Scheda insegnamento


L'insegnamento contribuisce al perseguimento degli Obiettivi di Sviluppo Sostenibile dell'Agenda 2030 dell'ONU.

Istruzione di qualità La vita sulla terra

Anno Accademico 2022/2023

Conoscenze e abilità da conseguire

By the end of the course students will show awareness of the most innovative disciplines relating to archaeological research. They will be able to document and interpret the various situations of investigation and analysis of the archaeological record, taking into account the theoretical and epistemological aspects. Students will have acquired interdisciplinary knowledge relating to geo-archaeological research, experimental archaeology applications, dating methods and evaluation systems for material culture. Students will be able to undertake archaeological research with knowledge of the most up-to-date methods and techniques and to undertake research planning. They will also be able to contribute to theoretical discussions on the discipline and assess the possible developments of interpretation and dissemination of archaeological research.


This module of the course “Archaeological Theory and Practice” will face and deepen current methods and techniques of archaeological research, as well as issues of current scientific paradigm. Lessons will be organized in 5 blocks of 4 hours

  1. The Background: themes, selection and discussion
  2. The Third scientific revolution: a microscopic view of archaeological research
  3. Beyond microscope: a holistic and global view of archaeological research
  4. The old new frontier of archaeological research: people, resources, landscape
  5. Time perception: from dating techniques to lived time

1.The Background: themes, selection and discussion

In the first block specific themes will be selected and, depending from the knowledge of students about basics of archaeological research, specific aspects will be examined. Selected readings will help to reach a shared awareness in the knowledge of archaeological themes.

Keywords: human past, reasoning, archaeological basics

2.The Third scientific revolution: a microscopic view of archaeological research

The second block is devoted to update students about new methods and techniques concerning the invisible (molecular) information from archaeological records. In some scholars’ opinion, these recent achievements have determined a paradigm shift in archaeology and, therefore, they can be considered as triggers of a “scientific revolution”. In fact, we cannot avoid to apply new analytical processes completing the science-based approach: dating, isotope analysis, sediment analysis (micromorphology), archaeometrical analysis,microarchaeology, archaeology from the space.

[Reading: Kristian KristiansenTowards a New Paradigm? Abstract. It is proposed that archaeology is undergoing a major science based methodological transformation, which will demand new theoretical and interpretative developments. Comparison is made with the previous two science revolutions, 1850-60 and 1950-60. The consequences of this ongoing revolution are discussed.

Microarchaeology. Beyond the Visible Archaeological Record: chemical studies and high resolution images can help to identify new unsuspected information

Micromorphology is able to furnish information with the degree of precision necessary for analysing site formation processes and traces of activities in a variety of settings.

Archaeology from the space: new techniques of remote sensing investigation help to identify archaeological sites and give a different perception of landscape. More focus: forward course of Landscape Archaeology]

Keywords: isotopic research, archaeometry, microarchaeology, micromorphology.

3. Beyond microscope: a holistic and global view of archaeological research

Despite the usefulness of analytical data, we cannot lose the general view and the historical perception of processes related to ancient world. Lessons will concern methods and theoretical issues, as well as key concepts, about the reconstruction of historical evolution, climatic conditions, life styles, demography, economical changes, behavioraltopics and a general view of social systems.

Keywords: climate, demography, comparative archaeology, evolutionary archaeology,model testing.

4.The old new frontier of archaeological research: people, resources, landscape

Anthropological and archaeological approach concern the reconstruction human past. This is from the origin of the disciplines and will remain the main focus of archaeological research. How can we improve in this process? Thanks new disciplines, like experimental archaeology, social archaeology and study of social inequalities (detailed view), cognitive archaeology, models and predictive modeling, it will be possible to reach a better comprehension about how to do it.

Keywords: experimental archaeology, social archaeology, cognitive archaeology, predictive modeling

5.Time perception: from dating techniques to lived time

Toward the end, the course will close a circular path of the reconstruction of human past going back to the meaning of specific points. We need to have the best perception of time, necessary to establish contemporaneity of events, to control the duration of features (dwellings, objects) as well as their memory with symbolic meaning, including the symbolism of eternal life represented in funerary rituals.

A consideration of what culture means in the archaeological research will close the course.

Keywords: conventional chronologies, interactions and networks, scale and magnitude, comparative archaeology



Colin Renfrew, Paul Bahn 2016 Archaeology. Theories, Methods, and Practice, London: Thames & Hudson

Barry Cunliffe, Chris Gosden, Rosemary A. Joyce 2009 The Oxford Handbook of Archaeology, Oxford University Press.

Chapman, Wylie, Hodges 2016, Evidential Reasoning in Archaeology, Bloomsbury Academic

Chris Scarre 2018The Human Past. World History & the Development of Human Societies, London: Thames & Hudson.


Kristian Kristiansen 2014,Towards a New Paradigm? The Third Science Revolution and its Possible Consequences in Archaeology, Current Swedish Archaeology, Vol 22, pp. 11-71.

