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Thames through Time: Birkbeck/MOLA Field School (Level 7)


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Lesley McFadyen
  • Assessment: a 3000-word project design (50%) and 1000-word report (50%), plus 60% attendance requirement (0%)

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 fieldschool is co-taught in conjunction with archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). It communicates an understanding of the prehistoric and historic Thames, and gives you direct work experience of professional practice, enhancing employability opportunities in the heritage sector and beyond.

The module provides one week of intensive fieldwork experience, introducing you to the major techniques, principal bodies of evidence, research themes and concepts deployed in survey and monitoring. It gives practical exposure to archaeological finds and features, and an understanding of concepts of material, temporal and spatial conditions (archaeological context) and past environments.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Introduction to the history and context of the Thames foreshore, and to the recording system
  • 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)
  • Wetland: survey and monitoring of the foreshore; local history session using maps and photographs to understand key developments in local history and make a timeline
  • Dryland: adjacent historic building recording
  • Tour of MOLA offices

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have:

  • familiarity with diverse sources of artefactual and ecofactual evidence used by archaeologists during excavation
  • awareness of methodologies for quantifying, analysing and interpreting primary data in relation to artefacts and archaeological materials
  • drawn down and applied appropriate scholarly, theoretical and scientific principles and concepts to archaeological problems of an artefactual and ecofactual nature
  • practised core fieldwork techniques of identification and recording
  • discovered and recognised the archaeological significance of material remains
  • observed and described different classes of primary archaeological data, and objectively recorded their characteristics
  • knowledge and comprehension of issues and debates in archaeology
  • described evidence in the field
  • located, retrieved and processed primary archaeological information
  • read critically diverse sources of archaeological information.