Fall 2023 - ARCH 271 D100

Interpreting the Past: An Introduction to Archaeological Theory (3)

Class Number: 5882

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Mon, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

    Oct 10, 2023: Tue, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 6, 2023
    Wed, 8:30–11:30 a.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    ARCH 101 or ARCH 201.



Examines how archaeologists develop explanations of human behaviour, cultural development, and cultural evolution. Reviews the historical development of social and biological theory applied in archaeology and examines how these various theoretical perspectives have shaped interpretations of the past.


This course examines how archaeologists develop explanations of human cultural development and cultural evolution, through analysis of material remains of human societies.  The course reviews the historical development of social and biological theory applied in archaeology and examines how various theoretical perspectives have shaped competing or complementary interpretations of specific archaeological finds and cultural phenomena. Students will be evaluated on the basis of two written assignments, a midterm exam, and a final exam.


  • Assignment 1 "Prime Movers" 20%
  • Assignment 2 "Interpreting the Past" 30%
  • Midterm Exam 20%
  • Final Exam 30%



Handbook of Archaeological Theories. By Bentley, R. Alexander ; Maschner, Herbert D. G ; Chippindale, Christopher California: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2008. ISBN: 9780759100336 / ISBN: 9780759100329.

Note: The course textbook (above) is available as a free electronic publication through the SFU Library.  Additional readings and other course resources will be available online through CANVAS or through the SFU Library.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.

Deferred grades will be given only on the basis of authenticated medical disability.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.