More Archaeological Conundrums Part 1

Ref: C2226841

Due to face to face teaching being suspended unfortunately this course is not currently available for enrolment.

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The first half of the course will look at the archaeology of ancient China from the origins of civilisation in the Yellow River region c. 2,000BC/BCE to the end of the Han dynasty c. 220AD/CE. China had a literate city based culture where state controlled workshops produced glazed ceramics, bronze artefacts and silk clothes and wall hangings. During this time the Great Wall of China was built and Qin shi Huang was sent to his afterlife accompanied by 6,000 terracotta soldiers - it's a fascinating period. The second half of the course will look at wood in archaeology, from the early management of trees (coppicing, pollarding) to its use for boats, houses, tools, furniture etc. How do we identify and date wood (dendrochronology), especially as so much remains as darkened patches of soil? We shall also look at the chair making industry of the High Wycombe area.

Additional information about this course

Half term 29/10/2019

Course aim

The course aims to provide students with an introduction to archaeological techniques - how do archaeologists find and date sites, the use of scientific techniques to identify artefacts, and the very important principles of interpreting evidence.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Describe the various techniques used by archaeologists to identify and investigate sites of interest, and to assess the suitability and merits of each to particular situations. Many sites are discovered 'by accident' - i.e. during building work, or by metal detectorists and others looking for treasure. How can archaeologists investigate these sites without destroying them - all excavations are destructive. To what extent should preservation of the past take priority over modern development?
  • Describe and discuss the use and merits of science and technology by archaeologists in researching sites and artefacts - e.g. the use of drones to locate and record sites, especially on marshy and waterlogged sites. DNA and isotope analysis of bones and teeth can tell us a lot about the skeleton/body under investigation but they are also intrusive and destructive.
  • Discuss the way archaeologists interpret the evidence to provide explanations for the way people lived in the past - to what extent are these explanations influenced by the archaeologists nationality, religion and prejudices? Archaeologists may discover a circle of wooden postholes - is this a house, agricultural buildings or something for ritual? (if in doubt, it's ritual!!!).

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • students will be given a programme of classes for the term, and the tutor will provide handouts which are relevant to each class; students will be expected to read round the subject and the tutor will bring books and journals which students can borrow.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • Many students will have background information (sometimes detailed study) of particular sites and they are encouraged to contribute to discussion and interpretation of archaeological discoveries - student participation is encouraged, but not compulsory!!

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • students are encouraged to research round the sites under discussion (as above), using books, handouts, and the internet.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • This course could lead to a range of job opportunities. Follow link to National Careers Service for more details
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • students may wish to join archaeology and/or history societies, and to attend public lectures which they provide.

Download full course information sheet

More Archaeological Conundrums Part 1

Is this course right for me? Request more information

Due to face to face teaching being suspended unfortunately this course is not currently available for enrolment.

We are launching a range of online courses shortly that may be of interest to you so sign up here to hear more.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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