply the theoretical and methodological procedures of archaeology to society's demands.
  • CM07 (Competence) Propose a theoretical and methodological conceptualisation of archaeology that is consistent with inclusive and non-sexist perspectives of the past.
  • KM07 (Knowledge) Recognise the structure of archaeology as a science both on a theoretical (epistemological and ontological) and methodological level based on its theoretical diversity and the main current debates.
  • KM08 (Knowledge) Identify the contributions of disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, economic theory, geography, epistemology and the philosophy of science to archaeological theory.
  • SM07 (Skill) Apply the logical structure of archaeology as a science to identify the processes that support its main reasoning in order to be able to analyse the processes of inference and generation of archaeological information and offer one's own views.


1. Introduction. Archaeology, a social science. What does this mean?
    a.    Do we know or do we understand? Do we explain or represent?
    b.    Natural science, social science or historical science?
    c.    Scientific method, archaeological methods and techniques.

2.    A bit of social theory for archaeology
    a.    What do we understand by society? Perspectives on the analysis of societies
    b.    What do we mean by economy? Perspectives of economic analysis in archaeology
    c.    What do we understand by politics? Perspectives of Politics in Archaeology

3.    Palaeoecology and economic archaeology
    a.    Analysing the production of social life in the past
    b.    The role of the environment in pre-capitalist economies
    c.    Economic exploitation and social conflict


4.    Social complexity, hierarchy and stratification
    a.    Prestige, status, role
    b.    Property, social classes

5. Culture, System and Society

6. Ideology

7. Gender

8. War and Violence


The course consists of theory classes and seminars. In the theoretical classes, the central contents of each of the subjects will be introduced, relating the different theoretical currents with their historical context and the problems they aim to solve.
In the seminars, students will work in teams on the analysis of theoretical applications in the practice of archaeology.

Note: 15 minutes of class time will be set aside, within the timetable established by the centre/university, for students to complement the evaluation surveys of the teaching staff's performance and the evaluation of the subject/module.

Annotation: Within the schedule set by the centre or degree programme, 15 minutes of one class will be reserved for students to evaluate their lecturers and their courses or modules through questionnaires.


Title Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Type: Directed      
Theoretical classes 50 2 CM05, CM07, KM07, KM08, SM07, CM05
Type: Supervised      
Classroom practices - discussion seminars 25 1 CM05, KM07, SM07, CM05
Type: Autonomous      
Individual or group study 75 3 CM05, KM08, SM07, CM05


The works in blocks 1 and 2 can be done individually or in teams of up to 3 people. Their maximum length will be about 10 pages unless otherwise indicated. Text comments will be individual.

The instructions for the completion of the assignments/commentaries will be detailed on the virtual campus, as well as the data and procedures for reading and revision.

The grade of Not assessable will be applied if more than 30% of the assessment activities have not been carried out.

In the case of any actual irregularity that may lead to a significant variation in the mark for an assessment activity, the assessment activity will be marked 0, irrespective of any disciplinary proceedings that may be instituted. In the event of irregularities occurring in the assessment acts of the same assignment, the final mark for this assignment shall be 0.


Single assessment

All students may have access to the possibility of a single assessment, which will be carried out in the faculty database. The single assessment will consist of the following tests, with the weights indicated in brackets:

- Block 1 exam (40%)

- Examination of Block 2 (40%)

- Commentary on a text (20%)

Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Class participation 20% 0 0 CM07, KM07, SM07
Text commentary on Block 1 15% 0 0 CM05, KM08, SM07
Text commentary on Block 2 15% 0 0 CM05, KM08, SM07
Work from Block 1 25% 0 0 CM05, CM07, KM07, KM08, SM07
Work from Block 2 25% 0 0 CM05, CM07, KM07, KM08, SM07


AAVV (2000). "Queer Archaeologies". World Archaeology,  vol.32 (2),

Anderson, P. (2000), Los orígenes de la postmodernidad. Anagrama, Barcelona.

Bate, L.F. (1998). El proceso de investigación en arqueología, Crítica, Barcelona.

