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Unit of study_

ARCO3011: Pompeii and Herculaneum

Semester 1, 2022 [Normal day] - Remote

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79 and the sudden burial of Pompeii and Herculaneum created a unique opportunity for archaeologists to study ancient cities and their inhabitants. This unit will explore how the material records of these cities are used to reconstruct the lives of ancient Romans.

Unit details and rules

Unit code ARCO3011
Academic unit Archaeology
Credit points 6
12 credit points at 2000 level in Archaeology or 12 credit points at 2000 level in Ancient History or (6 credit points at 2000 level in Archaeology and 6 credit points at 2000 level in Ancient History or Art History or History)
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Ted Robinson,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Small test Class test 1
20% -
Due date: 29 Apr 2022 at 11:00
Equiv 1000wds
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Small test Class test 2
20% -
Due date: 27 May 2022 at 12:00
Equiv 1000wds
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Major essay
Major essay
40% -
Due date: 13 May 2022 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Tutorial quiz Tutorial quiz
Tutorial quiz
20% Weekly Equiv 500wd
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2

Assessment summary

Further information available on Canvas. 

Assessment criteria






Work not of an acceptable standard. Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: lack of sufficient research using appropriate sources; irrelevance of content; failure to answer the specific question or treat the specified theme; wholesale lack of analysis or interpretation; unacceptable levels of paraphrasing; direct copying of work from other students or sources; presentation, grammar or structure so poor that work cannot be understood; partial or incomplete work; very late submission without an extension; nonsubmission. 

Low Pass


Work of an acceptable standard. Written work contains evidence of minimal reading and some understanding of subject matter, offers descriptive summary of case-studies and material relevant to the question, but may have a tendency to paraphrase; makes a reasonable attempt to organise material logically and comprehensibly and to provide scholarly documentation but demonstrates little initiative in research and/or over-reliance on internet searches. Demonstrates rudimentary awareness of the nature and complexity of archaeological data, methodologies and interpretation. Language is clear and bibliography is adequate but limited; possibly some errors of form or style. There may be gaps in any or all of these areas. 

Medium Pass


Work of a satisfactory standard. Competent written work, with broad and reasonably accurate command of the subject matter and some sense of its broader significance; clearly understands the question. Case studies will be relevant, and used critically to support core argumentation. Offers synthesis and some evaluation of material, demonstrates an effort to go beyond the essential reading, although still reliant on basic search skills; bibliography may perhaps remain shallow or undeveloped. Clear essay structure with a coherent argument and consistent focus on the principal issues. Articulate, properly documented, with room for improvement in matters of style and/or grammar and punctuation. Demonstrates understanding of relevant scholarship and diverse interpretations, with a solid awareness of archaeological context and complexities. There may be some weaknesses of clarity or structure.

Low credit


Competent work, demonstrating potential to complete Honours work, though further development needed to do so successfully. Written work that engages with the question effectively, with a clear essay structure of the essay that builds and reinforces a critical argument, using an appropriate range of vocabulary. Case studies employed effectively to critically and consistently reinforce an argument. Offers synthesis and critical evaluation of material on its own terms, and takes a position in relation to various interpretations. In addition, it shows some extra spark of insight or analysis. Well written and documented with appropriate use of citations and evidence of comprehensive reading; has a strong bibliography that expands well beyond the recommended readings and is only minimally reliant on internet searches. Demonstrates understanding of broad archaeological context and methodologies, good selection of evidence, coherent and sustainable argument, some evidence of independent thought, grasp of relevant archaeological theory and debate. 

High credit


Highly competent work, demonstrating clear capacity to complete Honours successfully. Engages critically and creatively with the question, with evidence of research-initiative and extensive reading; solid grasp of subject matter and appreciation of key issues and context. Use of case studies will be extensive, with evidence employed effectively in support of key arguments. Has a strong essay structure that reinforces central arguments consistently; concluding paragraph employed deftly to drive these points home. Attempts an analytical evaluation of material, with solid understanding of the complexity of archaeological data, methodologies and interpretation. Use of relevant literature demonstrates some intellectual independence and an ability to weigh up different interpretations, perhaps drawing on ideas from outside the course. Makes a good attempt to critique alternate archaeological interpretations or issues of context, and offers a pointed and thoughtful contribution to an existing archaeological debate. Some evidence of ability to think theoretically as well as empirically, and to conceptualise and problematise issues in archaeological terms. Concisely and articulately written, with few errors of form or style. All sources for evidence, arguments, or interpretation cited appropriately, with a strong and consistent bibliography that extends well beyond the initial readings. 



