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Thames through Time: Birkbeck/MOLA Field School


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor and tutor: Dr Lesley McFadyen
  • Assessment: an excavation journal (50%) and 1000-word descriptive report (50%)

Module description

When the tide is out, the Thames is the longest open-air archaeological site in London, and much of the foreshore is freely accessible. This field school is co-taught in conjunction with archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). Not only will it give you an understanding of the prehistoric and historic Thames but also direct practical work experience, enhancing your employability in the heritage sector and beyond.

The module consists of one week of intensive fieldwork, introducing you to the major techniques, bodies of evidence, research themes and concepts deployed in survey and monitoring. You will be exposed to archaeological finds and features, and gain an understanding of concepts of material, temporal and spatial conditions and past environments.

Indicative syllabus

  • Day 1: Introduction to the history and context of the Thames foreshore; introduction to the recording system
  • Day 2: Wetland - survey and monitoring of the foreshore: exploring a riverfront excavation through the archives at LAARC (Museum of London's Archaeological Archive and Research Centre)
  • Day 3: Wetland - survey and monitoring of the foreshore: using maps and photographs to understand key developments in local history and make a timeline
  • Day 4: Dryland - adjacent historic building recording
  • Day 5: Tour of MOLA office

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • be familiar with sources of artefactual and ecofactual evidence used by archaeologists during excavation
  • be aware of methodologies for quantifying, analysing and interpreting primary data in relation to artefacts and archaeological materials
  • be able to draw down and apply scholarly, theoretical and scientific principles and concepts to archaeological problems of an artefactual and ecofactual nature
  • be able to practise core fieldwork techniques of identification and recording
  • recognise the archaeological significance of material remains
  • be able to observe and describe primary archaeological data and record their characteristics
  • demonstrate knowledge and comprehension of issues and debates in archaeology
  • be able to describe evidence in the field
  • be able to locate, retrieve and process primary archaeological information
  • be able to read critically diverse sources of archaeological information.