ARCY2006 The Archaeology of Death

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 option in the Archaeology major sequence
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Society and Culture
  • Level 2 elective
This unit explores 'death' in literal and metaphoric senses across all human cultures over the past 3 million years. Death is a powerful moment in the human and social life cycle and is especially informative in terms of how different cultures deal with death. Indeed, it is how we treat 'death' that is one of the defining characteristics of being human. Death can also be studied in a wider frame to include 'objects' held to be living in certain Indigenous knowledge systems, as well as the 'deaths' of civilisations such as the Maya. Archaeologists need to be trained in how to deal with this important aspect of the archaeological record. Their skills need to include an awareness of the ethics, legislation, occupational health and safety and culturally-appropriate protocols in studying death. Technical expertise in identifying, recording and interpreting mortuary contexts, grave goods, DNA, is an essential outcome of this unit. Topical questions such as whether Neanderthals buried their dead are also addressed. This unit does not address archaeological forensics, which is dealt with in FNSC2200 Mysteries of Forensic Science.
Students are able to (1) demonstrate an understanding of the appropriate theory and method used in studying the archaeology of death; (2) demonstrate a critical and reflexive understanding and knowledge of and sensitivity to the ethical, legislative and occupational health and safety requirements involved in the study of the archaeology of death; (3) explain how archaeologists identify, record and interpret death in multiple archaeological contexts; (4) comprehend archaeological literature, specialised terminology and data, and communicate this in an appropriate manner both orally and through written expression; (5) demonstrate presentation skills by preparing a tutorial presentation and concomitant group communication skills in discussing the presentation; (6) demonstrate critical reading skills and source criticism; (7) develop the skills required to link theory to specific archaeological case studies, using appropriate methods; and (8) demonstrate an understanding of the cross-disciplinary linkages an archaeology of death has with, among other things, anatomy, anthropology, ethics, and Indigenous studies.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) essay; (2) tutorial assignments; and (3) quizzes. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Sven Ouzman and Professor Daniel Franklin
Unit rules
Advisable prior study:
a background in biological
social sciences
Contact hours
lectures and Practical Classes: 2 hours per week
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