Undergraduate Programmes

ACL 101: Introductory Archaeology I

The aim of the two introductory courses in Archaeology (ACL 101 and ACL 102) is to provide students who have had no previous exposure to the discipline with an introduction to its different fields. Following an introductory session, an overview of the theoretical development of the subject, and the history of archaeology, the course moves on to the use of artifacts, primary literary sources, epigraphy, numismatics, the built environment, and pre-industrial crafts and technology as source material in interpretative archaeology.

ACL 102: Introductory Archaeology II

The course expects to equip the student with basic tools from the field of multi-disciplinary studies, as a point of entry into field and interpretative archaeology. It introduces the subjects of anthropology, ethno-archaeology, bio-archaeology, environmental archaeology, the different aspects of the field archaeology process, cultural heritage management, museology and computer archaeology.

ACL 201: Palaeo-Human Biology and Ethno-Archaeology

The course introduces the concept of evolution in its many aspects: geological and biological evolution, primate and hominoid evolution, the different stages of hominid (human) evolution, variations in the physical characteristics of humans, and anthropometry (paleohuman biology). The fields of ethnography, ethnology and ethno-archaeology are defined, broadening into discussions of ethnographic theory and practice, ethnographic analogies, and field techniques.

Palaeohuman Biology

Topics include: Theory of evolution: pre-Darwinian and post-Darwinian human evolutionary thought; Aspects of evolution: geological periodisation with special emphasis on biological, environmental, and cultural factors; Palaeontological evidence for the evolution of primates; Skeletal evidence for hominids and early man: Austrolopithecus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo sapiens and their sub species; Universal variations of physical characteristics in humans; and Anthropometry and measurements.


Topics include: The study of ethnography and ethnology: definitions; Theory and practice of ethno-archaeology: ethnographic analogies and field techniques;
The role of ethnographic analogies in archaeological reconstruction; Hunting and foraging societies, pastoral societies, craft societies; Pre-state political formations; Medicine and therapy; Symbolism; and Language and communication.

ACL 202: Socio-Economic History of Ancient India

This course, along with ACL 207, guides students in the study of the historical background of ancient India and Sri Lanka, and provides them with the historical context needed to situate material evidence retrieved from archaeological studies. ACL 202 introduces the study of history and historiography, the management of historical data in archaeology, historical geography and techno-cultural periods and zones of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, pre-Harappan, Harappan and other Chalcolithic cultures, Early Iron Age cultures, urbanism, state formation, trade and commerce and the emergence of land grant economies.

Theory, Concepts, and Sources

Topics include: The concepts of history and historiography of South Asia; Problems of periodisation; Non-archaeological sources in the study of history; and Archaeology and the management of historical data.

General Development of Socio-Economic History

Topics include: Historical geography and the evolution of techno-cultural zones of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent; Pre-Harappan village cultures and Bronze Age urbanization: an overview study of the Harappan civilization; Post-Harappan chalcolithic village cultures and the Vedic texts: situating material data associated with sedentary nomadic pastoral-cum-subsistence agricultural communities of the Sindh and upper Ganga valley within a literary context; The evolution of Early Iron Age village cultures in the Indo-Gangetic plain, Deccan, and South India; Emergence of relatively larger lineage-based territorial units such as Janapada units in the North, and Kudi and Nadu in South India; Social and material basis of urbanization, state formation, and social ideologies: case studies from selected urban sites; the Maurya Empire and Buddhism; Post-Maurya political structures of the Early Historic Period; Kushan and Satavahana states in South Indian polity; Trade and commerce in the Early Historic Indo-Pakistan subcontinent with special reference to markets: external trade, trade routes, currency systems, mercantile groups and craft specialists; The emergence of the “Land-Grant Economy”; and The restructuring of social and regional political systems.

ACL 203: Archaeological Theory and Methods

The student is introduced in this course to the theoretical basis of archaeological studies and to the different stages of the archaeological process from surveying and field reconnaissance, excavation, analysis, interpretation and reconstruction, to publication.

