Brooches, Beads, Swords and Shields: Early Medieval Material Culture (ARC2121)

StaffDr Hajnalka Herold - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of this module is to provide an overview of early medieval material culture and to develop an appreciation of the principles and methodologies of its study and of its contribution to a more complete understanding of the early Middle Ages. Special attention will be given to the role of the archaeological context (e.g. finds from burials or finds from settlements) when considering an interpretative framework for artefacts. Examples from both Britain and continental Europe will be explored in order to better understand broader developments and regional differences.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Know the principal types of early medieval artefacts and the basic properties of their materials
  • 2. Know the range of methods available for the study of these objects and their social contexts
  • 3. Appreciate the ways how the study of material culture contributes to a better understanding of the early medieval period

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Understand the role of studying artefacts in interpreting the past
  • 5. Consider a series of different approaches to material culture in different research traditions
  • 6. Appreciate the reflection of past identities in the archaeological record and understand possibilities and limits of their study

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Develop an ability to interpret a variety of information forms
  • 8. Prepare and give a presentation using appropriate visual aids
  • 9. Ask questions in discussion and respond to questions and comments

Syllabus plan

·         Introduction: Early medieval artefacts and possible approaches to their study

·         Theoretical concepts and different regional research traditions in the study of material culture

·         Early medieval dress accessories and weapons

·         Tools connected to early medieval craft production

·         Objects of the early medieval household

·         Visit to a museum displaying early medieval objects

·         Expressing identities through material culture: gender, age, social group

·         Production, trade and exchange of different types of artefacts in the early Middle Ages

·         The use of scientific methods in the study of early medieval artefacts

·         Seminars 1 and 2: Discussing case studies of selected early medieval artefacts

  • Individual presentations


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching2211 x 2 hour classes
Guided independent study128Independent study to include reading and preparation for lectures, seminars, presentations and assessments.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual presentation4010 minutes1-9Verbal and Written feedback
Essay601500 words1-7Verbal and Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual presentation Powerpoint slides and written text of a 10 minute presentation1-9Refer/Defer period
EssayEssay 1500 words1-7Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Bayley, Justine and Watson, Jacqui 2009, Emerging from the appendices: The contributions of scientific examination and analysis to medieval archaeology (Chapter 18), in: Gilchrist, Roberta and Reynolds, Andrew (eds.), Reflections: 50 years of medieval archaeology, 1957-2007 Leeds: Maney Publishing, 363–381.

Effros, Bonnie 2003, Merovingian mortuary archaeology: and the making of the early Middle Ages, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Graham-Campbell, James and Valor, Magdalena (eds.) 2007, The archaeology of medieval Europe: Vol.1 eighth to twelfth centuries AD, Arhus: Arhus University Press. – especially Chapters 8 (Material Culture and Daily Life), 7 (Technology, Craft and Industry) and 10 (Trade and Exchange)

Hinton, David A. 2005, Gold and gilt, pots and pins: possessions and people in medieval Britain,Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Willemsen, Annemarieke and Kik, Hanneke (eds.) 2010, Dorestad in an international framework: New research on centres of trade and coinage in Carolingian times, Proceedings of the first Dorestad Congress held at the National Museum of Antiquities Leiden, The Netherlands, June 24-27, 2009, Turnhout: Brepols. – especially the article ‘Dorestad Discussed’ by Annemarieke Willemsen and the articles by Chrystel Brandenburgh, Clasina Isings, Luc Megens and Florian Preiß

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Archaeology, Medieval, Artefacts