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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 aims to investigate the relationship between humans and the material objects they make and use. This paper looks at a range of archaeological approaches to the study of artefacts, particularly those relevant to research in New Zealand and the tropical Pacific. The course takes a hands-on approach and is approximately equally divided between formal lectures and practical laboratories. In lectures we draw heavily on international case studies, and discuss theoretical perspectives on the description and classification of artefacts, and interpretation of function, style and cultural meanings. The practical sessions provide instruction on analytical techniques and involve experimental class projects.

Paper title Material Culture Studies
Paper code ANTH409
Subject Anthropology
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Full Year (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,409.28
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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72 300-level ANTH or ARCH points
ARCH 402

Associate Professor Tim Thomas

Teaching staff

Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Tim Thomas
Contributing Lecturers: Dr Charles Radclyffe

Paper Structure
Lectures and labs
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.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Scholarship, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will

  • 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 9-14, 16-22, 28-34


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 14:00-15:50 9-14, 16-22, 28-29, 31, 33-34