Advanced topics in archaeological theory and methods (PHD801)

The course will introduce the students to different current theories and methods used in archaeological research, with a particular focus on the implementation of methods in archaeological research. Archaeological research is frequently interdisciplinary and consequently draws upon a wide range of methods, sometimes from other academic fields. Choice of methodological approaches is frequently bound up with a topic and notably the theoretical framework, and the course addresses which methods are suitable in given theoretical frameworks. Particular focus will be given to theories and methods that deal with the material turn, the ontological turn, the science turn, and general epistemological considerations.

Course description for study year 2023-2024. Please note that changes may occur.


Course code




Credits (ECTS)


Semester tution start

Spring, Autumn

Number of semesters


Exam semester


Language of instruction

English, Norwegian


The course is designed to provide an overview of current theories and methods in archaeological research and will give the students an advanced understanding of how theoretical frameworks and methodology are implemented in research projects.

Although the course will focus on current theory, the overall aim is to give them a practical understanding of how theory and methodology together play into theoretical research design.

The underpinnings of the theoretical approach and methodologies will be examined to give the students knowledge of the traditions that theories and methods stem from, as well as their epistemological anchoring in either the humanities, natural science or social sciences.

The teachers will present research literature that covers the main topics and

The course covers topics such as:

  • The material turn
  • The ontological turn
  • Actor-network theory and châine operatoire
  • Personhood
  • The biographical perspective
  • Feminist critique
  • Sensory archaeology

Learning outcome


After completing the course the students should:

  • Have an advanced understanding of the current theories used in archaeological research


After completing the course the students should:

  • Have an advanced understanding of the implementation of appropriate methods considering the theoretical approach
  • Evaluate which theories and methods that are applicable on different archaeological datasets
  • Be able to formulate new research questions that integrate a theoretical understanding with a methodological implementation
  • Be able to formulate a theoretical platform that integrates methods and datasets in an appropriate way and to an international standard
  • Be able to create an operational theoretical framework that encompasses appropriate methodology

General competence

After completing the course the students should:

  • Understand how research is situated within a research field in archaeology and the ramification that the different fields operate within.
  • Be able to identify the underpinnings and scientific traditions of theories and methods.
  • Be able to engage in academic discourse on advanced theory and methodology within archaeology, both orally and in writing.

Required prerequisite knowledge

Participants must be enrolled in a PhD programme.


Form of assessment Weight Duration Marks Aid
Term paper 1/1 Passed / Not Passed

The PhD candidates are expected to write a Concept note/ "term paper" as part of the course assessment. The candidates will work on this Concept note before, during, and after the course: 1. Before the course: Write up to two pages about your project (a Guidelines to the Concept Note will be sent out in advance with elements to consider). The candidates will present this at the start of the course to the rest of the group. 2. During the course: There will be periods designated for working on the paper during the course. 3. After the course: Complete the Concept note and hand in. It should be around 3000 words. Include references demonstrating that one has engaged in the suggested literature for the course, and/or relevant literature of your own choice.The candidates can decide how to structure their CN. Whether to use the headlines in the Guideline as headings, make it part of the chapter in their thesis (but then with additional background background info to contextualise the text). The CN is subject to pass/fail.

Course teacher(s)

Course coordinator:

Astrid Johanne Nyland

Method of work

A combination of lectures, articles presented by teachers and students and classroom discussions.

Coursework requirements

Students need to attend a one-week on-campus study programme. Presence is mandatory (MP). Mandatory requirements: 75% presence. If students do not fulfil the MP requirement, students will have to pass an assignment given by the course coordinators in order to take the course exam.

Open for

The course is open to interested PhD candidates at the University of Stavanger and other universities. Single Course Admission to PhD-Courses.

Course assessment

There must be an early dialogue between the course coordinator, the student representative and the students. The purpose is feedback from the students for changes and adjustments in the course for the current semester.In addition, a digital course evaluation must be carried out at least every three years. Its purpose is to gather the students experiences with the course.


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