Course Content

Archaeological Theory: The theoretical basis of archaeological studies. Methods of Archaeological Surveying and Field Reconnaissance: Topographical survey of archaeological sites; methods and techniques of ground, air and underwater reconnaissance. Archaeological Excavation: The methods of data retrieval and field documentation. Principles and Techniques of Archaeological Analysis, Interpretation, and Reconstruction: Stratigraphy; Classification: detailed classification methods of ceramics, stone tools, metals, bones, etc; Dating techniques and problems; Other sources of data for reconstruction: texts, numismatics, ethnography, experimental archaeology; Theoretical models for interpretation. Archaeological Publication: Methodology and contents of archaeological publications.

ACL 204: Cultural Resource Management

This course is designed to train the student in the various aspects involved in managing the cultural heritage.

Course topics: The history of conceptual development in the conservation of cultural property; Ethical and legal issues of CRM; The antiquities ordinances of Sri Lanka; International and national bodies involved in CRM; The interdisciplinary approach to the subject; Cultural and eco-tourism; The functions of museums; The procedural framework of site management; and Cultural impact assessment study.

Cultural Resource Management: A historic perspective: conceptual developments in the conservation of cultural property from the 18th to 20th centuries. Theory and Practice of Cultural Resource Management: The ethics of Cultural Resource Management (CRM); The ethics of collecting, and the antiquities drain; Parallel legal developments in preserving the cultural heritage; The development of antiquities ordinances such as the Treasure Trove Act, Antiquities Ordinance, and Cultural Property Act of Sri Lanka. Institutional Dynamics of Cultural Resource Management: From an international perspective—the role of UNESCO and the World Cultural Heritage, ICOMOS, ICROM; From a national perspective—The Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka, Central Cultural Fund, University Departments of Archaeology, National Museum of Sri Lanka, Archaeological and other museums. Interdisciplinary Approach to CRM: The relation between the humanities, social sciences and pure sciences and cultural heritage management. Cultural and Eco-Tourism: Assessing resource zones and infrastructure facilities; Positive and negative impacting; Cultural and eco tourism and the profession of archaeology. Museums and Public Archaeology: Principles of museology; Types of museums; Ideology of presentation; Functions of museums. Site Management Procedure: An introduction to the procedural framework of site management. Cultural Impact Assessment Study: Contextualizing property: agencies of dislocation and destruction; Preventive and remedial measures; Report writing; Post-project monitoring.

ACL 205: Conservation of Archaeological Material

In this course the student is provided with a basic introduction to theory, policy and practice in archaeological conservation. This covers the conservation of sites, monuments, objects and materials located in different physical environments—
from conservation up to their storage and presentation in suitable environments, and the preparation of conservation reports.

Course content

Introduction to Archaeological Conservation: The theory and practice of conservation of sites, monuments, objects and materials—from conservation to storage and/or presentation. Conservation Policy: Definitions, policy, the role of the archaeological conservator. Conservation Science: The decay of archaeological materials; Principles of conservation science; Problems of identification; Tools and techniques for revitalizing cultural resources. Monument Conservation: Conservation of building materials; Restoration versus renovation: pragmatic and ideological issues; The preservation of living monuments. Object Conservation: On site first-aid for finds; Systematic conservation of different object types and/or materials; Conservation of underwater objects. Conservation Reports: Preparation of feasibility reports for conservation; Conservation reports; Post-conservation monitoring records.

ACL 206: Formation of Ancient Civilizations

The aim of this course is to provide an overview of the nature of global civilizations. It introduces the concept of material culture and civilization, ecological and human adaptations, early village cultures and bronze age urbanism. This is followed by study of certain aspects of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, North Mediterranean, Chinese, Mesoamerican, South American, and Islamic civilizations.

