2023-2024 / GEOL0292-1

Sedimentology applied to archaeology


30h Th, 8d FT Tr. Pr.

Number of credits

 Master in history of art and archaeology : archeometrics (120 ECTS)5 crédits 
 Master in history of art and archaeology : general (120 ECTS)5 crédits 
 Master in history of art and archaeology : general (60 ECTS)5 crédits 
 Master in geology (120 ECTS)5 crédits 


Stéphane Pirson

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the second semester


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

A rigorous study of the sedimentary context in which the archaeological material is unearthed provides critical information to the archaeologist for a good understanding of the site and for an optimal interpretation of the material.
A detailed stratigraphic study is a first, necessary stage. It allows to control the succession of the different layers in the studied site, as well as the lateral changes in geometry and facies. It therefore ensures the accurate positioning of the archaeological information and of the different samples related to environmental studies (fauna, flora, sedimentology, etc.). It can also establish strong correlations between the different areas of the excavation.
A solid knowledge of the nature of the sediments and of their depositional dynamics is also very informative, and is inseparable from stratigraphy. It allows for instance to determine if the unearthed objects are in situ or reworked. Besides, together with other disciplines, it also contributes to the reconstruction of the natural environment of the human occupation including, in the case of Palaeolithic sites, the climatic environment.
During this course, basic rules for stratigraphy will be presented, as well as the different sedimentary environments likely to be found on an archaeological site (alluvial plain, aeolian, slope, cave...). The involved depositional and post-depositional processes will be described. Special attention will be given to information directly accessible from field observations (nature of the sediment, sedimentary structures, concretions, pedogenesis...). The main laboratory analyses that complete the field observations will also be reviewed. Behind a theoretical part, the course will also include a practical training.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

To master the basic knowledge on nature and genesis of the deposits yielding the archaeological remains in order to better interpret 1) the context of the unearthed objects as well as 2) the potential disturbances that affected these objects since the abandonment of the site by man

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

Basic knowledge in geology (similar to the course of geology given to the bachelor students in biology).

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

Practical works in natural geological sites and (when possible) in archaeological excavations. Observation and interpretation of different kinds of sedimentary deposits and post-depositional processes.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Dates for the course and practical works have to be set in agreement with the students (in January). The mode of delivery will depend on the health situation.

Recommended or required readings

Course notes will be provided during the first course.

Modalities of exam have to be set;

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

In order to establish as fast as possible the course schedule, please contact me as soon as possible with your availabilities.


Dr. Stéphane PIRSON
In case of emergency : 0477/58.08.73

Association of one or more MOOCs