• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Archaeology
  • Areas of interest Archaeology, Museums and Collections, Heritage Studies
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
Making-Taking-Using-Breaking: Material Culture Studies and Technology in Archaeology (ARCH3029)

Material culture lies at the heart of archaeology. We collect things, photograph them, classify them, measure them, analyse their chemical composition and discuss their context and associations. Objects are our primary resource for understanding past societies, their economy and subsistence practices, their social structure, their beliefs and their identities. While some examples – like the axe made of a rare stone from far away or the pot decorated with basketry patterns – lead to clear interpretations, others are less obvious. This course has one goal: to develop a broad and nuanced discussion of how we get from broken bits of ancient objects to the people who made, used and ultimately deposited those things. Interdisciplinary investigations of materiality and the role of technology in human society will be set alongside practical and hands-on activities. Students will be asked to learn new skills, to speak with expert artisans and to reflect on these experiences in light of the growing body of literature that says people, things and the technologies we engage in are all part of the same social system.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
  1. Recognise the key concepts, themes and narratives regarding materiality and technology studies used by archaeologists and discuss them within larger disciplinary, historical and academic contexts;
  2. Critique the application of specific theoretical concepts and paradigms to archaeological archaeological material culture;
  3. Think, write and argue with these key concepts, themes and theories using supporting evidence from the archaeological record;
  4. Apply these key concepts, themes and theories to practical experiences engaging with material culture, learning new technologies and working with specialist artists and artisans;
  5. Reflect on and discuss the ways archaeologists use interpretative paradigms from other disciplines and real world experiences to better understand ancient technologies.

Indicative Assessment

Review essay, 2000 words, 25% [LO: 1-3,5]
Final project report, 1500 words, 30% [LO: 1, 3-5]
Final project poster, video or other visual presentation, 20% [LO: 3, 5]
Tutorial portfolio, 1500 words, 25% [LO: 3-5]

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from: a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 3 hours per week of lectorial or workshop; and, b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 36 units of courses towards a degree including at least one of ARCH1111 or ARCH1112, or with permission of the convenor.

Prescribed Texts

Hurcombe, Linda M. 2007. Archaeological artefacts as material culture. London: Routledge.

Assumed Knowledge

A general understanding of archaeological practices and methods consistent with 6 units of  Archaeology (ARCH) courses




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $2820
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $4320
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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