First cycle
degree courses
Second cycle
degree courses
Single cycle
degree courses
School of Human and Social Sciences and Cultural Heritage
Course unit
LEN1032865, A.A. 2018/19

Information concerning the students who enrolled in A.Y. 2018/19

Information on the course unit
Degree course Second cycle degree in
LE0616, Degree course structure A.Y. 2018/19, A.Y. 2018/19
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Number of ECTS credits allocated 6.0
Type of assessment Mark
Website of the academic structure
Department of reference Department of Cultural Heritage: Archaeology and History of Art, Cinema and Music
E-Learning website
Mandatory attendance No
Language of instruction Italian
Single Course unit The Course unit can be attended under the option Single Course unit attendance
Optional Course unit The Course unit can be chosen as Optional Course unit

Teacher in charge CRISTIANO NICOSIA L-ANT/10

ECTS: details
Type Scientific-Disciplinary Sector Credits allocated
Core courses L-ANT/10 Archeological Research Methodologies 6.0

Course unit organization
Period First semester
Year 1st Year
Teaching method frontal

Type of hours Credits Teaching
Hours of
Individual study
Lecture 6.0 42 108.0 No turn

Start of activities 25/09/2018
End of activities 18/01/2019
Show course schedule 2019/20 Reg.2018 course timetable

Examination board
Board From To Members of the board
8 2019 01/12/2019 30/11/2020 NICOSIA CRISTIANO (Presidente)
CUPITO' MICHELE (Membro Effettivo)
7 2016/19 01/12/2018 30/11/2019 NICOSIA CRISTIANO (Presidente)
CUPITO' MICHELE (Membro Effettivo)
6 2016/18 01/12/2017 30/11/2018 NICOSIA CRISTIANO (Presidente)
CUPITO' MICHELE (Membro Effettivo)
LEONARDI GIOVANNI (Membro Effettivo)

Prerequisites: No pre-requisites
Target skills and knowledge: - Ability to read, understand, interpret and record stratigraphic sequences in archaeological contexts and in natural context relevant for a given site (off-site, regional sequences, etc.).

- Understanding of (a) main sedimentary processes; (b) basic soil forming processes; (c) anthropic processes responsible for the formation of archaeological strata.

- Understanding of the difference between depositional and post-depositional processes; between "C transforms" and "N transforms" (see M.B. Schiffer); between primary, secondary and tertiary refuse and depositional settings; between “allochtonous” and “local” materials. Understanding of the concepts of “reworking”, “taphonomy”, “diagenesis”, bioturbation”.

- Understanding of the basic principles of stratigraphy in geology (concepts useful for archaeology only) and of stratigraphy in archaeology (Harris matrix and laws).

- Ability to draw a Harris matrix diagram and properly fill stratigraphic unit recording forms.

- Understanding of selected aspects of anthropic stratifications, such as: rubefaction due to exposure to fire; ash formation and weathering; excrements and secondary phosphates; bone and its diagenesis; earth-based construction materials (e.g., wattle and daub, mud plaster, mud bricks, etc.) and their weathering products.
Examination methods: Written 90 minute-long exam, normally with around ten open question and one or two multiple choice questions. These aim at ascertaining the acquisition of the knowledge gathered from attending classes, from the study of the instructor's powerpoint slides and from the assigned readings.

The candidate will also be asked to draw an Harris diagram based on a proposed stratigraphic sequence.
Assessment criteria: The evaluation will be based upon:

1) knowledge of the topics dealt with in the course;
2) acquisition of specific key concepts and terminology (see above "Conoscenze e abilità da acquisire")
3) the participation in class during the course and during eventual field activities
4) the ability to answer in a clear and concise way to questions
Course unit contents: The course is composed by two parts:

Part 1 – BASIC CONCEPTS ("tools of the trade")

- Sediments and fundamental sedimentary processes; description of sediments in the field; depositional environments (with specific focus on alluvial and paludal-lacustrine settings); colluvial processes; erosion pavements and stone lines.

- Soil forming processes (pedogenic processes); soil forming factors; pedogenic horizons (O, A, E, B, C) and some suffixes relevant for archaeological research (Ap, Ab, Bt, Bw horizons); lithological discontinuities; buried soils; pedogenic processes (especially: bioturbation, oxydo-reduction; leaching and clay illuviation)


- Basic principles of stratigraphy in geology (law of superposition, law of stratigraphic succession, etc.); comparison with the principles of archaeological stratigraphy (e.g., Harris laws, etc.)

- Formation processes according to M.B. Schiffer: depositional and post-depositional processes; “C transforms" and "N transforms"; primary and secondary depositional settings; primary, secondary and tertiary refuse.

- Harris matrix with practical exercises carried out in class; examples of stratigraphic unit recording forms; reading and discussion of descriptions of archaeological stratigraphic sequences and Harris matrices taken from literature

- Selected aspects of anthropic deposits (see above "Conoscenze ed abilità da acquisire").
Planned learning activities and teaching methods: Lectures with powerpoint presentations; lectures aim at involving students and stimulate discussion.

Assignment of readings to be discussed together during class.

The instructor is available for any clarification or questions on the course and can be reached via email, after class or during office hours.

Course attendance is recommended.
Additional notes about suggested reading: The course's bibliography, readings and powerpoints will be available on the course's Moodle page.

Besides the course's Powerpoints (.ppt ande .pptx files), lthe readings for the current academic year include:

1. MANDEL R. D., BETTIS III E. A. (2001), Use and analysis of soils by archaeologists and geoscientists – A North American perspective, in GOLDBERG et Al. (ed.), Earth Sciences and Archaeology, Associated Press, New York, pp. 174-204.

(No case studies - only general concepts of interest to archaeology)

2. Leonardi, G., Balista C. 1992 - Linee di Approccio al Deposito Archeologico In : Leonardi G. (ed) Atti del Seminario internazionale Formation processes and excavation methods in archaeology: perspectives. Padova 15-27 Luglio 1991. Saltuarie dal laboratorio del Piovego, 3, pp. 75-99

3. Harris, E.C. (different editions) – Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy. Academic Press.

ONLY the following chapters: 5, 6, 9.

4. Stein, J.K. 2001 – A review of site formation processes and their relevance to Geoarchaeology. In: Goldberg, P., Holliday, V.T., Reid Ferring, C. (eds.) Earth Sciences and Archaeology. Kluver/Plenum, New York, pp. 37-51

(excluding chapter 3 “examples”)
Textbooks (and optional supplementary readings)

Innovative teaching methods: Teaching and learning strategies
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