Tim Flohr Sørensen TF. 2017, The Two Cultures and a World Apart: Archaeology and Science at a New Crossroads. Norwegian Archaeological Review, pp. 1–15. doi:10.1080/00293652.2017.1367031

Marc Vander Linden 2017, Reaction to a Reactionary Text. Norwegian Archaeological Review, pp. 1–3. doi:10.1080/00293652.2017.1372800

Alexandra Ion 2019, Who Are We as Historical Beings ? Shaping identities in light of the archaeogenetics ‘revolution’, Current Swedish Archaeology 27, pp. 10–36. doi:10.37718/CSA.2019.01

Michael Brian Schiffer 2013, The Archaeology of Science. Studying the Creation of Useful Knowledge, Manuals in Archaeological Method, Theory and Technique, Springer International Publishing Switzerland.

Weiner S. 2010 Microarchaeology. Beyond the Visible Archaeological Record, Cambridge University Press.

Fredrik Fahlander 2001, Archaeology as Science Fiction. A Microarchaeology of the Unknown, Goteborg University.

Fredrik Fahlander 2003, The Materiality of Serial Practice. A Microarchaeology of Burial, Goteborg University.

Mary E. Malainey 2011, A Consumer's Guide to Archaeological Science. Analytical Techniques, Springer-Verlag, New York.

João Manuel Marreiros, Juan F. Gibaja Bao, Nuno Ferreira Bicho eds. 2015, Use-Wear and Residue Analysis in Archaeology, Springer International Publishing, Switzerland.

Paul Goldberg, Richard I. Macphail 2006, Practical and Theoretical Geoarchaeology, Blackwell Publishing company.

Cristiano Nicosia, Georges Stoops (eds.) 2017, Archaeological Soil and Sediment Micromorphology, Wiley-Blackwell.

Gilberto Artioli 2010, Scientific Methods and Cultural Heritage. An introduction to the application of materials science to archaeometry and conservation science, Oxford University Press.


James Steele, Stephen Shennan 2009, Introduction: Demography and Cultural Macroevolution, Human Biology, Volume 81, Issue 2 Special Issue on Demography and Cultural Macroevolution, pp. 105-118.

Robert McC. Netting, Richard R. Wilk, Eric J. Arnould 1984, Households. Comparative and Historical Studies of the Domestic Group, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Stephen Shennan 2010, Comparative Anthropology and Human Inequality, Current Anthropology, Volume 51, Number 1, February 2010, pp. 115-116.

Michael E. Smith 2012, The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies, Cambridge University Press.

Michael J. O’Brien and Stephen J. Shennan eds. 2010, Innovation in Cultural Systems. Contributions from Evolutionary Anthropology, The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Andrea Cardarelli, Alberto Cazzella and Marcella Frangipane eds. 2017, The Origin of Inequality, Origini. Prehistory and protohistory of ancient civilizations, vol. XXXVIII, Thematic issue.


Lynn Meskell, Robert W. Preucel 2004, A companion to social archaeology, Blackwell Publishing.

Benjamin W. Roberts, Marc Vander Linden 2011, Investigating Archaeological Cultures Material Culture Variability and Transmission, Springer.

Philip Verhagen 2007, Case Studies in Archaeological Predictive Modeling, Amsterdam University Press.

Linda Hurcombe, Penny Cunningham 2016, The Life Cycle of Structures in Experimental Archaeology. An object biography approach, Sidestone Press.

Tine Schenck 2015, Accessing intangible technologies through experimental archaeology. A methodological analysis, University of Exeter.


Oliver J. T. Harris, Craig Cipolla 2017, Archaeological Theory in the New Millennium. Introducing Current Perspectives, Routledge.

Gianmarco Alberti 2013, Issues in the absolute chronology of the Early–Middle Bronze Age transition in Sicily and southern Italy: a Bayesian radiocarbon view, Journal of Quaternary Science 28(6), pp. 630–640.

Peter N. Peregrine 2004, Cross-Cultural Approaches in Archaeology Comparative Ethnology, Comparative Archaeology, and Archaeoethnology, Journal of Archaeological Research 12(3), pp. 281-309.

Roland Fletcher 2007, The Limits of Settlement Growth: A Theoretical Outline, Cambridge University Press.

Davide Domenici, Nicolò Marchetti eds. 2019, Urbanized Landscapes in Early Syro-Mesopotamia and Prehispanic Mesoamerica, Papers of a Cross-Cultural Seminar held in Honor of Robert McCormick Adams, Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden.

Metodi didattici

Each class of two hours will start with the presentation of a powerpoint, focusing themes and keywords. During the presentation or at specific moments students will be involved in a general discussion. At the end of the presentation of each block of topics students will be invited to fill up a questionnaire.

Modalità di verifica e valutazione dell'apprendimento

Final evaluation needs to be agreed with the two other modules of Archaeological Theory and Practice

Strumenti a supporto della didattica

Details to follow

Orario di ricevimento

Consulta il sito web di Maurizio Cattani