Course content

Introduction: The concept of material culture and civilization; Ecological variations and human adaptations; The archaeology of early village cultures and Bronze Age urbanism. Mesopotamia: The Mesopotamian region and its natural resources; Mesopotamian archaeology with special reference to pre and protohistoric cultures; Study of Babylonian and Sumerian dynasties through legend and archaeology; Decipherment of scripts and epigraphical studies; Comparative analysis of the Mesopotamian civilization with other primary urban civilizations. Egypt: The land of Egypt and its natural resources; An outline of Egyptian history from c., 5000 BC to 332 BC from political and socio-economic perspectives; Language decipherment; Epigraphical studies and writing materials; Religious beliefs; Funerary customs and the funerary basis of Egyptian art; Techno-cultural achievements. The North Mediterranean Region—Greece: The geography and natural resources of Greece; Minoan, Mycenean, Archaic Classical and Hellenistic Greece from 3500 BC to 30 BC; Literary and dramatic traditions; Religion and philosophy; Techno-cultural achievements; Architecture, sculpture, vase painting. Rome: The geography and natural resources of Roman civilization in the Republican and Imperial Period (c., 1000 BC to AD 476); Literature, religion, and philosophy; Techno-cultural achievements: architecture, engineering, painting and sculpture. China: A historic overview of Chinese civilization from the Neolithic up to the end of the Ching dynasty (2nd millennium BC to early 20th century); Political, socio-economic, religio-philosophical, and techno-cultural developments. Meso and South America: Introduction to Mesoamerican civilizations with special reference to ecological adaptations and technology; Discussion of historical and archaeological discoveries with an emphasis on Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations.


Islam: The geography and natural resources; Islamic civilization from a political and socio-economic perspective; Religion; Scientific achievements; Techno-cultural traditions.

ACL 207: The Socio-Economic History of Ancient Sri Lanka

The course provides an insight into concepts related to the history, historiography, historical periodisation, and historical sources of Sri Lanka. It traces the development of Sri Lankan civilization from prehistoric foraging societies to early iron age village cultures, to urbanism and state formation, agricultural expansion, water management and craft production in the Early Historic Period, the transformation to Middle Historic and Late Historic polities, and precolonial demographic shifts and new societal adaptations.

Course content

Theory, Concepts and Sources: Concepts relating to the history and historiography of Sri Lanka; Problems of periodization; Non-archaeological sources in the study of history; Archaeology and the management of historical data. General Development of Socio-Economic History : Ecological adaptations in an island society; Prehistoric foraging societies and the emergence of Early Iron Age village cultures; The Early Historic state, urban societies and ritual centres in Sri Lanka during the Early Historic Period; Trade, money economy and craft production; Agricultural expansion and the development of water-management during the Middle and Late Historic Period; Transformations in the Middle and Late Historic polity, society, and religious ideologies; Pre-colonial demographic shifts and new ecological adaptations: socio-economic and political implications.

ACL 208: Practical Archaeology

The student is trained in this course in archaeological recording practices in the field and laboratory which are not covered in ACL 203. The student is introduced to the use and production of topographical and geological maps, aerial photography and site plans, archaeological draughting practice related to sites, monuments and objects, computer archaeology in managing data bases, and Geographical Information Systems.

Course content

Laboratory Studies and Exercises: The use and production of maps and photographs, topographical and geological maps in particular and others in general; Aerial photographs; Stratigraphical sections and plans; Studies related to material objects. Archaeological Draughting: Archaeological draughting techniques in relation to sites, monuments and other archaeological materials. Computer Archaeology: Practical components related to archaeological data base management systems; Geographical Information Systems.

ACL 301: Crafts and Technology of Pre-Industrial South Asia

This course provides an introduction to the pre-industrial crafts of South Asia, and an in-depth study of Sri Lankan craft traditions, in comparison, where relevant, with those of the Indian subcontinent. Aspects such as the historical context, regional manifestations, urbanization of craft activities, associated artistic styles, and decorative traditions of pre-industrial crafts, will be discussed, along with resource use and technology, with an emphasis on socioeconomic and ethno-archaeological perspectives.

The course will include a discussion and comparative analysis of the nature, origin, development, continuation, and distribution, of the pre-industrial crafts of South Asia. These crafts will be studied from the following perspectives: their historical and socioeconomic context; regional manifestations and variations; organization of craft activities from resource-use to finished product; artistic styles and decorative traditions; and the utilization of pre-industrial craft technologies for specific purposes. Ethno-archaeological data from other pre-modern societies too will be used in the course to study the crafts and technology of pre-industrial South Asia.

