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Methods and Techniques in Historical Archaeology

Code: 106851 ECTS Credits: 6
Degree Type Year Semester
2504611 Archaeology FB 1 2


Núria Romaní Sala

Teaching groups languages

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Cesar Carreras Monfort
Francesc Xavier Busquets Costa
Esther Rodrigo Requena
Pau De Soto Cańamares
Núria Romaní Sala
Alessando Ravotto


No prerequisites

Objectives and Contextualisation

The course aims to introduce students to the basic knowledge of methodology and field and laboratory techniques in the archaeology of historical periods.

Special emphasis will be given to the methods and techniques of analysis of the processes of formation of archaeological sites; within this framework, students will be introduced to the basics of archaeological stratigraphy.

Within the framework of this subject, the evolution of the method of excavation, documentation and recording will be presented, so that students can compare and evaluate the different methodologies and excavation systems that have been applied in the recent history of this discipline.

Special attention will be given to training in excavation and prospecting techniques, documentation and field recording.

The contents of this subject are oriented to give students the basic tools necessary to be able to work with archaeological materials considered as historical documents and provide them with the necessary resources to develop the work of an archaeologist at a site.

The course will have a markedly practical character, with part of field practices in historical sites. Teaching will also be based on problem solving and practical exercises in the classroom.

Learning Outcomes

  • CM08 (Competence) Plan the process of field work in archaeology, identifying its different phases (planning, execution and results analysis), organising work teams and distributing different tasks among its members to achieve the expected goals.
  • KM10 (Knowledge) Apply multidisciplinary techniques and methods to the processing and analysis of archaeological records and materials in field work: introduction to topography, archaeological drawing of plans and sections, analysis of sediments and stratigraphy, identification in the field of the different types of archaeological materials and application of techniques for the preservation of movable and immovable archaeological materials.
  • KM11 (Knowledge) Organise different activities in archaeology field work that are adapted to the different types of proposed operations and purposes.
  • KM12 (Knowledge) Analytically classify different movable and immovable archaeological materials and remains.
  • SM09 (Skill) Critically assess the different situations that arise during field work and be able to reorganise the processes of field work and treatment of archaeological materials depending on the circumstances that have occurred.
  • SM10 (Skill) Apply the main methods, techniques and instruments of analysis in field of archaeology: archaeological prospecting, stratigraphic surveys and open area excavations.
  • SM11 (Skill) Use technological equipment in field work: total stations, theodolites, GPS and image production equipment.
  • SM12 (Skill) Use the basic procedures for consolidation and preservation of archaeological materials in the field.


1. History and development of the stratigraphic excavation method in historical archaeology

2. Archaeological excavation

2.1. Stratigraphic excavation as a method for reconstructing site history

2.2. Methods of archaeological excavation: excavation by extension

2.3. Individualization and excavation of SU

2.4. Basic principles of archaeological stratigraphy

3. Excavation documentation. The excavation records

4. Graphic documentation: field drawing and photography

4.1. Excavation plans: simple, compound and cumulative plans

4.2. Excavation sections

4.3. Archaeological photography


The course will be based on classroom activities, excavation practices and the autonomous activity of the students, which has its maximum exponent in the development of a course work. For the development of all these activities will be supported by the virtual classroom of the subject in the Virtual Campus of the UAB.


1. Classroom activities.

The activities that will be developed in the classroom will be based on the master class with the support of PPT presentations. However, it should be noted that in order to promote active and participatory dynamics that promote learning, in no case this will be the only didactic resource used to develop a topic. The master class will be combined with other resources such as introductory and revision practical exercises, both individual and group; other practical activities; debate and discussion on specific issues related to the subject matter of the course.


 2. Excavation practices.

Excavation practices are one of the essential elements of the body of this course. Therefore, it includes a week of excavation practices in a site. The objective is that students, who have already made a first approach to fieldwork in the subject of Introduction to Archaeology, continue to deepen the acquisition of the skills of the discipline and, thus, continue to develop skills related to the different processes involved in archaeological excavation, on the one hand, and on the other hand, reinforce the theoretical content that will have been taught in class. Likewise, in the excavation sessions new contents will be introduced in situ that will be applied to practice.