Binford, L. (1977), For Theory Building in Archeology, Academic Press, New York.

Castro-Martinez, P. V., Escoriza-Mateu, T. (2014) “Por una Arqueología Social, contra las Manipulaciones Convenientes”, Arkeogazte. Revista de Arqueología, 4: 25-42.

Castro-Martinez, P. V., Gili, S., Lull, V., Mico, R., Rihuete, C., Risch, R. i Sanahuja, E. (1998). “Teoría de la producción de la vida social. Un análisis de los mecanismos de explotación en el sudeste peninsular (3000-l550 cal ANE)”. Boletín de Antropología Americana, 33: 25-78.

Castro-Martinez, P.V. et al (1996). “Teoría de las Prácticas Sociales”, Complutum Extra, 6 (II): 35-48.

Chapman, R. 2003. Archaeologies of Complexity. London: Routledge.

Clarke,D.L. (1984) Arqueología analítica. Ed. Bellaterra. Barcelona.

Conkey, M. i Spector, J. (1984). “Archaeology and the study of gender”. Hays-Gilpin, K. i Whitley, D.S. (ed.). Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory , 7:1-38.

Daems, D. 2021. Social Complexity and Complex Systems in Archaeology, Routledge

D’Ercole, M. C. 2017 “Archaeology And Economic History: between affinities and discord », Palethnologie [En ligne], 9 | 2017, http://journals.openedition.org/palethnologie/346 

Earle, T.K., y Johnson, A. W. 2003. La evolución de las sociedades humanas. Desde

los grupos cazadores-recolectores al estado agrario. Ariel Historia, Barcelona.

Emberling, G. (Ed.). (2015). Social Theory in Archaeology and Ancient History: The Present and Future of Counternarratives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Foucault, M. (1979). Microfísica del poder. Las ediciones de La Piqueta, Madrid.

Foucault, M. (1988). La arqueología del saber. Siglo XXI, México.

Hodder, I. (1987). “La arqueología en la era post-moderna”, Trabajos de prehistoria, 44: 11-26.

Hodder, I. (1988). Interpretación en arqueología. Corrientes actuales. Crítica, Barcelona.

 Hodder, Ian. 2012. Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships Between Humans and Things. Hoboken: WILEY

Jameson, F. (1991). El posmodernismo o la lógica cultural del capitalismo avanzado. Paidós, Barcelona.

Kuhn, T.S. (1971) La estructura de las revoluciones científicas, F.C.E., México.

Lakatos, I. (1983). La metodología de los programas de investigación científica. Alianza Editorial. Madrid.

Lull, V. (2005). “Marx, producción, sociedad y arqueología”. Trabajos de Prehistoria, 62 (1): 7-26

Lumbreras, L. (1974). La Arqueología como Ciencia Social. Ediciones Histar, Lima.

Lyotard, F. (1996). La posmodernidad explicada a los ninos. Gedisa. Barcelona.

Marx, K. 1844 (1968). Manuscritos: economía y filosofía. (Traducción de Francisco Rubio Llorente). Alianza Ed. (Madrid 1968).

Marx, K. 1857 (1989). Introducción a la crítica de la Economía Política.(Traducción de Marat Kuznetsov). En Marx, Engels, Lenin: Obras. Ed. Progreso (Moscú 1989: 178-208)

Marx, K. i Engels, F. 1845-46 (1970). La Ideología Alemana. (Traducción de W. Roces). Ed. Grijalbo. Barcelona.

McGuire, R. H. (1992). A Marxist Archaeology, Academic Press.

Narotzky, S. (1995). Mujer, Mujeres, Género. Una Aproximación Crítica al Estudio de las Mujeres en las Ciencias Sociales, CSIC. Madrid.

Shanks, M. i Tilley, C. (1987). Re-constructing Archaeology. Theory and Practice. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Shanks, M. i Tilley, C. (1987). Social Theory and Archaeology. Polity Press, Cambridge.

Trigger, B. G. (1992). Historia del pensamiento arqueológico. Crítica, Barcelona.


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