93153 - Archaeology, Media, and the Public (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Archaeology and Cultures of the Ancient World (cod. 8855)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will have an in-depth knowledge of the relationship between archaeological research, cultural heritage, media (meaning both traditional and new digital media) and the public. They will be critically aware of the strategies of communication and dissemination of archaeological knowledge adopted by the various people involved in the job of dissemination and enhancement. The knowledge acquired will make students proficient in assessing, monitoring and reporting in the media on communication activities relating to archaeology and the cultural heritage.

Course contents

The perception of the public interest in archaeology has evolved considerably over time, channelled through different media employed to convey experienced knowledge and shape a common understanding of time and materiality. Being attentive and reflexive to issues of communication, narration and representation has become a crucial skill for contemporary archaeologists, not only to educate the non-specialised audience about the findings and specificities of the discipline but also as an incidental methodological and source of theoretical inspiration that can transform the social impact of a scientific project by fostering interdisciplinarity, community engagement, and policymaking. This course will provoke students to reflect on the ethical and political dimensions of archaeology in contemporary societies, the fast-growing challenges and opportunities posited by the introduction of digital technologies for the sharing and co-creation of archaeological narratives, and the multiple scales of imagination that compose critical heritage practices. 


A complete schedule of required and suggested readings for each session is available on Virtuale. 

CRAFT: politics and ethics in contemporary public archaeology and heritage

  • Shanks, M., & McGuire, R. H. (1996). The craft of archaeology. American Antiquity, 61(1), 75-88.
  • Waterton, E., & Watson, S. (2013). Framing theory: Towards a critical imagination in heritage studies. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 19(6), 546-56.
  • McDavid, C., & Brock, T. P. (2015). The differing forms of public archaeology: where we have been, where we are now, and thoughts for the future. In C. Gnecco and D. Lippert (eds) Ethics and archaeological praxis, 159-183.

REPRESENTATION: Archaeological imagination, popular culture and political aesthetics

  • Moser, S. (2008) Archaeological representation: the consumption and creation of the past. In B. Cunliffe and C. Gosden (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Archaeology. Oxford University Press, 1048-1077.
  • Shanks, M., & Webmoor, T. (2013). A political economy of visual media in archaeology. In S. Bonde and S. Houston (eds), Re-presenting the past: archaeology through text and image, Oxford: Oxbow Book, 85-108.
  • Holtorf, C. (2007). The archaeologist in popular culture: key themes. In Archaeology is a brand: the meaning of archaeology in contemporary popular culture. Left Coast Press.

COMMUNICATION: from enlightening to sharing and participation

  • Bonacchi, C. (2017) Digital media in public archaeology. In G. Moshenska (ed.) Key concepts in public archaeology. UCL Press, 60-72
  • Holtorf, C. (2007) Strategies of engagement. In Archaeology is a brand! The meaning of archaeology in contemporary popular culture. Routledge, 105-129.
  • Kulik, K. (2007). A Short History of Archaeological Communication. In T. Clack & M. Brittain (Eds.), Archaeology and the Media. Routledge, 111–124.

NARRATIVES: languages of archaeological heritage in practice

  • Joyce, R. with Preucel R. (2003) Writing the field of archaeology. In The languages of archaeology. Blackwell. 18-38.
  • van Dyke, R. M., & Bernbeck, R. (2015). Alternative narratives and the ethics of representation: An introduction. In R. M. van Dyke & R. Bernbeck (Eds.), Subjects and narratives in archaeology. University Press of Colorado. 1–26.
  • González-Ruibal, A. (2020). What remains?: On material nostalgia. In B. Olsen, M. Burström, C. DeSilvey, & Þ. Pétursdóttir (Eds.), After Discourse: Things, Affects, Ethics. Routledge, 187–203.

COLLABORATION: spaces of knowledge and friction at different scales of community imagination

  • Atalay, S. (2012). Identifying Research Questions and Developing a Research Design. In Community-based archaeology. University of California Press. 167-195
  • Thomas, S. (2017). Community archaeology. In G. Moshenska (ed.) Key concept in public archaeology. UCL Press. 14-30.
  • Wylie, A. (2019). Crossing a Threshold: Collaborative Archaeology in Global Dialogue. Archaeologies, 15(3), 570–587.

RE-MEDIATION: archaeological ethnography, new materialism and relational ontologies

  • Hamilakis, Y. (2011). Archaeological Ethnography: A Multitemporal Meeting Ground for Archaeology and Anthropology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 40, 399–414.
  • Harrison, R. (2010). Exorcising the “plague of fantasies”: mass media and archaeology’s role in the present; or, why we need an archaeology of “now.” World Archaeology, 4(3), 328–340.
  • González-Ruibal, A. (2019). Chapter 8. Materiality. In An Archaeology of the Contemporary Era. Routledge. pp 164-188.

DIGITIZATION: digital heritage research and a call for 'slow archaeology'

  • Bonacchi, C., & Krzyzanska, M. (2019). Digital heritage research re-theorised: ontologies and epistemologies in a world of big data. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 25(12), 1235–1247.
  • Caraher, W. (2019). Slow Archaeology, Punk Archaeology, and the “Archaeology of Care.” European Journal of Archaeology, 22(3): 372-385.
  • Morgan, C. (2021). An archaeology of digital things: social, political, polemical. Antiquity, 95(384), 1590–1593. 

Teaching methods

Each class consists of a blend of frontal teaching and facilitated discussion. The workshop activities can be used by students to explore specific aspects related to their research interests. Participation in classes and workshop is strongly encouraged. Students who are unable to attend should contact the course coordinator to arrange an alternative program.

Assessment methods

The final grade will take into account active participation in seminar discussion (20%), individual/group presentation (powerpoint, videoessay, photographic installation) (30%), and individual essay (50%). The ability to draw connections with topics from other courses in the degree programme and the ability to identify relevant bibliography from the information provided in the course will be positively assessed, as well as the clarity, coherence and critical analysis required for both the oral presentation (15 mins) and the written essay (2000 - 3000 words).

Non-attending students will arrange with the course instructor a topic for the written essay and will also sustain an oral exam on the readings given in the syllabus.

Teaching tools

Frontal lessons, power point; audiovisual sources

Office hours

See the website of Francesco Orlandi Barbano


Reduced inequalities Sustainable cities Partnerships for the goals

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.