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ANTH409 Material Culture Studies

The study of cultural artefacts in archaeology and anthropology. Addresses practical problems of classification and laboratory analysis, as well as the interpretation of material symbolism, meaning and agency.

Material culture studies is the study of artefacts. In broad terms, material culture studies aim to investigate the relationship between human society and the material objects used by that society. The central concern of this course is to look at a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of prehistoric and historic artefacts concentrating on those items found in sites in New Zealand and the tropical Pacific. This covers such issues as form, style, technology, function, classification and social interpretations. The course takes a hands-on approach to artefact studies and is approximately equally divided between formal teaching and practical laboratory-based instruction. In the teaching sessions we will discuss methodological approaches to material culture studies and look at previous work in the field. The practical sessions provide instruction on the handling, description and analysis of selected artefact classes.

Paper title Material Culture Studies
Paper code ANTH409
Subject Anthropology
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Full Year
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,282.09
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,357.07

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72 300-level ANTH or ARCH points
ARCH 402
Paper Structure
Lectures and labs
Teaching staff
Convenor: Dr Anne Ford
Lecturers: Associate Professor Ian Smith and Dr Tim Thomas
Teaching Arrangements
One 2-hour lecture/seminar and one 2-hour laboratory workshop per week.
Most required reading is from journal articles and book chapters available electronically through the library.
Course outline
Will be available int the first semester
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Scholarship, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
  • Demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of material culture studies, including how to undertake analysis of a variety of different materials and from a range of different theoretical frameworks/perspectives
  • Be able to complete an individual material culture project and present a professional report

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Full Year

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 15:00-16:50 9-13, 15-16, 18-22
B1 Wednesday 15:00-16:50 28-34


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 14:00-15:50 9-13, 15-22
B1 Thursday 14:00-15:50 28-34