Ancient Arts and Crafts: Perspectives on Material Culture (ARC2125)

StaffProfessor Linda Hurcombe - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Material culture is an essential part of human societies, past and present.  The module aims to introduce theories of craft and cultural transmission, developing an understanding of material culture as part of our own evolution.  It will take a paleoanthropological approach and cover the earliest forms of human material culture and compare these with animal and primate material culture, then explore some of the key materials and technologies. The module will include practical sessions and the opportunity to undertake a practical project.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Know the theoretical and methodological frameworks of material culture studies and understand how these relate to the interpretation of ancient arts and crafts.
  • 2. Understand a variety of different craft ethnographies and how they relate to the environment.
  • 3. Outline the various sources of evidence employed in material culture interpretation.
  • 4. Integrate the use of ethnographic, archaeological and experimental data in interpreting the past.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Provide a competent overview and use thematic knowledge
  • 6. Synthesise and evaluate terms, concepts and examples
  • 7. Research a topic guided by a reading list and synthesise data from disparate sources.
  • 8. Interpret a variety of information forms

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Contribute to group presentations using appropriate visual aids
  • 10. Respond to comments in discussion and ask pertinent questions.
  • 11. Act on constructive criticism, self reflect on progress and cooperate with and learn from peers.

Syllabus plan

Conceptualising arts and crafts.

Origins of material culture and primate material culture.

Paleolithic arts and crafts

Art, aesthetics, and decoration; necessity and identity for tools, textiles, containers and structures.

Material culture from the landscape: rocks, clays, plants and animals as craft materials for tools.

Textiles, containers and structures.

Linking people and material culture: the ice man, grave goods.

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 teaching168 x 2 hour lectures/practical sessions
Scheduled learning and teaching22 x 1 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching1Tutorial
Guided independent study131Independent study to include reading, preparation for lectures, practicals and assessments.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Contributions to seminar1 hour 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11Immediate verbal feedback from tutor and peers

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
Written essay/project502000 words1-8, 11Verbal and Written feedback
Exam501.5 hours1-6, 8Verbal 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
Written essay/projectWritten essay/project1-8. 11Refer/Defer period
ExamExam1-6, 8Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading


Cook, J 2013 Ice Age Art: The arrival of the modern mind London; British Museum Press


Hurcombe, L. M. 2007 Archaeological Artefacts as Material CultureLondon: Routledge

Ingold, T. 2000 The Perception of the Environment: essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill, London; Routledge.

Mcgrew, W. The Cultured Chimpanzee: Reflections on Cultural PrimatologyCambridge; CambridgeUniversity Press.

Pettit, P. P. Bahn, S. Ripoi 2007 Palaeolithic Cave Art at Creswell Crags in European Context, Oxford; Oxford University Press.

Schick, K. and N. Toth 1993 Making Silent Stones Speak:  Human Evolution and the Dawn of Technology, London; Weidenfield and Nicholson.

Spindler, K.  1995 The Man in the Ice, London: Weidenfield and Nicholson.

Turner, N. 1998 Plant Technology of the First Peoples in British Columbia, Vancouver: RoyalBritish ColumbiaMuseum Press.

Also videos e.g.

The Art of Navajo Weaving and the DurangoCollectionDenverMuseum of Natural History

Maria, Pottery Maker of San Idelfonso, New Mexico. National Park Service

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Last revision date


Key words search

Archaeology, Arts, Crafts, Material Culture, Paleoanthropology