55374 - Geoarchaeology

Course Unit Page


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

Climate Action

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The students will be able: i) to understand the genesis and evolution of an archaeological site and its relationships with the coeval evolving landscape; ii) to perform a field geological survey concerning an archaeological site; iii) to interact with the most common topics and problems of an archaeological site excavation; iv) to choose (or suggest) the kind of analysis to perform; v) to interact with archaeologists and with researchers and practitioners dealing with the ancillary disciplines of Archaeology.

Course contents

Free course; 2nd semester; 6 CFU (52 hs.: 40 frontal hours (5 CFU)= 20 two-hours lessons; 12 hours laboratory (1 CFU) = 3 two-hours lessons + 1 field trip (6 h).

23 (20 front+3 Exer) complete micromodules (2 hours each) and 1 field trip. The topics are grouped in 4 main Sections. A) General characters: 1) Basic information concerning the course; Discipline history: relationships with Archaeology; Ancillary disciplines: geomorphology, stratigraphy, sedimentology; 2) Ancillary disciplines: continental chronostratigraphy; palaeoclimatology; palinology; 3-4-5) Pedology: fundamentals of soil science and soil taxonomy; 6) Paleosols; 7) Micromorphology; 8) Prospection methods for Archaeology; 9) Chronology, some dating methods (outlines), excavation technique; 10) Basic concepts. B) Anthropogenic domain stratigraphy: 11) US (stratigraphic units) characters; 12) Production technologies, materials, markers; 13) Anthropogenic contexts and structures; 14) Detailed stratigraphy; 15) Post-depositional changes; 16) Archaeological site and palaeoenvironments; 17) Natural and anthropogenic environments relationships; 18) Archaeoseismology. 19) C) Practicum: 19) Some legal details; Approaching a building site/archaeological yard; 20) Geoarchaeological work topics: questions, field descriptions, field sampling, final report; 21) Lab.1: samples and geological facies; 22) Lab. 2: some field instruments and lab analyses; D) Outdoor approaches: 23) Lab. 3: reading of stratigraphical relationships and archaeological materials (in historical centre); 24) Lab. 4: Field trip at archaeological excavation sites and critical analysis of the field trip data.

N.B.: notions of geomorphology, lithology, etc. are thought to be already known by the students due to the fact that the course is addressed to a Geological and Natural Sciences curricula.

NOTE.: only for students coming from the School of Letters two additional, preliminary lessons (2 hours each) will concern the subsequent topics: 01) Short account for fundamentals of Sedimentology; 02) Short account for fundamentals of Geomorphology. Furthermore, for respecting the CFU time-value of the School of Letters the ACMA students can take into consideration a program including only the micromodules 1, 2, 3-7, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 23.

Lecture calendar:

beginning for ACMA students: February 24th, 2021;

beginning for the Geology students: March 1st, 2021);

ending: between May 6th and 15th, 2021).

Lecture calendar: (indicatively) Monday, Wednesday, Thursday. Lectures will be held only on-line (TEAMS) according to the Department decision. Lab 1 and Lab 2 will be held in ordinary room or on line depending on both the general conditions (epidemiological prescriptions) and the hourly chances at moment available. Outdoor lessons (Lab 3 and Lab 4) will be performed at a date to be defined according to time availability of each student.

Please, NOTE.: the decided date changes will be indicated by “AVVISI” at the teacher web-site before or during the lectures beginning.


In addition to both personal notes and PPTs (within the limits set by copyright laws) at least one of the subsequent handbooks is advisable: other references will be suggested during classes if required.

The suggested literature is consistent with the specific learning work. The high titles amount is due both to the discipline scientific updating and to the personal free choice of the student; but above all it wants to be a sure professional base after the student degree. The lecture attendance is warmly suggested; in fact, the most of the teaching materials (PPT) are original and in part must be considered as not available to a free diffusion beyond the class lecture time: the remaining part is ordinarily available in IOL.

The handbook 1 is basic. The handbook 1 and 3 are suggested to the students who can not attend the lectures:

1 - Cremaschi M., 2000. Manuale di Geoarcheologia. Laterza, 386 pp.

2 - Goldberg P., Macphail R. I., 2006. Practical and theoretical geoarchaeology. Blackwell, 455 pp.

3 - Miskovsky J.-C. (ed.), 1987. Géologie de la Prehistoire: methodes, techniques, applications

4 - Cremaschi M., Rodolfi G., 1991. Il suolo: pedologia nelle Scienze della Terra. Nuova Italia Scientifica , 427 pp.

-For students coming from other University Schools (Letters in particular) , notes or handbooks for the Natural Sciences Geomorphology course are warmly suggested. In any case, if necessary, they can refer to:

- Morbidelli L., Le rocce e I loro costituenti. Bardi Ed., Roma 2005, 469 pp.

- Ricci Lucchi F., Sedimentologia (3 voll.), CLUEB, Bologna 1978.

- Castiglioni G.B., Geomorfologia, UTET, 1999

- Cojan I., Renard M., Sedimentologie. Dunod 2000, 418 pp.

- Summerfield M., Global Geomorphology, Longmann 1991.

- Campy M., Macaire J.-J., Geologie de la surface, Dunod 2003.

- Gutierrez E. M., Geomorfologia, Pearson-Prentice Hall, Madrid 2008 (Spanish edition).

- Fort M., Betard F., Arnaud-Fassetta G., Geomorphologie dynamique et environnement,A. Colin Ed. 2015

Teaching methods

Oral lessons; exercises in class and in the field: the final approach to the ephemeral outcropping of the archaeological stratigraphic units and data is fundamental. The student is continuously stimulated to read out the archaeological site in terms of stratigraphy, sedimentology and pedology; furthermore, he is taken to reflect on the relationships linking the site to the present and ancient geomorphology and to highlight the site paleo-environmental value.

Assessment methods

The final examination is oral but it is based on a practical approach and consists of  the following parts:

a)      critical discussion of the personal report (written text and images) concerning the field trip;

b)      questions concerning the general frame of the Course (Parts A and B);

c)      critical analysis of a published paper dealing with geoarchaeological topics (to be  previously fixed together with the  teacher);

The final mark will take into account all four three parts that will be evaluated: a = 10%, b = 85 %, c = 5% .

Teaching tools

PPT presentations, rocks, soil and cores samples; visits to a museum and/or to university labs; field trips to an archaeological excavation in progress.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Stefano Cremonini