3. Autonomous activity.

A considerable part of the hours of autonomous work will have to be invested in practical exercises and the assimilation of the theoretical content of the excavation methodology, and of a documentary research work. This work is a key exercise that aims toprovide students with fundamental resources when carrying out archaeological research work that they will have to apply throughout their career and professional life. The work, which can be individual or in groups, will consist of choosing an area of study (one or several municipalities) and five sites from a specific historical period or periods, and, based on the consultation of the on-line Archaeological Chart of the Archaeological Service of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Inventari de Patrimoni Arqueològic, e-GIPCI and Calaix), start a bibliographic search that culminates with the comparison and updating of the data present in the official archaeological charts.

This work involves the development of the following activities:

  • Emptying and collection of bibliographic and archaeological documentary data.
  • Synthesis and orderly presentation of the data collected in a first working document.
  • Ocular visit to the site to contrast the information collected; students should become familiar with the use of cartographic material and coordinate systems to locate the sites.
  • Development of critical capacity to carry out an exercise of comparison between the data collected in the archaeological documentation and the present reality.
  • Final drafting of the work in which the students must demonstrate the capacity for synthesis, critical review of the existing documentation collected and knowledge of the chosen area of study. Likewise, in this work they must demonstrate that they know how to use the technical and scientific language of this subject, that they know how to relate empirical evidence and explanation, and that they have used and mastered some of the basic tools of archaeological research.

Likewise, autonomous work is also required by the students to expand and assimilate the theoretical contents and to know how to carry out the practical exercises of the subject.

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      
Classroom activities 30 1.2 KM10, KM11, KM12, SM09, SM11, KM10
Type: Supervised      
Fieldwork practice 28 1.12 KM10, KM11, SM09, SM10, SM11, SM12, KM10
Type: Autonomous      
Archaeological site map 45 1.8 KM12, SM09, SM11, SM12, KM12



Assessment activities

1. Theoretical test (50%).

1.1. Assessment system:

The concepts taught in class will be evaluated on the basis of a topic or definition type question, of analysis or synthesis and, optionally, also of critical reflection.

There will also be several problem-type exercises on:

  • stratigraphy concepts: elaboration of a matrix from an archaeological section.
  • conversion of stairs
  • problems on sections and reading of dimensions

1.2. Competences to be demonstrated in order to obtain optimal assessment results:


  • A correct assimilation of the knowledge imparted in class and its deepening.
  • The ability to apply the theoretical knowledge on stratigraphy in theoretical practical exercises.


2. Documentary research work (20%).

2.1. Competences to be demonstrated in order to obtain optimal assessment results:


  • Demonstrate that the student has become familiar with and masters the archaeological documentary sources and research work prior to the beginning of any archaeological field research.
  • Know how to develop a formally correct research paper both in terms of structure and bibliographic references and citations.
  • Demonstrate a correct assimilation of the exposed contents.


3. Practical exercises (10%).

3.1. Competences to be demonstrated in order to obtain optimal assessment results:


  • To answer all questions posed in the reference scripts of the activities.
  • To demonstrate a correct assimilation of the exposed contents.
  • To have the ability to apply the theoretical contents worked on in the practicalresolution of exercises.


4. Excavation practice (20%).

4.1. Assessment system:

Continuous attendance will be key and the student's attitude throughout the excavation week will be mainly evaluated.

It will be necessary to hand in the topography practices carried out in the excavation (plans and sections) and the actual excavation documentation generated by each student.

4.2. Competencies to be demonstrated for optimal assessment results:


  • Demonstrate progressively acquired knowledge of archaeological stratigraphy, excavation documentation, and material processing and classification.


  • Teamwork skills: commitment to the team, collaborative habits, and ability to join in problem solving.
  • Appropriate use of fieldwork methods.
  • Apply methods and techniques for the study of different archaeological materials (CE8.2).
  • Correctly interpret archaeological contexts during fieldwork (CE8.3)
  • Use the methods and techniques of data recording (CE9.1)
  • Handle the instruments used in the data recording (CE9.2)


  • Dynamism
  • Responsibility
  • Consistency


Assessment conditions:

The student will receive a grade of "NOT ASSESSED" whenever he/she has not turned in one or more of an assessment activity.

