The Internet, images, and archaeology: a tutorial

Frances Condron, Learning Technologies Group, University of Oxford
Pamela Wace, Donald Baden-Powell Quaternary Research Centre, University of Oxford

This tutorial was developed to address some of the problems faced by archaeology lecturers in getting undergraduates to use a wide range of resources in their studies. It is particularly aimed at those working with first year undergraduates, though much of the material applies to university teaching in general.

Oxford is particularly rich in museums, yet personal comments from tutors indicate that many undergraduates are slow to make use of their rich collections. This problem is most evident in first year students, many of whom rely on lecture notes and printed works for evidence (particularly syntheses and general overviews), fail to appreciate the importance of other sources of evidence, and have limited opportunities within the curriculum to examine artefacts, ecofacts, monuments, stratigraphy – material culture. Object recognition and the ability to visualise landscapes, settlements and so on are crucial skills in archaeology. But these are something that students may not encounter in their everyday reading, and may have problems linking what they learn on fieldwork to the rest of their course. Archaeology relies on complex processes of reconstruction in documenting the past, elements of which are made explicit in the end-results of research – museum displays, excavation reports, landscape surveys and so on. However, many assumptions and methods behind these reconstructions are also unstated, and students need to be guided through archaeological methods and theories in order to evaluate and critique such reports and syntheses. While fieldwork and special subjects in the second and third years offer greater opportunities to explore particular aspects of material culture, first year students often have difficulties moving away from their reliance on the written word.

The Internet offers access to a vast range of multimedia material that can be incorporated into teaching, supplementing local resources in the library and museum. Online resources duplicate those available in print: fieldwork reports; monument and landscape surveys; artefact and ecofact collections; museum guides and more. They can also be interactive: searchable catalogues; dynamic maps; images that allow the user to zoom in and pan around; models of buildings one can fly through, over, under; objects that can be virtually picked up and moved around. This flexibility enables users to engage with and explore material in ways not available in printed works. Such online resources can be used in teaching to reinforce to students the diversity of the archaeological record and reconstructions, and to motivate students to engage with written and pictorial evidence.

This tutorial explores the range of resources available, some technical problems encountered in exploiting these resources, the needs of lecturers and students, and provides examples of use of online resources to support teaching and learning.

  1. The range of resources available and issues affecting their use: technology and copyright
  2. Reconstruction and online archaeology
  3. Using online resources in teaching: lecturers' and students' needs
  4. Teaching scenarios
  5. Links to online resources
  6. Evaluation tips
  7. Further reading


Last updated: Wed Aug 21 2002

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