ACL 302: Epigraphical Studies of Ancient India

This course (along with ACL 307) will provide a comprehensive introduction to paleography, epigraphy, and philology in a global and Indian (including Sri Lankan) context. Special Degree students in Archaeology are required to follow a basic course in Sanskrit, Pali, or Tamil (as the subject chosen from outside the main discipline in the first semester of the third year), to supplement their ability to read Indian and Sri Lankan inscriptions.

Course topics include: The beginnings of writing systems and communication; Philology; Historical philology and the evolution of language; An analytical introduction to paleography and epigraphy, and their use as archaeological source material; The relationship between philology and epigraphy; Indian paleography; Indian epigraphy; Indian languages; North and South Indian Brahmi, Devanagiri, and Arabic writing systems; The preservation of epigraphs; Training in reading and interpreting selected North and South Indian inscriptions; and A detailed study of selected inscriptions from various archaeological sites in North and South India.

ACL 303: The Built Environment of Ancient India

This course, along with ACL 306, is designed to introduce the student to the association between human society and the built environment, and to provide methodologies for recording, analyzing, and interpreting source material. ACL 303 investigates principal trends in the development of secular and religious built environment (architecture, sculpture, and painting) in ancient India within related archaeological, historical, environmental, socioeconomic, and religious contexts. The period covered is from the Upper Paleolithic/Neolithic to the end of the Late Medieval Periods. Associated traditions of a few peripheral regions will also be examined.

Course topics include: The concept of built environment; The archaeological and ethnographic study of rock art in India; Urban development, town planning and building technology of the Harappan civilization; Nature divinities in Indian thought; Cults and art of organic architectural forms of early Buddhist monasticism in India; Symbolism in Indian art; An introduction to Indian literary traditions associated with architecture and the plastic arts; The evolution of the Hindu temple and the micro-study of selected temples; A comparative study of Buddhist/Hindu monuments; and The art of the Early Medieval Period.

ACL 304: Coinage Systems of Ancient India

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the study of coinage (numismatics) as an archaeological source material. The three main areas of this course are: (1) the study of pre-urban exchange systems and money economies of historic urban societies; (2) the study of different pre-modern currency systems of India in terms of their material composition, inscribed or engraved content, and distribution pattern; and (3) the archaeological interpretation of coins from stratified contexts in the understanding of the economic, political, and cultural history of India.

Course topics include: The emergence of the money economy, production, and markets, in ancient India; The methodology of ancient numismatic studies; Mints, mint errors, restruck coins and forgeries in ancient India; Distribution patterns of coins; Hoards; Chronology and dating methods; The study of early currency systems in India; Punch marked coins—their origin, evolution and transformation; Janapada coins of early historic India; Early historic imperial coinage (Nanda, Mauryan and Gupta coins); Coinage systems of foreign origin—Greek (Indo-Greek) coin systems, Saka and Parthian (Pahlava) coins, Kushana coins, Roman and Indo-Roman coins; Other local coins—Andhra coins, Pandya and Chera coins, Pallava coins, and Chola and Gupta coins.

ACL 305: Coinage Systems of Ancient Sri Lanka

An overview of the currency and coinage systems of Sri Lanka will be provided by this course, which complements ACL 304. The study of the origin and development of coinage systems in the island will be followed in this course by a study of coin types ranging from the punch-marked coins of the Early Historic Period to the currencies of the Colonial Period. The student will also be taught to utilize numismatic evidence in interpreting economic, political, and religious aspects of Sri Lankan history.

Course topics include: The money economy of Sri Lanka—The beginnings of production, markets, and barter systems in ancient Sri Lanka; Representations of the early currency of Sri Lanka; Mints; Mint errors; Restruck coins and forgeries; Distribution patterns of coins; Rarity, availability and currency hoard chronology and dating methods; Early historic coins found in Sri Lanka—punch-marked coins, Roman and Indo-Roman coins, coins with the swastika symbol, rectangular bull-type and lion-symbol coins, Lakshmi plaques, and Chola coins; Middle and late historic Sri Lankan coins—Various types of the gold Karshapana, Kahavanu, Ada Kahavanu, Pala, and Massa coins; Coins of the Polonnaruwa, Jaffna, and Dambadeni rulers; and Colonial coins—Portuguese, Dutch, and British currency.