It is necessary to pass the theoretical test (5) to average with the other grades. If this condition is not met, the course will be NOT ASSESSED.


Grade review procedure

At the time of each assessment activity, the teacher will inform the students (Moodle) of the procedure and the date of revision of grades.


Recovery procedure

The recovery of the theoretical assessing activities (test, documentary research work) will take place on the day and time assigned by the Dean's Office.

It is necessary to recover all those assessing activities that have not been passed (5).

Practical exercises that will be carried out and delivered periodically during the theoretical teaching of the subject are excluded from recovery.



This subject does not incorporate single assessment.



This subject does not incorporate single assessment.

Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Essay: archaeological site map 10% 8 0.32 CM08, KM10, KM11, KM12, SM09, SM10
Essay: archaeological site map 20% 8 0.32 KM10, KM12, SM10, SM11, SM12
Fieldwork practice: archaeologica excavation 20% 28 1.12 CM08, KM11, SM09, SM10, SM11
Theory test 50% 3 0.12 KM11, KM12, SM09


General bibliography

Fernandez, Victor (1994): Teoría y método de la arqueología. 1 ed. 1990. Madrid: Editorial Síntesis.

Greene, Kevin (2004): Archaeology: an introduction. 1ª ed 1983. London and New York: Routledge

Manacorda, Daniele; Francovich, Riccardo (2001). Diccionario de Arqueología. Barcelona: Crítica Arqueología.

Rodà, Isabel, ed. (1992): Ciencias, metodologías y técnicas aplicadas a la arqueología. Barcelona: Fundació Caixa de Pensions.


Bibliography 1. History and development of the stratigraphic excavation method in historical archaeology

Gamble, Clive. (2002): Arqueología básica. Barcelona: Ariel.

García Sánchez, Jorge (2014): Breve historia de la arqueología. Madrid: Ediciones Nowtilus.

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


Bibliography 2 and 3. Archaeological excavation and excavation documentation. The excavation records

Aitken, Martin J.; Taylor, R.E. ed. (1997): Chronometric dating in archaeology. Series Advances in archaeological and museum science, 2. New York and London: Plenum Press.

Burke, Heather; Domingo, Inés; Smith, Claire (2007): Manual de campo del arqueólogo. Barcelona: Ariel.

Carandini, Andrea (1997): Historias en la tierra. Manual de excavación arqueológica.  1ª ed. 1981. Barcelona: Editorial Crítica. Barcelona.

Harris, Edward (1991): Principios de estratigrafía arqueológica. 1ª ed. 1989. Barcelona: Editorial Crítica. Disponible on-line, juntament ambaltres recursos a http://www.harrismatrix.com/.

Renfrew, Colin; Bahn, Paul (2007): Arqueología. Teorías, Métodos y práctica. 1a ed. 1993. Madrid: Akal.

Roskams, Steve (2003): Teoría y práctica de la excavación. Barcelona: Crítica.



Bibliography 4. Graphic documentation: field drawing and photography

Alvarez, Ramon; Molist, Núria (1988) El dibuix de material arqueològic. Dossier núm VIII. Societat Catalana d’Arqueologia. Barcelona

Chéné, Antoine; Foliot, Phillipe; Réveillac, Gérard (1999) La fotografia in archeologia. Milano: Jaca Book.

Dorrell, Peter G. (1994) Photography in Archaeology and Conservation (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Fernández, Francisco Javier; Castañeda, Nuria (2022) Dibujando el pasado. Una historia de la documentación gráfica en el patrimonio arqueológico. Madrid: La Ergástula Ediciones

Grey, Tim (2006) Color Confidence: The Digital Photographer's Guide to Color Management. New York.

Howell, Carol L. (1995) A Practical Guide to Archaeological Photography (Archaeological Research Tools)

Pérez Cuadrado, Soledad (2008) Manual básico de dibujo de materiales arqueológicos. Murcia: Tabularium Editorial

Rigoir, Yves (1975) “Le dessin technique en céramologie”. Laboratoires d’etude et documentation des sigillées paléochrétiennes. Lambsech. https://hal.science/halshs-03830982


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