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Geoarchaeology Digest

PhD course organised by Assistant professor Federica Sulas (UrbNet, Aarhus University) & Postdoc Genevieve Holdridge (UrbNet, Aarhus University). Registration open now.

Organisation and contacts on behalf of UrbNet:

Federica Sulas (sulas@cas.au.dk)

Genevieve Holdridge (g.holdridge@geo.au.dk)



Over the last few decades, geoarchaeology has opened new, exciting avenues for understanding the past. From reconstructing changing climate and people’s ways of living to tracing societal development and resilience, geoarchaeological research is capturing dimensions of the past at an unprecedented level of detail. Such an advance is rooted in the wide range of materials and methods to extract and measure past records from soils and sediments at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Soils and sediments provide a resourceful archive on past landscapes, how people used the land, availability and processing of materials and resources (soil, water, vegetation). From these records, we can infer information on past environmental and climatic conditions, subsistence strategies, cultural practices and choices. This research-led course will provide an introduction to geoarchaeology and a forum to discuss and reflect on how studies of the soil archive are transforming approaches to the past.



The course will offer research-led teaching on the concepts and methods of geoarchaeology and will focus on two main objectives:


·         To develop knowledge on the principles, methods and applications of geoarchaeology;


·         To understand the natural and anthropogenic processes of site formation and post-depositional history across different archaeological and environmental contexts.


The course will focus on two themes: 1) landscape evolution; 2) urban past. The aim is to encourage students from archaeology and related disciplines from the humanities and geosciences to consider and discuss the potential of applying geoarchaeological methods and approaches to their research questions.



The course will offer three main modules specifically designed to provide conceptual and analytical background to geoarchaeology, and applications to key research areas of contemporary archaeology and related disciplines: landscapes and urban contexts.



The first module will offer an introduction to geoarchaeology and an overview on the principles and methods. What is a soil? What can soils tell us about the past? Module 1 will address these fundamental questions and set the background for discussing specific topics in modules 2 and 3.



The second module will illustrate different geoarchaeological approaches to reconstructing past environments and human landscapes. What can soils tell about past climate and environments? How was the landscape in the past? Where people lived and how did they use the land? Lectures will draw on tailored case studies to illustrate how soil records can inform on past climate and land use.



The third module deals with past cities and urban processes. A series of themed lectures will discuss geoarchaeological approaches to urban stratigraphies, and how these relate to investigating urban trajectories, decline and resilience.



By the end of the course, the participants should be able to:

·         describe key principles and methods of geoarchaeology;

·         discuss main themes and techniques of research on landscape evolution and urban trajectories;

·         consider and assess the application of geoarchaeological approaches in their own work;

·         reflect on, analyse, and critically discuss how geoarchaeological principles and methods affect interpretations of the past.



The course will offer lectures, exercises and a workshop where active participation will be expected. Each module consists of: 1) an overview on the main topic, followed by lectures discussing specific themes and applications; 2) the second part will engage students and lecturers in group exercises and Q&A sessions related to the lectures. The language of the course is English.


Requirements for admission

Each participant is required to submit beforehand via email to sulas@cas.au.dk:

·         a case study of 1-2 pages, which deals with one or more of the subthemes of the course: landscape and urban past. The cases can relate to an own project, previous experiences, or a case inspired by academic literature. These will be reviewed by the course organising team and discussed during the workshops;

·         a max 2-page CV;

·         a max 1-page covering letter.


Course in-class activities

Exercises: These will consist of group discussions related to the lecture and the case studies.


Workshop: On the second day, there will be a workshop where we go back to the cases illustrated by the lectures, the solutions applied, and new questions emerging from those.



Charles French, Division of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, UK

Genevieve Holdridge, UrbNet, AU

Søren M. Kristiansen, Geoscience, AU

Rubina Raja, UrbNet, AU

Federica Sulas, UrbNet, AU

Barbora Wouters, UrbNet, AU



TBA (ultimo December 2017)



Registration opens primo January 2018. Register here.