Work of a superior standard. A sharply-focussed answer that engages with many implications of the question and maintains a sophisticated level of analysis throughout. Case studies will relate clearly to the question, and employed persuasively to demonstrate key points or arguments. A considerable degree of independent thought is demonstrated, and a strong understanding of the nature and complexity of archaeological data, methodologies and interpretation. Clear outline of issues and method of approach; differing arguments are presented critically, with a strong understanding of the material and vocabulary. The assignment concludes with a synthesis rather than a summary, showing some independence of view. Lucid writing characterised by style, clarity and creativity, with rare errors of form or style. Fully and consistently documented, with rare errors in referencing style or omissions. Referencing demonstrates: initiative in research; engagement with pivotal and current academic publications on the topic; and the ability to pursue archaeological debate across several sources. Makes good comparisons between different interpretations, linking these clearly to the data or issues of context, theory and/or method. ‘Gets behind’ the evidence to engage with underlying issues of archaeological context, processes, and/or biases in the evidence. Takes an interrogative stance in relation to assumptions, argument and interpretation, shows critical understanding of the principles and values underlying the unit. 

High Distinction


`Work of exceptional standard. An authoritative and highly effective response that engages with the full implications of the question. The issues and methodology are set out clearly, critical arguments are exceptionally well-developed, and there is a clear and complete understanding of the material and terminology. Written work demonstrates initiative and ingenuity in research and reading, pointed and critical analysis of subject matter, innovative interpretation of evidence, and makes an insightful contribution to current debate. Persuasive use of case studies to drive home arguments, and unpack or challenge issues of archaeological context and interpretation. A considerable degree of independent thought and interpretation is demonstrated, as is an understanding of the full nature and complexity of archaeological data, methodologies and interpretation. Evidence is provided of wide-ranging and insightful use of relevant literature, with demonstrated ability to widen the scope of research in pursuit of specific evidence or debate. The conclusion expresses the candidates independent judgment in a mature way; writing will be scholarly and elegant. Expression is efficient and lucid, without unnecessary complication. Faultless presentation of citations and bibliography; judicious use of academic conventions.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Setting the scene: the historical geography of Campania Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Week 02 The eruption of Vesuvius and its victims; urban development and growth of Pompeii Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
The foundation of Pompeii and its early development and layout Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 03 Urban development and growth of Pompeii Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Inscriptions in Pompeii Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 04 Houses in Pompeii Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Houses in Pompeii Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 06 Daily life in Pompeii Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Sex in Pompeii Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5
Week 07 Burials in Pompeii Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Food and cooking Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 08 Class Test 1, followed by the history of excavations at Herculaneum Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Week 09 Public and private buildings in Herculaneum Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Coins and the economy of the Vesuvian cities Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 10 The Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
Glass Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 11 Roman wall-painting Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO4
Roman wall-painting Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 12 Villas around Pompeii Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4
The luxury arts, and dining Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 13 Conservation and Heritage at Pompeii and Herculaneum, followed by class test 2 Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

There is no set text for this class – individual readings will be made available electronically for each lecture and tutorial. Many of them will come from the following book (available electronically via Fisher Library):

J. J. Dobbins & P. W. Foss (eds.) 2007. The world of Pompeii. London; New York: Routledge

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Demonstrate expertise in the material culture and archaeological study of Pompeii and Herculaneum
  • LO2. Analyse archaeological evidence and understand how it can be used to reconstruct past cultural porocesses.
  • LO3. Demonstrate the ability to communicate complex ideas in written and spoken English, supplemented by visual material
  • LO4. Apply archaeological knowledge and methods to issues encountered in interdisciplinary contexts, in particular relating to studies in Ancient History, Classics and materials science.
  • LO5. Work in groups to solve problems and contribute to class discussions
  • LO6. Evaluate Roman material in the Nicholson Collection and understand how it is classified and how it can contribute to the reconstruction of cultural processes

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

More focus in lectures has been given to the eruption of Vesuvius and bioarchaeology, and the subject of a number of tutorials has been changed.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.