ACL 306: The Built Environment of Ancient Sri Lanka

This course investigates the principal trends in the development of the secular and religious built environment in Sri Lanka (architecture, sculpture, and painting), within related archaeological, historical, environmental, socioeconomic, and religious contexts. An introduction to the nature of the Sri Lankan built environment tradition will be followed in the course by a study of the organic and formal architectural technology and associated sculptural and painting traditions of Sri Lanka, to the end of the Late Medieval Period.

Course topics include: Primitive rock art in Sri Lanka; Urban development and city planning in Anuradhapura; A historical overview of the founding and evolution of monastries during the Anuradhapura Period; A study of Buddhist monastic building forms; Landscaping within the Sri Lankan architectural tradition and related architectural embellishments; Fortified cities of Sri Lanka; A comparative analysis of the cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa; Hindu and Buddhist-Hindu art and architecture in Sri Lanka; The Buddhist vihara tradition of the Late Medieval Period; Organic/mixed architecture of Sri Lanka; and Wooden architecture and associated architectural embellishments of the Medieval Period.

ACL 307: Epigraphical Studies of Ancient Sri Lanka

The objective of this course is to provide the student with the ability to read the inscriptions of Sri Lanka and to utilize epigraphy in interpreting and reconstructing the society of Sri Lanka. A historical overview of epigraphical studies in the island will be followed in the course by a study of the development of the written script (pictographic symbols, Brahmi, Sinhala, and Tamil paleography and their related languages including Prakrit and Sanskrit); different categories of inscriptions; and an analytical study of selected inscriptions.

Course topics: An overview of paleography and epigraphy; The history of Sri Lankan epigraphical studies; The development of Sinhala scripts from Brahmi to the end of the eighteenth century; Non-Sinhala inscriptions; and A detailed study of selected inscriptions from various archaeological sites in Sri Lanka.

ACL 308: Archaeological Data Retrieval Systems and Processes

This course aims to develop students’ skills in field work, the recording, analysis, and interpretation of archaeological material, and publishing.

Students taking the course will compile two practical reports: (1) an excavation/exploration report based on a field programme (mandatory for students specializing in Archaeology) in an excavation/exploration arranged by the Department of Archaeology; and (2) a report based on conservation, analytical study, eco-fact/artifact catalogue, classified study, or site study. [If the Department is not able to arrange an excavation/exploration in any given year, students will write both reports on areas listed in (2)].

ACL 401: Environmental Archaeology

This course will focus on the geology, paleontology, human geography and natural environmental systems of the earth, as a source to understanding human adaptations in different ecological niches. Case studies will be drawn from different environmental and geophysical regions.

Course Content

Earth sciences and their application: a study of the natural environment representing the physical and biological systems in the world and the geology of Sri Lanka. Exogenic, endogenic and extra-terrestrial activities: physical agents shaping the earth land forms, running water, ground water, wind activity, and mass wasting. Stratigraphy and interpretations: Relative and absolute ages; geological time scales. Human Geography and its application: introduction to the Kingdom Animalia and biological adaptation; environmentalism; possibilism; concept of location, direction, distance and carrying and capacity; major environmental zones. Human adaptation and selection of environment and zones: evolution and the spread of humankind; introduction to environmental factors; humans and environment; and settlements. Environmental Archaeology and its application: contextualzing the environment in archaeological application; environmental systems; geo-archaeology; bio-archaeology and subsidiary fields; context of ecology; settlement analysis.

ACL 402: World Prehistory

The objective of this course is to provide the student with an understanding of geological and biological evolution, and a fairly detailed knowledge of prehistory, prehistorical research, prehistoric archaeology, palaeoenvironment, palaeohuman biology, and techno-cultural evolution and subsistence patterns in Africa, Europe, Asia (excluding Sri Lanka), and Australia, up to the end of the Mesolithic Age.

