ARCY3002 Archaeological Field Skills

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 core unit in the Archaeology major sequence
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Society and Culture
  • Category B broadening unit for students
  • Level 3 elective
This unit provides intensive training in essential archaeological field skills. Students receive hands-on instruction before and after the field school and learn to: formulate a research design, satisfy all legal, safety and ethical compliances, conduct field surveys, create and use standard artefact and site recording forms, recognise and excavate stratified deposits, take samples for radiocarbon dating, use camera equipment, use survey equipment for site and topographical mapping, prepare and create section drawings, process finds, analyse finds, store finds, publish results of the fieldschool. During field work students develop skills working in teams and with archaeological stakeholders such as land owners, Indigenous Australians, media, and the public. The final report is an output that can be listed on the student's professional CV.
Students are able to (1) critically analyse and apply competing theories of the interpretation of archaeological evidence; (2) undertake survey and mapping—know the basic principles of archaeological survey, set up a dumpy/Total Station, use a dump/Total Station, record excavation heights and points with a dumpy/Total Station, map archaeological sites and topography ; assist a surveyor, use a GPS, and use a compass and map; (3) conduct an excavation/surface collection —set up the site for excavation/surface collection, set squares by triangulation of string line, recognise stratigraphic changes, properly excavate stratigraphic changes, correctly excavate artefacts, correctly excavate features, description and recording, describe soils with Munsell colour charts and pH, draw horizontal plans, draw vertical sections, collect and process bulk soil samples, collect and process radiocarbon samples, collect and process flotation samples, and prepare the square/feature/artefact for photograph; (4) undertake archaeological processing—use sieves, conduct primary on-site sorting of archaeological material; (5) independently and critically undertake research through the collection and interpretation of archaeological information and report on this process; (6) use recording forms (level; feature recording; artefact sorting; cataloguing; stratigraphic record); (7) successfully work in a team in field conditions in a safe and efficient manner; (8) demonstrate appropriate application of archaeological theory, method and techniques to specific field contexts; (9) demonstrate good observational skills in the preparation of recording forms and field journal; and (10) demonstrate a critical and reflexive understanding of ethical issues relevant to archaeological practice.
Typically this unit is assessed in the following ways: (1) in-field exercises; (2) report of field diary; and (3) weekly group assignments. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Sven Ouzman
Unit rules
(ARCY1001 Discoveries in Archaeology
ARCY1101 Digging up the Past)
(ARCY1002 Archaeology Today: Principles and Themes
ARCY1102 Archaeology of Tribes and Empires)
at least one Level 2 Archaeology unit.
ARCY2226 Archaeological Field Methods
Approved quota: 45—selection is based on weighted average mark (WAM)
Contact hours
1 x 90 minute Lecture-Practical per week
Field school is typically 7-12 days held in the mid-semester break or before semester commences.
Unit Outline
The field work component runs for 7-10 days either before the start of semester or during the mid-semester break. Students should ensure that they are able to attend every day of the field school during these times. Students should not enroll for this unit if they are unable to attend each day of the fieldschool.

There is a $200 incidental fee for this unit to cover fieldwork related costs which will be either within the metro or regional area.

Burke, Heather, Michael Morrison  and Claire Smith. 2017. The archaeologist's field handbook. Crow's Nest: Allen & Unwin.

  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available at the University Co-operative Bookshop (from early January) and appropriate administrative offices for students to consult. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.