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Environmental archaeology, field and laboratory methodology, 15 Credits

Swedish name: Miljöarkeologisk fält- och labmetodik

This syllabus is valid: 2021-02-22 and until further notice

Course code: 1AR075

Credit points: 15

Education level: Second cycle

Main Field of Study and progress level: Environmental Archaeology: Second cycle, has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements

Grading scale: VG Pass with distinction, G Pass, U Fail

Responsible department: Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Established by: Faculty director of studies, Faculty of arts, 2021-03-04


Traces of previous human activities, as well as the traces of climate and environmental changes that have affected humans, can be studied using environmental archaeological methods. The course provides in-depth insights into environmental archaeological survey methods and analysis techniques. Archaeobotanical analysis, insect analysis, pollen analysis and various soil chemical - physical analyses and techniques are examples of the methods used. Through practical work in the field and in the laboratory, in groups and individually, skills are practiced for different sampling strategies in soil surveys and archaeological excavations.

The course consists of two modules:
1. Environmental Archaeological Field Methodology
2. Environmental Archaeological Lab Methodology 

Module 1. Environmental Archaeological Field Methodology
In this module the focus is on environmental archaeology field studies, with a combination of landscape excursions, site visits and sampling were students get to familiarise themselves with soils and sediments and how to deal with them in an Environmental archaeology context.

Module 2. Environmental Archaeological lab methodology
This module is primarily aimed at the subsequent analysis of material and information gathered during module 1 where a chosen landscape/site will be analysed to enable interpretation of the various aspects of site activities and landscape development. Some elements of the field-based components of the course will be run in parallel with the course Landscape Archaeology: Field, Cartography and Surveying Skills.

Expected learning outcomes

On completion of the course the student will be able to:
Knowledge and understanding:
  • Present an environmental archeological sampling strategy for an area or object
  • Discuss and have an in-depth understanding of an interdisciplinary approach, including problem orientation and multiproxy analysis
  • Explain the basics of some environmental archeological analysis techniques, e.g. soil sample management, microscope work, the use of reference collections, determination keys, databases and the use of different analytical instruments
  • Account for the workflow of laboratory techniques common to archaeology
  • Show insights into basic environmental archaeological concepts such as taphonomy and multiproxy analysis.
  Skills and abilities:
  • Carry out environmental archeological sampling in connection with an archaeological investigation
  • Undertake field work in good collaboration with other participants
  • Present results from field sampling in a clear and logical manner
  • Independently and in groups compile, process, interpret and present analysis data in an easy-to-understand and clear way
  • Independently perform at least one laboratory analysis common in archaeology 
Judgement and approach:
  • Demonstrate the ability to discuss the potentials and limitations of environmental archaeology
  • Argue as to why a certain environmental archeological investigation strategy should be used on a research object
  • Show ability to formulate environmental archaeology research problems
  • Show ability to solve problems using an interdisciplinary approach

Required Knowledge

A Bachelor's degree or equivalent first-cycle qualification comprising of at least 180 ECTS or a corresponding qualification from an internationally recognized university. Specific entry requirements are 90 ECTS in any of the following subjects, Archaeology, Environmental Archaeology, Geography, Geology, History, Anthropology, Classics, Biological and/or environmental sciences, or an equivalent/ related subject. Proficiency in English equivalent to Swedish upper secondary course English B/6.
Where the language of instruction is Swedish, applicants must prove proficiency in Swedish to the level required for basic eligibility for higher studies

Form of instruction

Instruction includes indoor lectures, group work, seminars, supervision, laboratory work and outdoor field studies. Module 1 is mainly given in the field although seminars and lectures are given in classroom. Module 2 is mainly given in the laboratory environment at the Environmental Archaeology laboratory, although seminars and lectures are given in classroom. Due to logistical reasons, commuting to a place other than Umeå is required, with overnight stays in a place other than Umeå.

Examination modes

Module 1. Environmental archaeological field methodology. Examination is based on group seminars and on individual achievement in the form of a written essay (home exam) in accordance with the grading scale VG, G or U.
Module 2. Environmental archaeological lab methodology. Examination is based on seminars and written work by groups and by individuals. The written examination is in the form of a final report generated by the field work. Students are graded individually in accordance with the grading scale VG, G or U.
Active participation in both modules is compulsory.  Examination is based on practical, vocal and written assignments in classrooms and in the field. The student will be expected to demonstrate a high level of critical thinking, analytic skills and interpersonal abilities commensurate with advanced studies. The ability to work independently as well as an integral part of a team is essential. Fieldwork is conducted in groups but examination is individual.
Assessment criteria and documentation methods for individual work initiatives are presented by the examiner at the start of the course. The quality and degree of active participation in the preparatory work (module 1), the field work (module 2) and the final report are taken into account when grading. Active participation can mean that a grade can be raised from G to VG.
For students who do not pass the regular examination there is another opportunity to do the examination. A student who has failed two examinations for a course or segment of a course, has the right to have another examiner appointed, unless there are special reasons (Higher Education Ordinance Chapter 6, section 22). Requests for new examiners are made to the Faculty of Humanities. A student who has passed an examination may not be re-examined.
Students who have twice failed a test for a course or part of the course have the right to request from the educational leader of the Faculty of Humanities that another examiner be appointed to determine grades, unless special reasons contradict it.
Deviations from the examination form of the syllabus can be made for a student who has decisions on pedagogical support due to disability. Individual adaptation of the examination form should be considered based on the student's needs. The examination form is adapted within the expected study results of the syllabus. At the request of the student, the teacher responsible for the course, in consultation with the examiner, must quickly decide on the adapted examination form. The decision should then be communicated to the student.

In the event that the syllabus expires or undergoes major changes, students are guaranteed at least three examination sessions (including the regular examination) according to the regulations of the syllabus on which the student was originally registered for a maximum period of two years from the end of the previous syllabus or the course has ceased to be offered.

Other regulations

In granting a university degree, this course may not be combined with any other course that has a similar content. In case of uncertainty, the student should consult the Director of Studies at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Umeå University.


The literature list is not available through the web. Please contact the faculty.