Course Content: A general introduction to world prehistory: Africa (with special emphasis on East and South Africa); Europe, Northern and Western European prehistoric sites; Asia; Important prehistoric research in West Asia; Central Asia and Southeast Asia; Australia; An overview of the prehistory of Australia.
Prehistoric Cultural Phases: The distribution pattern of prehistoric sites in the Indian Subcontinent (excluding Sri Lanka); Lower, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic Phases and the Mesolithic Phase with emphasis on geo-climatic zones.

ACL 403: The Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age Archaeology of Ancient India

The course explores the development of ancient Indian civilisation from the earliest period of plant and animal domestication (the Neolithic) to the acquisition of copper technology (the Chalcolithic) and iron technology (Early Iron Age). It investigates the accompanying developments from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic phases of village culture to primary urbanism and its material culture.

Course content: Early plant and animal domestication: theoretical issues and archaeological implications of foraging and farming during the Neolithic Age in west and south Asia; Chalcolithic urbanism and the emergence of early river valley civilization: theoretical issues; The archaeology of the Harappan city and its material culture; Post-Harappan village cultures and new techno-cultural adaptations; The introduction of iron and the emergence of urbanism in North India; The Early Iron Age village cultures and the megalithic monuments in Peninsular India; and The emergence of urban centres in Peninsular India and a study of their material culture.

ACL 498: Dissertation

An original dissertation on a topic decided by the student in consultation with the department of study, following the guidelines for dissertations laid down by the department and the faculty.

ACL 404: Ancient Cultural Ecology

This course follows on ACL 401. Specific case studies will be examined (primarily from South Asia), in understanding human adaptations within different ecological systems.This process of interaction is investigated through a study of resource use patterns, subsistence patterns, technological adaptations and settlement patterns, followed by a study of the logical development of institutional formation.

Course Content

Human adaptations and selection of environmental and resource zones: a conceptual study. Identification of Environmental and Techno-cultural zones: case studies from South Asia and other physical zones. Ancient subsistance patterns: a study of hunting, gathering, pastoral, nomadic, and agricultural societies Technological adaptations: stone, metals and other implements; resource use pattern: organic and inorganic, energy and exchange systems; settlement archaeology: landscape evolution and settlement pattern; structural evolution of settlements.

ACL 405: Prehistory of Sri Lanka

The main objective of this course is to study the prehistory of Sri Lanka, which appears to have been primarily Mesolithic in nature. An introduction to research on the prehistory of Sri Lanka and issues related to the sequence of prehistoric cultural phases in Sri Lanka is followed by a study of prehistoric sites, palaeoenvironment, the palaeohuman biology of Mesolithic man, techno-cultural traits and subsistence strategies.

Course Content: The history of prehistoric research in Sri Lanka: Prehistoric cultural phases of Sri Lanka and problems relating to the study of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic phases; The distribution pattern of prehistoric sites in the island, with emphasis on geo-climatic zones; Tool-typology, tool-technology and other cultural traits; Palaeolithic and Mesolithic tools; Classification systems; Critical studies of the subsistence strategies of prehistoric people in Sri Lanka; Palaeo-human biology of Mesolithic skeletal evidence from Bellanbandi Palassa, Batadomba-lena, Kitulgala, Beli-lena and Fa-hien cave, and their anthropometrical applications.

ACL 406: Early Iron Age Archaeology of Sri Lanka: the Formative Period

The objective of this course is to familiarise students with the nature of the Early Iron Age village culture which forms the basis of subsequent historical development in the island.

Course topics include: An introduction to the history of research in the Early Iron Age archaeology of Sri Lanka; The techno-cultural significance and social archaeology of the EIA village culture of the island; Site studies; Comparison between the material culture of Sri Lanka and Peninsular India; The transition from EIA village culture to Early Urbanism; and The archaeology of the trade between Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean Rim, the Mediterranean, and West Asia.

ACL 499: Dissertation

This is a continuation of the original dissertation (see above, ACL 498).


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